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Lewis Cass

2nd Governor of Michigan Territory
In office
October 29, 1813 – August 6, 1831
Preceded by William Hull
Succeeded by George Bryan Porter

In office
August 1, 1831 – October 5, 1836
President Andrew Jackson
Preceded by John Henry Eaton
Succeeded by Joel Roberts Poinsett

In office
October 4, 1836 – November 12, 1842
President Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler
Preceded by Edward Livingston
Succeeded by William R. King

In office
March 4, 1845 – May 29, 1848
March 4, 1849 – March 3, 1857
Preceded by Augustus S. Porter (1845)
Thomas Fitzgerald (1849)
Succeeded by Thomas Fitzgerald (1848)
Zachariah Chandler (1857)

In office
December 4, 1854 – December 4, 1854
Preceded by David R. Atchison
Succeeded by Jesse D. Bright

In office
March 6, 1857 – December 14, 1860
President James Buchanan
Preceded by William L. Marcy
Succeeded by Jeremiah S. Black

Born October 9, 1782(1782-10-09)
Exeter, New Hampshire U.S.
Died June 17, 1866 (aged 83)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Eliza Spencer Cass
Profession Politician, Lawyer
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1813-1814
Rank Brigadier General
Battles/wars War of 1812

Lewis Cass (October 9, 1782 – June 17, 1866) was an American military officer and politician. During his long political career, Cass served as a governor of the Michigan Territory, an American ambassador, and a U.S. Senator representing Michigan. He was the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States in 1848.[1]


Early life

Cass was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, where he attended Phillips Exeter Academy. His parents were Major Jonathan Cass and Molly Gilman. In 1800 he moved with his family to Marietta, Ohio. On May 26, 1806, he married the former Elizabeth Spencer.[2]

Territorial governor

During the War of 1812, Cass served as a brigadier general and participated in the Battle of the Thames. As a reward for his service, he was appointed Governor of the Michigan Territory by President James Madison on October 29, 1813, and served until 1831. He was frequently absent, and several territorial secretaries often served as acting governor in his place.

In 1817, he was one of two commissioners (along with Duncan McArthur) who negotiated the Treaty of Fort Meigs, which was signed September 29 of that year with several Native American tribes.[2]

In 1820, he led an expedition to the northern part of the territory, in the northern Great Lakes region in present-day northern Minnesota, in order to map the region and discover the source of the Mississippi River. The source of the river had been unknown until then, resulting in an undefined border between the United States and British North America. The expedition erroneously identified Cass Lake as the source of the river. The source of the river was correctly identified in 1832 by Henry Schoolcraft, who had been Cass's expedition geologist, as nearby Lake Itasca.

Later political career

On August 1, 1831, Cass resigned as governor of the Michigan Territory to take the post of Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson, a position he would hold until 1836. Cass was a central figure in formulating and implementing the Indian removal policy of the Jackson administration. Next, Cass was appointed ambassador to France, a post he retained until 1842.

Cass represented Michigan in the United States Senate from 1845 to 1848. He served as chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs in the 30th Congress. In 1848, he resigned from the Senate to run for President. William Orlando Butler was his running mate.[3] Cass was a leading supporter of the Doctrine of Popular Sovereignty, which held that the people who lived in a territory should decide whether or not to permit slavery there.[4] His nomination caused a split in the Democratic party, leading many antislavery Democrats to join the Free Soil Party. He also supported the annexation of Texas.

After losing the election to Zachary Taylor, he returned to the Senate, serving from 1849 to 1857. He was the first non-incumbent Democratic presidential candidate to lose an election.

From 1857 to 1860, Cass served as Secretary of State under President James Buchanan.[2] He was sympathetic to American filibusterers and was instrumental in having Commodore Hiram Paulding removed from command for his landing of Marines in Nicaragua and compelling the removal of William Walker to the United States.[5] Cass resigned on December 13, 1860, because of Buchanan's failure to protect federal interests in the South and failure to mobilize the federal military, actions that might have averted the threatened secession of Southern states.[6]

Cass died in 1866 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.

His Great-Great Grandson Cass Ballenger was a U.S. Representative from North Carolina.

Michigan-based attorney, activist and singer-songwriter Jen Cass is Lewis Cass' great-great-great-grandniece.


See also

The one time boom town of Cassville,Ga county seat of former Cass county.


  1. ^ Cass, Lewis, 1782-1866
  2. ^ a b c Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T. (eds.) (2004). Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, pp. 83-84. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1591143624.
  3. ^ Kleber, John E. (ed.) (1992). The Kentucky Encyclopedia, p. 146. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813117720, ISBN 9780813117720.
  4. ^ Klunder, Willard Carl (1996). Lewis Cass and the Politics of Moderation, pp. 266-67. Kent State University Press. ISBN 0873385365, ISBN 9780873385367.
  5. ^ Collier, Ellen C. (1993) "Instances of Use of United States Forces Abroad, 1798 - 1993" CRS Issue Brief Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington DC
  6. ^ Cass's resignation statement, quoted in McLaughlin, Andrew Cunningham (1899) Lewis Cass Houghton, Mifflin, Boston, pp. 345-346, OCLC 4377268, (standard library edition, first edition was published in 1891)


Political offices
Preceded by
William Hull
Territorial Governor of Michigan
1813 – 1831
Succeeded by
George Bryan Porter
Preceded by
John Henry Eaton
United States Secretary of War
August 1, 1831 – October 5, 1836
Succeeded by
Joel Roberts Poinsett
Preceded by
David Rice Atchison
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
December 4, 1854
Succeeded by
Jesse D. Bright
Preceded by
William L. Marcy
United States Secretary of State
Served under: James Buchanan

