|22nd United States Secretary of State|
March 6, 1857 – December 14, 1860
|Preceded by||William Marcy|
|Succeeded by||Jeremiah Black|
|President pro tempore of the United States Senate|
December 4, 1854 – December 5, 1854
|Preceded by||David Atchison|
|Succeeded by||Jesse Bright|
|United States Senator|
March 4, 1849 – March 3, 1857
|Preceded by||Thomas Fitzgerald|
|Succeeded by||Zachariah Chandler|
March 4, 1845 – May 29, 1848
|Preceded by||Augustus Porter|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Fitzgerald|
|United States Ambassador to France|
December 1, 1836 – November 12, 1842
|Preceded by||Edward Livingston|
|Succeeded by||William King|
|14th United States Secretary of War|
August 1, 1831 – October 4, 1836
|Preceded by||Roger B. Taney (Acting)|
|Succeeded by||Joel Poinsett|
|2nd Governor of the Michigan Territory|
October 13, 1813 – August 1, 1831
|Appointed by||James Madison|
|Preceded by||William Hull|
|Succeeded by||George Porter|
|Born||October 9, 1782|
Exeter, New Hampshire, U.S.
|Died||June 17, 1866 (aged 83)|
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
(m. 1806; her death 1853)
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||1812–1814|
|Battles/wars||War of 1812|
Lewis Cass (October 9, 1782 – June 17, 1866) was an American military officer, politician, and statesman. He represented Michigan in the United States Senate and served in the Cabinets of two U.S. Presidents, Andrew Jackson and James Buchanan. He was also the 1848 Democratic presidential nominee and a leading spokesman for the Doctrine of Popular Sovereignty, which held that the white people in each territory should decide whether to permit slavery.
Born in Exeter, New Hampshire, he attended Phillips Exeter Academy before establishing a legal practice in Zanesville, Ohio. After serving in the Ohio House of Representatives, he was appointed as a U.S. Marshal. Cass also joined the Freemasons and would eventually co-found the Grand Lodge of Michigan. He fought at the Battle of the Thames in the War of 1812 and was appointed to govern Michigan Territory in 1813. He negotiated treaties with Native Americans to open land for American settlement and led a survey expedition into the northwest part of the territory.
Cass resigned as governor in 1831 to accept appointment as Secretary of War under Andrew Jackson. As Secretary of War, he helped implement Jackson's policy of Indian removal. After serving as ambassador to France from 1836 to 1842, he unsuccessfully sought the presidential nomination at the 1844 Democratic National Convention; a deadlock between supporters of Cass and former President Martin Van Buren ended with the nomination of James K. Polk. In 1845, the Michigan Legislature elected Cass to the Senate, where he served until 1848. Cass's nomination at the 1848 Democratic National Convention precipitated a split in the party, as Cass's advocacy for popular sovereignty alienated the anti-slavery wing of the party. Van Buren led the Free Soil Party's presidential ticket and appealed to many anti-slavery Democrats, possibly contributing to the victory of Whig nominee Zachary Taylor.
Cass returned to the Senate in 1849 and continued to serve until 1857, when he accepted appointment as the Secretary of State. He unsuccessfully sought to buy land from Mexico and sympathized with American filibusters in Latin America. Cass resigned from the Cabinet in December 1860 in protest of Buchanan's handling of the threatened secession of several Southern states. Since his death in 1866, he has been commemorated in various ways, including with a statue in the National Statuary Hall.
Cass was born on October 9, 1782 in Exeter, New Hampshire, just after the end of the American Revolution. His parents were Molly (née Gilman) Cass and Major Jonathan Cass, a Revolutionary War veteran who fought under General George Washington at Bunker Hill.
Cass attended the private Phillips Exeter Academy. In 1800, the family moved to Marietta, Ohio, part of a wave of westward migration after the end of the war and defeat of Native Americans in the Northwest Indian War. Cass studied law with Return J. Meigs Jr., was admitted to the bar, and began a practice in Zanesville.
