See biography by C. M. Fuess (1923, repr. 1965).
(born Jan. 17, 1800, Salisbury, Mass., U.S.—died Jan. 2, 1879, Newburyport, Mass.) U.S. lawyer and diplomat. After serving in the U.S. House of Representatives (1835–43), he was appointed U.S. commissioner to China (1843–45). In that office he negotiated the Treaty of Wanghia (1844), which opened five Chinese ports to U.S. trade and established the principle of extraterritoriality. He later served as U.S. attorney general (1853–57), U.S. counsel at the Geneva Conference (1871–72) for the settlement of the Alabama claims, and minister to Spain (1874–77).
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On November 23, 1824, Cushing married Caroline Elizabeth Wilde, daughter of Judge Samuel Sumner Wilde, of the Supreme Judicial Court. His wife died about a decade later, leaving him childless and alone. He never married again.
Here the marked inconsistency which characterized his public life became manifest; for when John Tyler had become president, had been read out of the Whig party, and had vetoed Whig measures (including a tariff bill), for which Cushing had voted, Cushing first defended the vetoes and then voted again for the bills. In 1843 President Tyler nominated Cushing for U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, but the U.S. Senate refused to confirm him for this office. John Canfield Spencer was chosen instead.
Cushing was, however, appointed by President Tyler, later in the same year, to be commissioner and United States Ambassador to China, holding this position until March 4, 1845. In 1844 he negotiated the Treaty of Wang Hiya, the first treaty between China and the United States. While serving as commissioner to China he was also empowered to negotiate a treaty of navigation and commerce with Japan.
In 1847 and again in 1848 the Democrats nominated him for Governor of Massachusetts, but on each occasion he was defeated at the polls. He was again a representative in the state legislature in 1851, was offered the position as Massachusetts Attorney General in 1851, but declined; and served as mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1851 and 1852. (He had written a major history of the town when he was 26 years old.)
He became an associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1852, and during the administration of President Franklin Pierce, from March 7, 1853 until March 3, 1857, was 23rd Attorney General of the United States.
In 1858, 1859, 1862, and 1863 he again served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Despite having favored states' rights and opposed the abolition of slavery, during the American Civil War, he supported the Union. He was later appointed by President Andrew Johnson as one of three commissioners assigned to revise and codify the laws of the United States Congress. He served in that capacity from 1866 to 1870.
At the Geneva conference for the settlement of the Alabama claims in 1871-1872 he was one of the counsels appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant for the United States before the Geneva Tribunal of Arbitration on the Alabama claims.
Broken Glass: Caleb Cushing and the Shattering of the Union.('Henry Wilson and the Coming of the Civil War', 'William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War')(Book review)
Dec 22, 2008; Broken Glass: Caleb Cushing and the Shattering of the Union. By John M. Belohlavek. (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press,...
A People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War/ Banners South: A Northern Community at War/ August Willich's Gallant Dutchmen: Civil War Letters from the 32nd Indiana Infantry/ Broken Glass: Caleb Cushing and the Shattering of the Union
Jun 01, 2007; A People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War Scott Nelson and Carol Sheriff. New York: Oxford, 2007. Banners...