1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Phelps, Edward John

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PHELPS, EDWARD JOHN (1822-1900), American lawyer and diplomat, was born on the 11th of July 1822 at Middlebury, Vermont. He graduated from Middlebury College in 1840, was a schoolmaster for a year in Virginia, and was admitted to the bar in 1843. He began practice at Middlebury, but in 1845 removed to Burlington, Vermont. From 1851 to 1853 he was second comptroller of the United States Treasury, and then practised law in New York City until 1857, when he returned to Burlington. Becoming a Democrat after the Whig party had ceased to exist, he was debarred from a political career in his own state, where his party was in the minority, but he served in the state constitutional convention in 1870, and in 1880 was the Democratic candidate for governor of his state. He was one of the founders of the American Bar Association, and was its president in 1880-1881. From 1881 until his death he was Kent Professor of Law in Yale University. He was minister to Great Britain from 1885 to 1889, and in 1893 served as senior counsel for the United States before the international tribunal at Paris to adjust the Bering Sea controversy. His closing argument, requiring eleven days for its delivery, was an exhaustive review of the case. Phelps lectured on medical jurisprudence at the university of Vermont in 1881-1883, and on constitutional law at Boston University in 1882-1883, and delivered numerous addresses, among them that on “The United States Supreme Court and the Sovereignty of the People” at the centennial celebration of the Federal Judiciary in 1890 and an oration at the dedication of the Bennington Battle Monument, unveiled in 1891 at the centennial of Vermont's admission to the Union. In politics Phelps was always Conservative, opposing the anti-slavery movement before 1860, the free-silver movement in 1896, when he supported the Republican presidential ticket, and after 1898 becoming an ardent “anti-expansionist.” He died at New Haven, Connecticut, on the 9th of March 1900.

See the Orations and Essays of Edward John Phelps, edited by J. G. McCullough, with a Memoir by John W. Stewart (New York, 1901) ; and “Life and Public Services of the Hon. Edward J. Phelps,” by Matthew H. Buckham, in Proceedings of the Vermont Historical Society (Burlington, Vt., 1901).