He joined the Freemasons, an increasingly popular fraternal organization in that period, being initiated as an Entered Apprentice in what was later American Union Lodge No.1 at Marietta on December 5, 1803. He achieved his Fellow Craft degree on April 2, 1804, and his Master Mason degree on May 7, 1804. On June 24, 1805, he was admitted as Charter member of the Lodge of Amity 105 (later No.5), Zanesville. He served as the first Worshipful Master of the Lodge of Amity in 1806. Cass was one of the founders of the Grand Lodge of Ohio, representing the Lodge of Amity at the first meeting on January 4, 1808. He was elected Deputy Grand Master on January 5, 1809, and Grand Master on January 3, 1810, January 8, 1811, and January 8, 1812.
War of 1812
When the War of 1812 began against the United Kingdom, he took command of the 3rd Ohio Volunteer Regiment. He became colonel of the 27th United States Infantry Regiment on February 20, 1813. Soon after, he was promoted to brigadier general in the Regular Army on March 12, 1813. Cass took part in the Battle of the Thames, a defeat of British Canadian forces. Cass resigned from the Army on May 1, 1814.
Territorial Governor of Michigan
As a reward for his military service, Cass was appointed Governor of the Michigan Territory by President James Madison on October 29, 1813, serving until 1831. As he was frequently traveling on business, several territorial secretaries often acted as governor in his place. During this period, he helped negotiate and implement treaties with Native American tribes in Michigan, by which they ceded substantial amounts of land. Some were given small reservations in the territory.
In 1817, Cass was one of the two commissioners (along with Duncan McArthur), who negotiated the Treaty of Fort Meigs, which was signed on September 29 with several Native American tribes of the region, under which they ceded large amounts of territory to the United States. This helped open up areas of Michigan to settlement by Euro-Americans. That same year, Cass was named to serve as Secretary of War under President James Monroe, but he declined the appointment.
In 1820, Cass led an expedition to the northwestern part of Michigan Territory, in the Great Lakes region in today's northern Minnesota. Its purpose was to map the region and locate the source of the Mississippi River. The headwater of the great river was then unknown, resulting in an undefined border between the United States and British North America, which had been linked to the river. The Cass expedition erroneously identified what became known as Cass Lake as the Mississippi's source. It was not until 1832 that Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, the Cass expedition's geologist, identified nearby Lake Itasca as the headwater of the Mississippi.
Secretary of War
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 implementing the Indian removal policy of the Jackson administration; Congress had passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. While it was directed chiefly against the Southeastern tribes, especially the Five Civilized Tribes, it also affected tribes in Ohio, Illinois and other areas east of the Mississippi River. Most were forced to Indian Territory in present-day Kansas and Oklahoma, but a number of bands negotiated being allowed to remain in Michigan.
U.S. Minister to France
At the end of his term, President Jackson appointed Cass to succeed Edward Livingston as the U.S. Minister to France on October 4, 1836. He presented his credentials on December 1, 1836 and served until he left his post on November 12, 1842 when he was succeeded by William R. King, who later became the 13th Vice President of the United States under President Franklin Pierce.
Presidential ambitions and U.S. Senate
In 1848, he resigned from the Senate to run for president in the 1848 election. William Orlando Butler was selected as his running mate. Cass was a leading supporter of the doctrine of popular sovereignty, which held that the American citizens who lived in a territory should decide whether to permit slavery there. His nomination caused a split in the Democratic Party, leading many antislavery Northern Democrats to join the Free Soil Party, which nominated former President Martin Van Buren.
After losing the election to Zachary Taylor, Cass was returned by the state legislature to the Senate, serving from 1849-57. He was the first non-incumbent Democratic presidential candidate to lose an election and the first Democrat who was unsuccessful in his bid to succeed another Democrat as President. Apart from James Buchanan's election to succeed Franklin Pierce in 1856, subsequent Democrats who attempted election to succeed another Democrat as President all failed in their bid to do so.
Cass made another bid for president in 1852 but neither he nor rival Democrat contenders, Buchanan and Stephen Douglas secured a majority of delegates' votes at the Democratic Convention in Baltimore, and the party went with Franklin Pierce instead.
