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Charles Joseph Bonaparte: Wikis


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Charles Joseph Bonaparte

In office
July 1, 1905 – December 16, 1906
President Theodore Roosevelt
Preceded by Paul Morton
Succeeded by Victor H. Metcalf

In office
December 17, 1906 – March 4, 1909
President Theodore Roosevelt
Preceded by William H. Moody
Succeeded by George W. Wickersham

Born June 9, 1851(1851-06-09)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Died June 28, 1921 (aged 70)
Baltimore County, Maryland, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ellen Channing Day Bonaparte
Alma mater Harvard University
Profession Politician, Lawyer

Charles Joseph Bonaparte (June 9, 1851 – June 28, 1921) was a member of the United States Cabinet, serving appointments by President Theodore Roosevelt as Secretary of the Navy, then as Attorney General of the United States. He created the Bureau of Investigation, which would later become known as the FBI.


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, he was the son of Prince Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte (1805-1870) and Susan May Williams (1812-1881), from whom the American line of the Bonaparte family descended, and a grandson of Jérôme Bonaparte, who was briefly King of Westphalia and the youngest brother of the French emperor Napoleon I.

After graduating from Harvard University and Harvard Law School, where he would later be appointed a university overseer, he practiced law in Baltimore and became prominent in municipal and national reform movements.

On September 1, 1875, Bonaparte married the former Ellen Channing Day (1852-1924), daughter of attorney Thomas Mills Day and Ellen Cornelia (Jones) Pomeroy. They had no children.

In 1899 Bonaparte was the key note speeker for the 1st graduating class of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. In his speech he addressed "The Significance of the Bachelor's Degree"

Today, and here for the first time in America, a Catholic college for the education of young ladies bestowsthe bachelor's degree...

The Style of Scholorship...which benfits the recipient of the bachelor's degree has two distinctive and essential marks. It implies in the first place a broad, generous sympathy with every form of honest, rational and disinterested study or research.

A Scholar who is also, and first of all, a gentleman may be...specially intrested is some particular field of knowledge, but he is indifferent to none. He knows how to value every successful effort to master truth; how to look beyond the little things of the great things - God's handiwork as seen in nature, God's mind as shadowed in the workings of the minds of men.

Young ladies, of this degree has such meaning for your brothers, what meaning has it for you?...


He was a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners from 1902 to 1904, chairman of the National Civil Service Reform League in 1904 and appointed a trustee of The Catholic University of America.

In 1905, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Bonaparte to his cabinet as United States Secretary of the Navy. From 1906 until the end of President Roosevelt's administration he served as United States Attorney General. He was active in suits brought against the trusts and was largely responsible for breaking up the tobacco monopoly. In 1908, Joseph founded the Bureau of Investigation (BOI).

He was one of the founders, and for a time the president, of the National Municipal League.

Bonaparte died in Bella Vista (originally built as "Mount Vista Estates", Baltimore County, Maryland, and is interred at Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery. Cause of death was "Saint Vitus Dance" -- today known as chorea. A nearby street in Baltimore County bears the name of Bonaparte Ave.

Mr. Bonaparte drove the 15 miles every day to Baltimore to do business in his coach pulled by four stout[citation needed] draft horses, and was timely enough that the local residents would be able to tell time by his passing by. The Mount Vista Mansion site can be seen by driving north on Maryland Route 147 and is not the original home on Mount Vista Estates since the original "Bella Vista" property burned in the 1930s and was replaced by a poured concrete structure built upon the original location of Mr. Bonaparte's Bella Vista home. The original Bella Vista was not electrified since Bonaparte refused to have electricity or telegraph lines installed due to a dislike of technology, verified by his use of horse-drawn coach until his death.

Further reading

  • Bishop, Joseph Bucklin (1922), Charles Joseph Bonaparte: His Life and Public Services, New York: C. Scribner's Sons 
  • Goldman, Eric F. (1943), Charles J. Bonaparte: Patrician Reformer, His Earlier Career, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press 

1 The Past and the Promised, by Anne Scarborough Philbin, Page 58

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Chairman of the National Civil Service Reform League
Succeeded by
Preceded by
James C. Carter
President of the National Municipal League
1903 – 1910
Succeeded by
William D. Foulke
Government offices
Preceded by
Paul Morton
37th United States Secretary of the Navy
July 1, 1905 – December 16, 1906
Succeeded by
Victor H. Metcalf
Legal offices
Preceded by
William H. Moody
47th United States Attorney General
December 17, 1906 – March 4, 1909
Succeeded by
George W. Wickersham

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