Hamilton Fish

:"See Hamilton Fish (disambiguation) for others with the same name"Infobox US Cabinet official
name=Hamilton Fish

title=United States Secretary of State
term_start=March 17, 1869
term_end=March 12, 1877
predecessor=Elihu B. Washburne
successor=William M. Evarts
office2=Governor of New York
term_start2=January 1, 1849
term_end2=December 31, 1850
lieutenant2=George Washington Patterson
predecessor2=John Young
successor2=Washington Hunt
birth_date=birth date|1808|8|3|mf=y
birth_place=New York City, New York, U.S.
death_date=death date and age|1893|09|07|1808|08|03
death_place=Garrison, New York, U.S.
party=Whig, Republican
spouse=Julia Kean Fish
profession=Politician, Lawyer

Hamilton Fish (August 3, 1808ndash September 7, 1893), born in New York City, was an American statesman who served as Governor of New York, United States Senator and United States Secretary of State.


Fish was born at what is now known as the Stuyvesant-Fish House in Greenwich Village, New York City, to Nicholas Fish and Elizabeth Stuyvesant (a great-great-granddaughter of New Amsterdam's Peter Stuyvesant), and his parents named him after their friend Alexander Hamilton. Nicholas Fish (1758-1833) was a leading Federalist politician and notable figure of the American Revolutionary War. Hamilton Fish married Julia Kean (a descendant of a New Yorker who was a New Jersey governor, William Livingston) in 1836. They would have three sons and five daughters, and multiple notable relatives.

Hamilton graduated from Columbia College in 1827 and was admitted to the New York bar in 1830, practicing briefly with William Beach Lawrence. He served as commissioner of deeds for the city and county of New York from 1832 through 1833, and was an unsuccessful candidate for New York State Assembly in 1834.

Political career

As a member of the Whig party, Fish was elected to the House of Representatives, defeating Democrat John McKeon and serving in the 28th Congress from New York's 6th District between 1843 and 1845. After losing his bid for re-election, he returned to private practice as a lawyer. He was the Whig candidate for lieutenant governor of New York in 1846, but was defeated by Democrat Addison Gardiner who had been endorsed by the Anti-Rent Party. In 1847, however, after Gardiner was elected a judge of the New York Court of Appeals, Fish was elected (November 1847) to complete the term (until December 31, 1848).

He was elected Governor of New York in 1848, defeating John A. Dix and Reuben H. Walworth, and served from January 1, 1849 through December 31, 1850.

He was elected to the United States Senate defeating the incumbent Daniel S. Dickinson, and began serving on March 4, 1851. There he was a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations until the end of his term on 3 March 1857. He was a Republican for the latter part of his term and was part of a moderately anti-slavery faction. He opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. At the expiration of his term, he traveled with his family to Europe and remained there until shortly before the opening of the American Civil War, when he returned to begin actively campaigning for the election of Abraham Lincoln.

In 1861 and 1862 he was associated with John A. Dix, William M. Evarts, William E. Dodge, A.T. Stewart, John Jacob Astor and other New York men on the Union Defence Committee, which (from April 22, 1861 to April 30, 1862) cooperated with the New York City government in the raising and equipping troops, and disbursed more than $1 million for the relief of New York volunteers and their families.

He was also appointed in 1862 to serve with Edward Raymond Ames to visit the Union Army prisoners being held in the Confederate States of America capital in Richmond, Virginia. The Confederate government, however, refused to allow the commission to enter the city.

ecretary of State

He also served as Secretary of State between March 17, 1869 and March 12, 1877 under Ulysses S. Grant. He was Grant's longest-serving Cabinet officer.

He conducted the negotiations with Great Britain which resulted in the Treaty of Washington of 1871, under which the Alabama claims and the San Juan Boundary Dispute (concerning the Oregon boundary line) were referred to arbitration. He also negotiated the reciprocity treaty of 1875 with the Kingdom of Hawaii.

In 1871 Fish presided at the peace conference at Washington between Spain and the allied republics of Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia, which resulted in a general truce between those countries.

It was chiefly due to his restraint and moderation that a satisfactory settlement of the Virginius Affair was reached by the United States and Spain in 1873.

Within the Department of State, he promoted testing job applicants to see if they were truly qualified for duty at a consulate.

Later life

After leaving the Cabinet, he returned to the law and managing his real estate in New York City.

He died at Glen Clyffe, his estate near Garrison, New York, in Putnam County, New York, in the Hudson River Valley, and is buried in Garrison at St. Philip's Church-in-the-Highlands Cemetery.

Other involvements

* Vice-president general of the Society of the Cincinnati from 1848 to 1854, president general from 1854 until his death
* Appointed by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln as one of the board of commissioners for the relief and exchange of Union prisoners of war in the South
* President of the New York Historical Society from 1867-1869
* Served as a trustee of Columbia University for 53 years (1840–1849, 1851–1893), and as chairman of the board of trustees from 1859 until his death in 1893
* Served as president of the Union League Club from 1879 to 1881.
* Acted as a trustee of both the Lenox Library and the Astor Library, which were later shaped into the New York Public Library

Notable relatives

Fish had many notable ancestors and descendants.
* Through his ancestor Gilbert Livingston (b. 1690) he was a second cousin four times removed of US Senator Prescott Bush and his son George H. W. Bush and grandson George W. Bush, both US Presidents.
* He had a son, a grandson and a great-grandson (all named Hamilton Fish) serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for New York:
** Son Hamilton Fish II (1849–1936)
** Grandson Hamilton Fish III (1888–1991)
** Great-grandson Hamilton Fish IV (1926–1996)
* His great-great grandson Hamilton Fish V ran for Congress in 1988 and 1994 (to succeed his retiring father) but lost. With other investors, Hamilton Fish V purchased "The Nation" out of bankruptcy in 1977, and sold it in 1995, but remains connected to the foundation. He is also an adviser to George Soros.
* Another son Stuyvesant Fish was an important railroad executive
* Another son, Nicholas Fish, was a U.S. diplomat, who was appointed second secretary of legation at Berlin in 1871, became secretary in 1874, and was chargé d'affaires at Berne in 1877-1881, and minister to Belgium in 1882-1886, after which he engaged in banking in New York City.
* Nicholas's son Hamilton Fish, an 1895 graduate of Columbia College of Columbia University, saw service in The Spanish-American War as one of the storied Rough Riders. He was the first member of that regiment to be killed in action, at Las Guasimas, Cuba.
* Nephew Stuyvesant Fish Morris, physician from New York
* Grand-nephew Hamilton F. Kean, US Senator from New Jersey
* Great-grand-nephew Thomas Kean, Governor of New Jersey


* The Newburgh-Beacon Bridge on I-84 across the Hudson river is named after him.
* The park on the corners of Pitt St. and E. Houston St. in New York City is named after him.


*"Who Was Who in America: Historical Edition, 1607-1896." Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1967.

Recommended reading

*Nevins, Allan, "Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration" (Dodd) 1936. (1937 Pulitzer Prize winner in biography/autobiography category)

External links

* [http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h214.html U-S-History.com: Article]
* [http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAfishH.htm Biography from Spartacus Educational]
* [http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ny/state/his/bk12/ch7/pt5.html "The History of New York State", Book XII, Chapter 7, Part 5 (Editor, Dr. James Sullivan; Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam)]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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