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Fisher Ames. Oil on wood, c. 1807, by Gilbert Stuart. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George Cabot Lodge.

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Ames, Fisher (09 April 1758–04 July 1808), Federalist party leader, member of Congress, essayist, and renowned orator, was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Ames, Sr., a physician, tavern keeper, and almanac writer, and Deborah Fisher. Intellectually honed, Ames was admitted to Harvard at twelve. Steeped in the classics, he excelled in elocution and participated in a debating club, the Institute of 1770. Graduating in 1774, he served with the Dedham militia at the time of the battle of Bunker Hill but did not see combat. At home he pursued his scholarly interests, reading widely in classical literature and history. He also occasionally taught school. Under the tutelage of the prominent ...

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Arnold, Isaac Newton (30 November 1815–24 April 1884), congressman and biographer, was born in Hartwick, Otsego County, New York, the son of George Washington Arnold, a doctor, and Sophia Mason. His parents, natives of Rhode Island, had moved to Otsego County around 1800. Isaac attended local schools, including Hartwick Seminary. Between 1832 and 1835 he taught school and studied law, and in 1835 he was admitted to the bar. After practicing in Cooperstown for about a year, he moved in the fall of 1836 to Chicago, where he entered a partnership. In 1837 he was elected city clerk, a post he resigned in order to attend to his expanding practice....

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English, William Hayden (27 August 1822–07 February 1896), congressman, vice presidential candidate, and historian, was born in Lexington, Indiana, the son of Elisha G. English and Mahala Eastin. Elisha, a landowner and railroad vice president, was a Democrat who served in the Indiana legislature for nearly twenty years and was friends with many important politicians. William benefited from his father’s contacts and status and was influenced by his views....

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Giles, William Branch (12 August 1762–04 December 1830), congressman, senator, and political writer, was born in Amelia County, Virginia, the son of William Giles and Ann Branch. He attended Hampden Sydney College, then the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), from which he graduated in 1781. He studied law under ...

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Holbrook, James (1812–28 April 1864), postal official and journalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of unknown parents. Holbrook grew up in Boston, where he was apprenticed to a printer. In 1833, he moved to Connecticut, where he worked as a newspaper editor and in that year married Mary Baker Tyler. He and Tyler had four children. He edited the ...

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Ingersoll, Charles Jared (03 October 1782–14 May 1862), attorney, author, and congressman, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jared Ingersoll, Jr., an attorney, judge, and colonial official, and Elizabeth Pettit. Ingersoll spent his childhood in Philadelphia, then entered Princeton University in 1796. He left Princeton in his third year and returned to Philadelphia, where he took up writing. Ingersoll published poetry and wrote a play, ...

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Langford, Nathaniel Pitt (09 August 1832–18 October 1911), diarist, vigilante, and park superintendent, was born in Westmoreland, Oneida County, New York, the son of George Langford II, a bank cashier, and Chloe Sweeting. After an education in a rural school, young Langford migrated with four of his siblings to St. Paul, Minnesota, in either 1853 or 1854, and followed his father’s career, clerking in several banks....

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Miller, David Hunter (02 January 1875–21 July 1961), lawyer, State Department official, and historian, was born in New York City, the son of Walter Thomas Miller, a stockbroker and a member of the New York cotton exchange, and Christiana Wylie. He was educated in private and public schools in New York. Soon after the United States declared war with Spain, Miller enlisted in the Ninth New York Volunteers, serving in the army from May to November 1898. After his military service he began working in his father’s brokerage. In 1900 he married Sarah Whipple Simmons; they had no children. In 1904 he decided to prepare himself for a legal career and entered the New York Law School, where he earned an LL.B. in 1910 and an LL.M. the next year. Admitted to the New York bar, he began the general practice of law....

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Nicolay, John George (26 February 1832–26 September 1901), journalist and private secretary and biographer of Abraham Lincoln, journalist and private secretary and biographer of Abraham Lincoln, was born in Essingen, Bavaria, the son of John Jacob Nicolay, a farmer and barrelmaker, and Helena (maiden name unknown). The Nicolay family emigrated to the United States when John was a small boy, arriving in New Orleans in 1838. From there the family moved frequently, living in Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri, before settling in Pike County, Illinois, where John’s father and brothers operated a flour mill. Nicolay clerked for a year in a store in White Hall, Illinois, before going to work as a typesetter at the ...

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Smith, William Loughton (02 October 1758–19 December 1812), congressman, diplomat, and essayist, was born in Charles Town (later Charleston), South Carolina, the son of Benjamin Smith, a wealthy merchant and colonial legislator, and Anne Loughton. He was educated by private tutors in London and Geneva and studied law at the Inns of Court (Middle Temple) in England from 1779 to 1782. He remained aloof from events in America during the Revolution and did not return from Europe until 21 November 1783....

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Tallmadge, Benjamin (25 February 1754–07 March 1835), intelligence officer and congressman, was born in Setauket (now Brookhaven), New York, the son of Benjamin Tallmadge, a Congregational minister, and Susannah Smith. Yale president Naphtali Daggett admitted Tallmadge at age twelve, but Tallmadge entered in 1769. ...

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Thornton, William (20 May 1759–28 March 1828), architect, civil servant, and essayist, was born on the island of Tortola in the West Indies, the son of William Thornton, a planter, and Dorcas Zeagers. The senior Thornton died when his son was five years old, and the boy went to live with relatives in Lancashire, England. He served a medical apprenticeship in Lancashire, studied at the University of Edinburgh, and received a medical degree from the University of Aberdeen in 1784. After his graduation he traveled in France and the British Isles before returning to Tortola in 1786. Enamored of the republican ideals of the American Revolution, he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1786 and became a citizen of the United States in 1788. He established a medical practice in Philadelphia but soon abandoned it, finding the practice boring and the fees unsatisfactory. Thornton enjoyed a creditable income from his West Indies plantation, which allowed him to pursue his intellectual and artistic interests. His education and European background won him admittance to intellectual circles in Philadelphia, including election to the American Philosophical Society. Thornton married Anna Marie Brodeau, a well-educated and cultured girl of fifteen, in 1790. They spent two years on Thornton’s plantation on Tortola, returned to Philadelphia, and in 1794 made their home in the new city of Washington, where they resided for the remainder of their lives. They had no children....