1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cushing, Caleb

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CUSHING, CALEB (1800-1879), American political leader and lawyer, was born in Salisbury, Massachusetts, on the 17th of January 1800. He graduated at Harvard in 1817, was tutor in mathematics there in 1820-1821, was admitted to practice in the court of common pleas in December 1821, and began the practice of law in Newburyport, Mass., in 1824. After serving, as a Democratic-Republican, in the state house of representatives in 1825, in the state senate in 1826, and in the house again in 1828, he spent two years, from 1829 to 1831, in Europe, again served in the state house of representatives in 1833 and 1834, and in the latter year was elected by the Whigs a representative in Congress. He served in this body from 1835 until 1843, and here the marked inconsistency which characterized his public life became manifest; for when John Tyler had become president, had been “read out” of the Whig party, and had vetoed Whig measures (including a tariff bill), for which Cushing had voted, Cushing first defended the vetoes and then voted again for the bills. In 1843 President Tyler nominated him for secretary of the treasury, but the senate refused to confirm him for this office. He was, however, appointed later in the same year commissioner of the United States to China, holding this position until 1845, and in 1844 negotiating the first treaty between China and the United States. In 1847, while again a representative in the state legislature, he introduced a bill appropriating money for the equipment of a regiment to serve in the Mexican War; although the bill was defeated, he raised the necessary funds privately, and served in Mexico first as colonel and afterwards as brigadier-general of volunteers. In 1847 and again in 1848 the Democrats nominated him for governor of Massachusetts, but on each occasion he was defeated at the polls. He was again a representative in the state legislature in 1851, became an associate justice of the supreme court of Massachusetts in 1852, and during the administration (1853-1857) of President Pierce, was attorney-general of the United States. In 1858, 1859, 1862 and 1863 he again served in the state house of representatives. In 1860 he presided over the National Democratic Convention which met first at Charleston and later at Baltimore, until he joined those who seceded from the regular convention; he then presided also over the convention of the seceding delegates, who nominated John C. Breckinridge for the presidency. During the Civil War, however, he supported the National Administration. At the Geneva conference for the settlement of the “Alabama” claims in 1871-1872 he was one of the counsel for the United States. In 1873 President Grant nominated him for chief justice of the United States, but in spite of his great learning and eminence at the bar, his ante-war record and the feeling of distrust experienced by many members of the senate on account of his inconsistency, aroused such vigorous opposition that his nomination was soon withdrawn. From 1874 to 1877 Cushing was United States minister to Spain. He died at Newburyport, Mass., on the and of January 1879. He published History and Present State of the Town of Newburyport, Mass. (1826); Review of the late Revolution in France (1833); Reminiscences of Spain (1833); Oration on the Growth and Territorial Progress of the United States (1839); Life and Public Services of William H. Harrison (1840); and The Treaty of Washington (1873).