The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Cadwalader, John Lambert

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The Cyclopædia of American Biography  (1918) 
James E. Homans, editor
Cadwalader, John Lambert

CADWALADER, John Lambert, lawyer, b. in Trenton, N. J., 17 Nov., 1837; d. in New York City, 11 March, 1914, son of Thomas and Maria (Gouverneur) Cadwalader. He was a descendant of John Cadwalader, who came from England to Pennsylvania, soon after the founding of William Penn's colony, and became a member of the provincial assembly. His grandfather, Col. Lambert Cadwalader, represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress from 1784 to 1787; was a member of the Constitutional Convention, and a member of Congress from New Jersey from 1789 to 1795. His father, Thomas Cadwalader, was a major-general in the U. S. army, and his mother, Maria C. Gouverneur, was the daughter of Nicholas Gouverneur, of New York. Mr. Cadwalader acquired his collegiate education at Princeton University, where he was graduated with the class of 1856. In 1860 he entered the Harvard Law School, and, after completing the course there, was admitted to the bar, and began practice in New York City. He became a member of the law firm of Bliss and Cadwalader, which, later, became Eaton and Cadwalader, then Strong and Cadwalader, and finally, in 1914, shortly before his death, Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft. In 1874 Mr. Cadwalader was appointed Assistant Secretary of State under the late Hamilton Fish, during President Grant's second administration, and this post he held until 1877. He then returned to his law practice, and never again filled public office, although frequently mentioned for places of prominence in the federal government. When President Taft was picking his ambassadors it was repeatedly rumored that Mr. Cadwalader would be chosen to represent the country at the Court of St. James. He discouraged the suggestion, however. Mr. Cadwalader was at one time president of the Bar Association of the City of New York, but his most prominent connection in the minds of the public was with the New York Public Library, of which he was elected president, as the successor of the late John Bigelow. For many years before his election to this office he had been a member of the board of trustees and of the executive committee of the library. He probably did more, in the form of personal activities, for the library service of New York City than any other man. He worked out the plans for combining the Astor, Lenox, and Tilden foundations into one great, central library, and was instrumental in the material carrying out of this conception. He also devoted a great deal of thought to the planning out of the present magnificent building which stands at Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street. Mr. Cadwalader was not of the type of public man who figures largely in the news columns of the daily newspapers, but his influence was a power which permeated the whole of the body politic His was a personal, rather than a popular, influence, for his opinions carried weight with those who shaped the affairs of the State or the nation. His most striking personal characteristic was his remarkable power of concentration. In a comparatively short space of time he could grasp all the essential facts of a complex problem and then simplify it. He was also a trustee of Princeton University, to which institution he made several large gifts; one, made the year before his death, amounting to $30,000; a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to which he devoted almost as much of his time and energy as to the Public Library, and was on the boards of the New York Zoological Society and the Carnegie Institution of Washington. He was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, the Sons of the Revolution, the American Fine Arts Society, and the American Museum of Natural History. His clubs included the Union League, Lawyers', Union, Metropolitan, Knickerbocker, University, Princeton, and New York Yacht, all of New York City. He never married.