1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cameron, Simon
CAMERON, SIMON (1799–1889), American politician, was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, on the 8th of March 1799. Left an orphan at the age of nine, he early entered journalism, and, in banking and railway enterprises, accumulated a considerable fortune. He became influential in Pennsylvania politics, and in 1845–1849 served in the United States Senate, being elected by a combination of Democratic, Whig and “American” votes to succeed James Buchanan. In 1854, having failed to secure the nomination for senator from the “Know-Nothing” Party, which he had recently joined, he became a leader of the “People’s Party,” as the Republican Party was at first called in Pennsylvania. In 1857 he was elected to the United States Senate as a Republican, despite a Democratic majority in the state legislature, a fact that gave rise to charges of bribery. His prominence as a candidate first for the presidential and then for the vice-presidential nomination in the Republican national convention of 1860 led to his being selected by President Lincoln as secretary of war. His administration of this office at a critical time was marked by his accustomed energy, but unfortunately also by partiality in the letting of government contracts, which brought about his resignation at Lincoln’s request in January 1862 and his subsequent censure by the House of Representatives. Lincoln sent him as minister to Russia, but he returned in November 1862. He again served in the Senate (after 1872, being chairman of the committee on foreign relations) from 1867 until 1877, when he resigned to make room for his son, whose election he dictated. Cameron was one of the ablest political organizers the United States has ever known, and his long undisputed control of Pennsylvania politics was one of the most striking examples of “boss rule” in American history. The definition of an honest politician as “one who when he is bought will stay bought” has been attributed to him. He died on the 26th of June 1889.
His son James Donald Cameron (1833– ) was born at Middletown, Pennsylvania, on the 14th of May 1833, graduated at Princeton in 1852, became actively interested in his father’s banking and railway enterprises, and from 1863 to 1874 was president of the Northern Central railway. Trained in the political school of his father, he developed into an astute politician. From June 1876 to March 1877 he was secretary of war in President Grant’s cabinet. In the Republican national convention of 1876 he took an influential part in preventing the nomination of James G. Elaine, and later was one of those who directed the policy of the Republicans in the struggle for the presidency between Tilden and Hayes. From 1877 until 1897 he was a member of the United States Senate, having been elected originally to succeed his father, who resigned in order to create the vacancy. He was chairman of the Republican national committee during the campaign of 1880.