March 6, 1857 – December 14, 1860
Succeeded by
Jeremiah S. Black
Ohio House of Representatives
New district Representative from Washington, Gallia, Muskingum, and Athens Counties
Served alongside: Levi Barber, William H. Puthoff
Succeeded by
John P. R. Bureau
John Matthews
James Palmer
United States Senate
Preceded by
Augustus S. Porter
Senator from Michigan (Class 1)
March 4, 1845 – May 29, 1848
Served alongside: William Woodbridge and Alpheus Felch
Succeeded by
Thomas Fitzgerald
Preceded by
Thomas Fitzgerald
Senator from Michigan (Class 1)
January 20, 1849 – March 3, 1857
Served alongside: Alpheus Felch and Charles E. Stuart
Succeeded by
Zachariah Chandler
Party political offices
Preceded by
James K. Polk
Democratic Party presidential candidate
Succeeded by
Franklin Pierce
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Edward Livingston
United States Minister to France
October 4, 1836 – November 12, 1842
Succeeded by
William R. King

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LEWIS CASS (1782-1866), American general and statesman, was born at Exeter, New Hampshire, on the 9th of October 1782. He was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, joined his father at Marietta, Ohio, about 1799, studied law there in the office of Return Jonathan Meigs (1765-1825), and was admitted to the bar at the age of twenty. Four years later he became a member of the Ohio legislature. During the War of 1812 he served under General William Hull, whose surrender at Detroit he strongly condemned, and under General W. H. Harrison, and rose from the rank of colonel of volunteers to be major-general of Ohio militia and finally to be a brigadier-general in the regular United States army. In 1813 he was appointed governor of the territory of Michigan, the area of which was much larger than that of the present state. This position gave him the chief control of Indian affairs for the territory, which was then occupied almost entirely by natives, there being only 6000 white settlers. During the eighteen years in which he held this post he rendered valuable services to the territory and to the nation; he extinguished the Indian title to large tracts of land, instituted surveys, constructed roads, and explored the lakes and sources of the Mississippi river. His relations with the British authorities in Canada after the War of 1812 were at times very trying, as these officials persisted in searching American vessels on the Great Lakes and in arousing the hostility of the Indians of the territory against the American government. To those experiences was largely due the antipathy for Great Britain manifested by him in his later career. Upon the reorganization of President Jackson's cabinet in 1831 he became secretary of war, and held this office until 1836. It fell to him, therefore, to direct the conduct of the Black Hawk and Seminole wars. He sided with the president in his nullification controversy with South Carolina and in his removal of the Indians from Georgia, but not in his withdrawal of the government deposits from the United States Bank.

In 1836 General Cass was appointed minister to France, and became very popular with the French government and people. In 1842, when the Quintuple Treaty was negotiated by representatives of England, France, Prussia, Russia and Austria for the suppression of the slave trade by the exercise of the right of search, Cass attacked it in a pamphlet entitled" An Examination of the Questions now in Discussion between the American and British Government Concerning the Right of Search," and presented to the French government a formal memorial which was probably instrumental in preventing the ratification of the treaty by France. In this same year the Webster-Ashburton treaty between Great Britain and the United States was concluded, and, as England did not thereby relinquish her claim of the right to search American vessels, Cass, after having taken such a decided stand in this controversy, felt himself in an awkward position, and resigned his post. His attitude on this question made him very popular in America, and he was a strong, but unsuccessful, candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1844. From 1845 to 1848 and from 1849 to 1857 he was a member of the United States Senate, and in 1846 was a leader of those demanding the " re-annexation " of all the Oregon country south of 54° 40' or war with England, and was one of the fourteen who voted against the ratification of the compromise with England at the 49th parallel. He loyally supported Polk's administration during the Mexican War, opposed the Wilmot Proviso, and advocated the Compromise Measures of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854. In his famous " Nicholson letter " of December 1847 he made what was probably the earliest enunciation of the doctrine of " popular sovereignty," namely, that the people of the territories should decide for themselves whether or not they should have slavery.

In 1848 he received the Demo ratic nomination for the presidency, but owing to the defection of the so-called " Barnburners (see Free-Soil Party) he did not receive the united support of his party, and was defeated by the Whig candidate, Zachary Taylor. His name was again prominent before the Democratic convention of 1852, which, however, finally nominated Franklin Pierce. On account of his eminently conservative attitude on all questions concerning slavery, General Cass has been accused of pandering to the southern Democrats in order to further his political aspirations. His ideas of popular sovereignty, however, were not inconsistent with the vigorous Democratic spirit of the west, of which he was a typical representative, and it is not clear that he believed that the application of this principle would result in the extension of slavery. As the west became more radically opposed to slavery after the troubles in Kansas, Cass was soon out of sympathy with his section, and when the Republicans secured control of the legislature in 1857 they refused to return him to the Senate. President Buchanan soon afterward made him secretary of state, and in this position he at last had the satisfaction of obtaining from the British government an acknowledgment of the correctness of the American attitude with regard to the right of search (or " visitation," as Great Britain euphemistically termed it). In December 1860 he retired from the cabinet when the president refused to take a firmer attitude against secession by reinforcing Fort Sumter, and he remained in retirement until his death at Detroit, Michigan, on the 17th of June 1866. He wrote for the North American and the American Quarterly Reviews, and published Inquiries Concerning the History, Traditions and Languages of Indians Living Within the United States (1823), and France: Its King, Court and Government (1840) .

See W. T. Young, Life and Public Services of General Lewis Cass (Detroit, 1852); W. L. G. Smith, Life and Times of Lewis Cass (New York, 1856). The best biography is by A. G. McLaughlin, Lewis Cass (revised edition, Boston, 1899), in the " American Statesmen " series.

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