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Jeremiah Sullivan Black


In office
March 6, 1857 – December 16, 1860
President James Buchanan
Preceded by Caleb Cushing
Succeeded by Edwin M. Stanton

In office
December 17, 1860 – March 5, 1861
President James Buchanan
Preceded by Lewis Cass
Succeeded by William H. Seward

In office
1861 – 1862
Preceded by Benjamin Chew Howard
Succeeded by John William Wallace

Born January 10, 1810(1810-01-10)
Stony Creek, Pennsylvania,
United States
Died August 19, 1883 (aged 73)
York, Pennsylvania, United States
Political party Democratic
Profession Lawyer
Politician

Jeremiah Sullivan Black (January 10, 1810 – August 19, 1883) was an American statesman and lawyer. He was the son of Representative Henry Black, and the father of writer and Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania Chauncey Forward Black.

He was largely self-educated, and before he was of age was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar. He gradually became one of the leading American lawyers, and from 1851 to 1857 was a member of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, serving as chief justice from 1851 to 1854. In 1857 he entered the Cabinet of President James Buchanan as Attorney General. In this capacity he successfully contested the validity of the California land claims to about 19,000 square miles (49,000 km²) of land, fraudulently alleged to have been granted to land-grabbers and others by the Mexican government prior to the close of the Mexican–American War. From December 17, 1860 to March 4, 1861 he was Secretary of State. Perhaps the most influential of President Buchanan's official advisers, he denied the constitutionality of secession, and urged that Fort Sumter be properly reinforced and defended. However, he also argued that a state could not be legally coerced by the federal government.

President Buchanan and his Cabinet
From left to right: Jacob Thompson, Lewis Cass, John B. Floyd, James Buchanan, Howell Cobb, Isaac Toucey, Joseph Holt and Jeremiah S. Black, (c. 1859)

President Buchanan nominated him for a seat on the Supreme Court, but his nomination was defeated in the Senate by a single vote on February 21, 1861. He became Reporter of Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1861, but after publishing the reports for the years 1861 and 1862 he resigned, and devoted himself almost exclusively to his private practice, appearing in such important cases before the Supreme Court as Ex parte Milligan (in which he ably defended the right of trial by jury), Ex parte McCardle, Blyew v. United States, 80 U.S. 581 (1871), et al.

After the American Civil War he vigorously opposed the Congressional plan of Reconstruction and drafted President Andrew Johnson's message vetoing the Reconstruction Act of the March 2, 1867. Black was also, for a short time, counsel for President Johnson in his trial on his Article of Impeachment before the United States Senate, and for William W. Belknap, United States Secretary of War from 1869 to 1876, who in 1876 was impeached on a charge of corruption; he also represented Samuel J. Tilden during the contest for the presidency between Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes. He died at Brockie, York, Pennsylvania, in 1883 at the age of 73.

Further reading

  • Black, C. F., Essays and Speeches of Jeremiah S. Black, with a Biographical Sketch, New York: 1885.
Legal offices
Preceded by
John B. Gibson
Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
1851 – 1855
Succeeded by
Ellis Lewis
Preceded by
Caleb Cushing
United States Attorney General
March 6, 1857 – December 16, 1860
Succeeded by
Edwin M. Stanton
Preceded by
Benjamin Chew Howard
United States Supreme Court Reporter of Decisions
1861 – 1862
Succeeded by
John William Wallace
Political offices
Preceded by
Lewis Cass
United States Secretary of State
Served under: James Buchanan

December 17, 1860 – March 5, 1861
Succeeded by
William H. Seward







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