The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Schenck, Robert Cumming
SCHENCK, Robert Cumming, American diplomat: b. Franklin, Ohio, 7 Oct. 1809; d. Washington, D. C, 23 March 1890. He was graduated at Miami University in 1827, and remained there as tutor until 1830. In that year he became a student of law in the office of the Hon. Thomas Corwin at Lebanon, Ohio, and was admitted to the bar in 1831. He began the practice of law at Dayton, Ohio, and soon achieved marked success in his profession. In 1840, during President Harrison's “Log Cabin” campaign, he was elected to the legislature of Ohio, and entered upon his political career. He soon became a leader in the Whig party, and was recognized throughout his section as an able and effective public speaker. In 1843, after an exciting political contest, he was elected to his first term in Congress, retaining his seat until 1851, and becoming one of the most prominent leaders of his party at Washington. In 1851 he was appointed United States Minister to Brazil, where he remained some years, and performed important diplomatic service.
When the Civil War began he promptly offered his services to the government, and received a commission of brigadier-general of volunteers. He was severely wounded at the second battle of Bull Run, and his right hand and arm permanently disabled. He was later promoted to the rank of major-general, and served in the army until December 1863, when he resigned his commission to accept a seat in Congress, to which he had been elected in the fall of 1862 over Clement L. Vallandigham (q.v.). General Schenck's military and political abilities were at once recognized and he was appointed chairman of the Military Committee of the House and rendered important and arduous services. He was three times elected to Congress. He served as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means and became the leader of his party in the House. On 22 Dec. 1870 he was appointed Minister to Great Britain by President Grant, a position which he filled with distinction until 1876. During this term of service he was appointed member of the historic Joint High Commission which assembled at Washington, and provided by treaty for the Geneva Conference, a measure that resulted in substituting arbitration instead of war in the settlement of the serious controversies that had arisen between Great Britain and the United States, regarding the Alabama claims and other important subjects. His tact and force, and his knowledge of international law, were most useful in determining the great questions involved.