U.S. Secretary of State
On March 6, 1857, President James Buchanan appointed Cass to serve as Secretary of State as a consolation prize for his previous presidential runs. Although retaining incumbent Secretary of State William Marcy was considered the best option by many, Buchanan made it clear that he did not want to keep anyone from the Pierce Administration, moreover Marcy had opposed his earlier presidential bids. Cass, aged 75, was seen by most as too old for such a demanding position and was thought to be likely be little more than a figurehead. Buchanan, weighing many of the other options for Secretary of State, considered that Cass was the best choice to avoid political infighting and sectional tensions. Buchanan, who did not particularly like Cass, nonetheless wrote a flattering letter offering him the post of Secretary of State, commenting that he was remarkably active and energetic for his advanced age. Cass, who was retiring from the Senate, but not eager to leave Washington and return home to Michigan, immediately accepted. Aware of his age and physical limitations, Cass agreed to delegate most of his powers as Secretary of State to an Assistant Secretary of State or the president himself. He also promised to refrain from making anti-British remarks in public (having served in the War of 1812, Cass had a low opinion of London). Most assumed Cass was a temporary Secretary of State until a younger, more fit man could be found, however he ultimately served for all but the final four months of Buchanan's administration. As expected, the aged Cass largely delegated major decision-making to subordinates, but eagerly signed his name on papers and dispatches penned by them. While sympathetic to American filibusters in Central America, he was instrumental in having Commodore Hiram Paulding removed from command for his landing of Marines in Nicaragua and compelling the extradition of William Walker to the United States. Cass attempted to buy more land from Mexico, but faced opposition from both Mexico and congressional leaders. He also negotiated a final settlement to the Clayton–Bulwer Treaty, limiting U.S. and British control of Latin American countries.
Cass resigned on December 14, 1860, because of what he considered 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.
On May 26, 1806, Cass married Elizabeth Spencer (1786–1853), the daughter of Dr. Joseph Spencer Jr. and Deborah (née Seldon) Spencer. Her paternal grandfather was Joseph Spencer, a Continental Congressman who was a major general in the Continental Army. Lewis and Elizabeth were the parents of seven children, five of whom lived past infancy:
- Isabella Cass (1805–1879), who married Theodorus Marinus Roest van Limburg, a Dutch journalist, diplomat, and politician.
- Elizabeth Selden Cass (1812–1832)
- Lewis Cass Jr. (1814–1878), who served as an army officer and as U.S. Chargé d'Affaires and Minister to the Papal States.
- Mary Sophia Cass (1812–1882), who married Army officer Augustus Canfield, an officer of the Corps of Topographical Engineers.
- Matilda Frances Cass (1818–1898), who married Henry Ledyard, the mayor of Detroit.
- Ellen Cass (1821–1824), who died young.
- Spencer Cass (1828-1828), who died in infancy.
Through his daughter Matilda, he was the grandfather of Elizabeth Cass Ledyard (wife of Francis Wayland Goddard); Henry Brockholst Ledyard Jr. (who was president of the Michigan Central Railroad); Susan Livingston Ledyard (wife of Hamilton Bullock Tompkins); Lewis Cass Ledyard (a prominent lawyer with Carter Ledyard & Milburn who was the personal counsel of J. Pierpont Morgan); and Matilda Spancer Ledyard.
- A statue of Cass is one of the two that were submitted by Michigan to the National Statuary Hall collection in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. It stands in the National Statuary Hall room. (The other statue is of President Gerald Ford, the only U.S. president to come from Michigan.)
- The Liberty ship SS Lewis Cass
- He is the eponym of the village of Casstown, Ohio, the community of Cassville, West Virginia, Cass City, Michigan, and the Cass River that runs around the surrounding areas.
- Cass Avenue in Detroit.
- The Lewis Cass Legacy Society, which supports The Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation, was named for his support of Michigan Freemasonry.
- Bartow County, Georgia was originally named Cass County after Lewis Cass, but was changed in 1861 after Francis Bartow died as a Confederate war hero and due to Cass's alleged opposition to slavery, even though he was an advocate of states' rights via the doctrine of popular sovereignty. Cassville, Georgia is an unincorporated community in the same county, was originally the county seat before the name was changed from Cass County. The seat was moved to Cartersville, Georgia after General Sherman destroyed Cassville in his Atlanta Campaign of 1864.
- Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Cass High School in Bartow County, Georgia and Lewis Cass Schools in Walton, Indiana were named in honor of Lewis Cass.
- Lewis Cass is the namesake of counties in the following states: Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas. However, Cass County, North Dakota, was not named for him.
Other honors and memberships
- Cass, Lewis (1840). France, its King, Court and Government. New York: Wiley and Putnam.
- "Lewis Cass - People - Department History". history.state.gov. Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs United States Department of State. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
- "Biographies of the Secretaries of State: Lewis Cass (1782–1866)". Office of the Historian. U.S. State Department. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
- "Past Grand Masters - 1810 Lewis Cass". Grand Lodge of Ohio. Archived from the original on 2016-09-21. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
- Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T. (eds) (2004). Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, pp. 83-84. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-362-4.
- Kleber, John E. (ed.) (1992). The Kentucky Encyclopedia, p. 146. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0, ISBN 978-0-8131-1772-0.
- Klunder (1996), pp. 266–67
- 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 Archived 2015-06-17 at the Wayback Machine
- 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)
- Whittelsey, Charles Barney. "Historical Sketch of Joseph Spencer - Sons of the American Revolution, Connecticut". www.connecticutsar.org. Historian Society of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of Connecticut. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
- Burton, Clarence Monroe; et al. (1922). The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701–1922. 2. Detroit, MI: S. J. Publishing Company. p. 1367.
- The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, p. 1367.
- Island, National Society of the Colonial Dames of America Rhode (1897). First record book of the Society of Colonial Dames in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations: Ending August 31, 1896. Snow & Farnham, printers. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- Clarence Monroe Burton; William Stocking; Gordon K. Miller (1922), The city of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922; Volume 4, The S. J. Clarke publishing company, pp. 5–6
- "Ledyard Given Quiet Funeral," Detroit Free Press, May 28, 1921, pg. 11.
- Tompkins, Hamilton Bullock (1877). Biographical Record of the Class of 1865, of Hamilton College. Hamilton College. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- Psi Upsilon (1932), The diamond of Psi Upsilon, 18, Psi Upsilon Fraternity, pp. 170–171
- Marquis, Albert Nelson (1911). Who's Who in America | A Biographical Directory of Notable Living Men and Women of The United States | Vol VI 1910-1911. London: A. N. Marquis & Co. p. 1134. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- Ledyard, Henry. "Guide to the Henry Ledyard collection 1726-1899 and undated (bulk 1840-1859)" (PDF). library.brown.edu. Redwood Library and Athenaeum. Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- United States Congress (2005). Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–2005. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 604. ISBN 978-0-16-073176-1.
- The History of Miami County, Ohio: Containing a History of the County; Its Cities, Towns, Etc. Windmill Publications. 1880. p. 396.
- Kenny, Hamill (1945). West Virginia Place Names: Their Origin and Meaning, Including the Nomenclature of the Streams and Mountains. Piedmont, WV: The Place Name Press. p. 159.
- American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
- United States Congress. "Lewis Cass (id: C000233)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Klunder, Willard Carl (1996). Lewis Cass and the Politics of Moderation, Kent State University Press. ISBN 0-87338-536-5, ISBN 978-0-87338-536-7
- Klunder, Willard Carl. "Lewis Cass, Stephen Douglas, and Popular Sovereignty: The Demise of Democratic Party Unity," in Politics and Culture of the Civil War Era ed by Daniel J. McDonough and Kenneth W. Noe, (2006) pp. 129–53
- Klunder, Willard Carl (1991). "The Seeds of Popular Sovereignty: Governor Lewis Cass and Michigan Territory". Michigan Historical Review. 17 (1): 64–81. JSTOR 20173254.
- Silbey, Joel H. Party Over Section: The Rough and Ready Presidential Election of 1848 (2009), 205 pp.
- Bell, William Gardner (1992). "Lewis Cass". Secretaries of War and Secretaries of the Army. United States Army Center of Military History. CMH pub 70-12.
- Elmwood Cemetery Biography
- Cleland, Charles E. "Rites of Conquest: The History and Culture of Michigan's Native Americans". University of Michigan Press (1992).
- Lewis Cass papers, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan.
- Lewis Cass at Find a Grave