1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Johnson, Reverdy
|←Johnson, Eastman||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 15
|See also Reverdy Johnson on Wikipedia, and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.|
JOHNSON, REVERDY (1796-1876), American political leader and jurist, was born at Annapolis, Maryland, on the 21st of May 1796. His father, John Johnson (1770-1824), was a distinguished lawyer, who served in both houses of the Maryland General Assembly, as attorney-general of the state (1806-1811), as a judge of the court of appeals (1811-1821), and as a chancellor of his state (1821-1824). Reverdy graduated from St John's college in 1812. He then studied law in his father's office, was admitted to the bar in 1815 and began to practise in Upper Marlborough, Prince George's county. In 1817 he removed to Baltimore, where he became the professional associate of Luther Martin, William Pinkney and Roger B. Taney; with Thomas Harris he reported the decisions of the court of appeals in Harris and Johnson's Reports (1820-1827); and in 1818 he was appointed chief commissioner of insolvent debtors. From 1821 to 1825 he was a state senator; from 1825 to 1845 he devoted himself to his practice; from 1845 to 1849, as a Whig, he was a member of the United States Senate; and from March 1849 to July 1850 he was attorney-general of the United States. In 1856 he became identified with the conservative wing of the Democratic party, and four years later supported Stephen A. Douglas for the presidency. In 1861 he was a delegate from Maryland to the peace convention at Washington; in 1861-1862 he was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. After the capture of New Orleans he was commissioned by Lincoln to revise the decisions of the military commandant, General B. F. Butler, in regard to foreign governments, and reversed all those decisions to the entire satisfaction of the administration. In 1863 he again took his seat in the United States Senate. In 1868 he was appointed minister to Great Britain and soon after his arrival in England negotiated the Johnson-Clarendon treaty for the settlement of disputes arising out of the Civil War; this, however, the Senate refused to ratify, and he returned home on the accession of General U. S. Grant to the presidency. Again resuming his practice he was engaged by the government in the prosecution of Ku-Klux cases. He died on the 10th of February 1876 at Annapolis. He repudiated the doctrine of secession, and pleaded for compromise and conciliation. Opposed to the Reconstruction measures, he voted for them on the ground that it was better to accept than reject them, since they were probably the best that could be obtained. As a lawyer he was engaged during his later years in most of the especially important cases in the Supreme Court of the United States and in the courts of Maryland.