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William M. Stewart


In office
December 15, 1864 – March 3, 1875
March 4, 1887 – March 3, 1905
Preceded by (none) (1864)
James G. Fair (1887)
Succeeded by William Sharon (1875)
George S. Nixon (1905)

In office
1854 – 1854
Preceded by John R. McConnell
Succeeded by William T. Wallace

Born August 9, 1827(1827-08-09)
Galen, New York
Died April 23, 1909 (aged 81)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Republican, Silver (1893-1901)
Residence Virginia City
Profession Attorney
Religion Roman Catholic

William Morris Stewart (August 9, 1827 – April 23, 1909) was an American lawyer and politician.

Stewart was born in Wayne County, New York. As a child he moved with his parents to Trumbull County, Ohio. As a young man he was a mathematics teacher in Ohio. In 1849 he began attending Yale University but left in 1850 to move to California. Like many young men during that time, he came to California because of the Gold Rush. He arrived in San Francisco, California and soon left to begin mining near Nevada City, California. In 1852 he stopped mining and decided to become a lawyer in Nevada City. He almost immediately became a district attorney, and served as attorney general of California briefly during 1854, at the age of 27.

In 1860 Stewart moved to Virginia City, Nevada where he participated in mining litigation and helped the development of the Comstock Lode. As Nevada was becoming a state in 1864, he helped the state develop its constitution. Stewart’s role in as lawyer and politician in Nevada has always been controversial. He was the territory’s leading lawyer in mining litigation, but his opponents accused him of bribing judges and juries.[1] Stewart accused the three Nevada territorial judges of being corrupt, and he barely escaped disbarment.[2]

In 1864, Stewart was elected to the United States Senate as a Republican. He served in the Senate until 1875 when he retired and practiced law again in Nevada and California. He was elected to the Senate again in 1887 and reelected in 1893 and 1899. During the 1890s he left the Republican Party to join the Silver Republicans, a faction which supported the Free Silver movement.[3]

During his many years in the Senate, Stewart drafted or co-authored important legislation, including several mining acts and laws urging land reclamation by irrigation. Most famously, Stewart is given credit for authoring in 1868 the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution protecting voting rights regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant offered Stewart a seat on the United States Supreme Court. Stewart declined. Stewart was also involved in an internationl scandal where he promoted the sale of a worthless worked out Emma Silver Mine in Utah for millions of pounds to unsuspecting English citizens.[4]


Stewart retired from the Senate in 1905. he remained in Washington D.C. and died there four years later. He was cremated and the ashes were originally kept in Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco before being moved to Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.[5]

References and external links

  1. ^ Grant H. Smith, 1943, The History of the Comstock Lode, Univ. of Nevada Bulletin, v.37, n.3, p.69.
  2. ^ Dan Plazak, 2006, A Hole in the Ground with a Liar at the Top, Salt Lake City: Univ. of Utah Press, ISBN 0-87480-840-5, p.26-27.
  3. ^ U.S. Senate: Art & History Home > People > Senators > Senators Who Changed Parties During Senate Service (Since 1890)
  4. ^ {{cite web |title=New York Times|url=http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9F03E6DE173EEF33A2575AC0A9669D94629ED7CF|author=E.G.D. |date=October 9th, 1893
  5. ^ William Morris Stewart (1827 - 1909) - Find A Grave Memorial
United States Senate
Preceded by
(none)
United States Senator (Class 1) from Nevada
1864–1875
Served alongside: James W. Nye, John P. Jones
Succeeded by
William Sharon
Preceded by
James G. Fair
United States Senator (Class 1) from Nevada
1887–1905
Served alongside: John P. Jones, Francis G. Newlands
Succeeded by
George S. Nixon
Legal offices
Preceded by
John R. McConnell
California Attorney General
1854
Succeeded by
William T. Wallace
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