John Sherman

John Sherman

Sherman, John, 1823-1900, American statesman, b. Lancaster, Ohio; brother of William Tecumseh Sherman. He studied law, was admitted (1844) to the bar, and practiced law several years in Mansfield, Ohio, before he moved (1853) to Cleveland. He had been a delegate to the Whig national conventions of 1848 and 1852 and in 1855 presided over the first Republican state convention. A moderate opponent of slavery expansion, he served (1855-61) in the House of Representatives and quickly rose to prominence. Sent (1861) to the Senate to fill a vacancy, he served there until 1877. Sherman became (1867) chairman of the Senate finance committee and played a leading role in government finance in the Reconstruction period. He had supported the Legal Tender Act of 1862 and the National Banking Act of 1863, but he opposed Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch's plan to retire the greenbacks in circulation and pushed a compromise plan for resuming specie payment. Later, however, he forced the Resumption Act of 1875 through the Senate, and as Secretary of the Treasury (1877-81) under President Hayes, he directed the implementation of the act. In 1880, 1884, and 1888 he was considered as a candidate for the Republican nomination for President. Again in the Senate (1881-97), he was associated in 1890 with the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. In 1897 he resigned from the Senate to provide a seat for Marcus A. Hanna and was appointed Secretary of State by President McKinley. He retired to private life in 1898. He wrote Recollections of Forty Years in the House, Senate, and Cabinet (1895).

See The Sherman Letters (ed. by R. S. Thorndike, 1894); biography by T. E. Burton (1906, repr. 1972).

John Sherman nicknamed "The Ohio Icicle" (May 10, 1823October 22, 1900) was a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Ohio during the Civil War and into the late nineteenth century. He served as both Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State and was the principal author of the Sherman Antitrust Act. His older brothers were Charles Taylor Sherman, a US Judge in Ohio, and General William Tecumseh Sherman of Civil War fame. His younger brother was banker Hoyt Sherman.

Early life

Sherman was born in Lancaster, Ohio, to Mary Hoyt Sherman and Charles Robert Sherman, a justice in the Ohio Supreme Court. When he died in 1829, John's mother was left with eleven children to take care of. His brother, William, went to live with Maria and Thomas Ewing who were friends of the Shermans.

Sherman was educated at common schools as well as an academy in Ohio, but left early to work as an engineer on canal projects. He later began studying law and was admitted to the bar in 1844. He became partners with his brother the same year and practiced out of Mansfield, Ohio. He married Margaret Sarah Stewart in 1848, the daughter of an Ohio judge.

Political career

After his marriage, Sherman took up an interest in politics. He was a delegate to the 1848 Whig National Convention which nominated General Zachary Taylor for the presidency and again to the 1852 Whig National Convention which nominated General Winfield Scott. In 1853, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio. In 1854, he was elected a Republican to the United States House of Representatives for Ohio's thirteenth district where he was the Republican candidate for Speaker in the long contest of 1859-60 and served as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means from 1860 to 1861.

After Senator Salmon P. Chase resigned to become the Secretary of the Treasury, Sherman was elected to fill his seat. There, he served as chairman of the Committee on Agriculture from 1863 to 1867 and chairman of the Committee on Finance from 1863 to 1865 and again from 1867 to 1877. In 1877, newly elected President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Sherman Secretary of the Treasury. He served in the position through the entire Hayes administration, 1877 to 1881.

In 1880, he sought the Republican nomination for the presidency hoping to become a compromise candidate between Ulysses S. Grant and James G. Blaine, but lost it to his campaign manager James A. Garfield.

When his term as Treasury Secretary expired, Sherman was elected back to the Senate to fill the seat to which James A. Garfield was originally elected, Garfield having won election to the presidency that year. Sherman served as chairman of the Committee on the Library from 1881 to 1887, chairman of the Republican Conference from 1884 to 1885 and again from 1891 to 1897 and chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations from 1885 to 1893 and again from 1895 to 1897. He was also elected President pro tempore of the Senate from 1885 to 1887. Due to the death of Vice President Thomas A. Hendricks, Sherman was next in line for the presidency from December 1885 to January 1886. He had run for the presidency two more times in 1884 and 1888, but, again, lost the bids to James G. Blaine and Benjamin Harrison.

In 1890, Sherman wrote and introduced the Sherman Antitrust Act, the first United States Federal Government action to limit monopolies and thus the oldest of all antitrust laws in the United States. It was signed by President Benjamin Harrison that year.

In 1897, newly elected President William McKinley appointed Sherman Secretary of State. Selected more for his high standing inside the Republican Party than any diplomatic experience, Sherman proved to be ineffective in the position and in 1898, McKinley replaced Sherman with Assistant Secretary of State William R. Day.


Sherman retired from public life after resigning as Secretary of State. He died in Washington, D.C. after a lingering illness and was interred in Mansfield City Cemetery in Mansfield, Ohio, with his wife, Margaret.

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