1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Colfax, Schuyler
COLFAX, SCHUYLER (1823–1885), American political leader, vice-president of the United States from 1869 to 1873, was born in New York city on the 23rd of March 1823. His father died before the son’s birth, and his mother subsequently married a Mr Matthews. The son attended the public schools of New York until he was ten, and then became a clerk in his step-father’s store, removing in 1836 with his mother and step-father to New Carlisle, Indiana. In 1841 he removed to South Bend, where for eight years he was deputy auditor (his step-father being auditor) of St Joseph county; in 1842–1844 he was assistant enrolling clerk of the state senate and senate reporter for the Indiana State Journal. In 1845 he established the St Joseph Valley Register, which he published for eighteen years and made an influential Whig and later Republican journal. In 1850 he was a member of the state constitutional convention, and in 1854 took an active part in organizing the “Anti-Nebraska men” (later called Republicans) of his state, and was by them sent to Congress. Here he served with distinction from 1855 until 1869, the last six years as speaker of the House. At the close of the Civil War he was a leading member of the radical wing of the Republican party, advocating the disfranchisement of all who had been prominent in the service of the Confederacy, and declaring that “loyalty must govern what loyalty has preserved.” In 1868 he had presidential aspirations, and was not without supporters. He accepted, however, the Republican nomination as vice-president on a ticket headed by General Grant, and was elected; but he failed in 1872 to secure renomination. During the political campaign of 1872 he was accused, with other prominent politicians, of being implicated in corrupt transactions with the Crédit Mobilier, and a congressional investigation brought out the fact that he had agreed to take twenty shares from this concern, and had received dividends amounting to $1200. It also leaked out during the investigation that he had received in 1868, as a campaign contribution, a gift of $4000 from a contractor who had supplied the government with envelopes while Colfax was chairman of the post office committee of the House. At the close of his term Colfax returned to private life under a cloud, and during the remainder of his lifetime earned a livelihood by delivering popular lectures. He died at Mankato, Minnesota, on the 13th of January 1885.
See J. C. Hollister’s Life of Schuyler Colfax (New York, 1886).