World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Hamilton Fish

Article Id: WHEBN0000383925
Reproduction Date:

Title: Hamilton Fish  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, United States Assistant Secretary of State, William H. Seward, Elihu B. Washburne, William M. Evarts
Collection: 1808 Births, 1893 Deaths, 19Th-Century American Episcopalians, American People of Dutch Descent, American People of English Descent, Columbia University Alumni, Dudley–winthrop Family, Fish Family, Governors of New York, Grant Administration Cabinet Members, Lieutenant Governors of New York, Livingston Family, Members of the United States House of Representatives from New York, New York Republicans, New York Whigs, People of New York in the American Civil War, Schuyler Family, United States Secretaries of State, United States Senators from New York, Whig Party Members of the United States House of Representatives, Whig Party State Governors of the United States, Whig Party United States Senators
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Hamilton Fish

Hamilton Fish
Studio black and whitephoto of Hamilton Fish showing head and shoulders with extended sideburns.
26th United States Secretary of State
In office
March 17, 1869 – March 12, 1877

Ulysses S. Grant

Rutherford B. Hayes
Preceded by Elihu B. Washburne
Succeeded by William M. Evarts
United States Senator
from New York
In office
December 1, 1851 – March 3, 1857
Preceded by Daniel S. Dickinson
Succeeded by Preston King
16th Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1849 – December 31, 1850
Lieutenant George Washington Patterson
Preceded by John Young
Succeeded by Washington Hunt
Lieutenant Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1848 – December 31, 1848
Governor John Young
Preceded by Albert Lester
as Acting Lieutenant Governor
Succeeded by George W. Patterson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 6th district
In office
December 4, 1843 – March 3, 1845
Preceded by James G. Clinton
Succeeded by William W. Campbell
Personal details
Born (1808-08-03)August 3, 1808
New York City, New York, US
Died September 7, 1893(1893-09-07) (aged 85)
Garrison, New York, US
Political party Whig, Republican
Spouse(s) Julia Kean Fish
Alma mater Columbia College of Columbia University
Profession Politician, Lawyer
Religion Episcopalian

Hamilton Fish (August 3, 1808 – September 7, 1893) was an American statesman and politician who served as the

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
James G. Clinton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
William W. Campbell
Political offices
Preceded by
Albert Lester
Lieutenant Governor of New York
Succeeded by
George W. Patterson
Preceded by
John Young
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Washington Hunt
Preceded by
Elihu B. Washburne
U.S. Secretary of State
Served under: Ulysses S. Grant

Succeeded by
William M. Evarts
United States Senate
Preceded by
Daniel S. Dickinson
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New York
Served alongside: William H. Seward
Succeeded by
Preston King
  • Article
  • Biography from Spartacus Educational
  • Desmond-Fish Library Public Library co-founded by Hamilton Fish IV. Library has many Fish family artifacts, papers and portraits on display.
  • LiSA (Livingston–Svirsky Archive) Contains many online documents on the Fish Family.

External links

  • Stover, John F., The management of the Illinois Central Railroad in the 20th century. (PDF), Purdue University 

Purdue University

  • Bardsley, Marilyn (2011). "Albert Fish". Tru TV. Retrieved 2011-09-18. 
  • Benz, Stephen (June 26, 1998). "The Bull Pulpit". Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  • Reitwiesner, William Addams. "Ancestry of Albert Fish". WARGS. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  • "Fischetti to Fishelson". Political Graveyard. July 19, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  • "Fish, Hamilton, (1849–1936)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  • "Fish, Hamilton, (1888–1991)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  • "Fish, Hamilton, Jr., (1926–1996)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  • "Governor Thomas H. Kean Biography". Rutgers. Retrieved 2011-09-15. 
  • "Kean, Hamilton Fish, (1862–1941)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2011-09-18. 


  • "Hamilton Fish 3d Joins Race for House". New York,  
  • "The Merchants Denouncing Hamilton Fish" (PDF). New York Times (New York,  

New York Times

  • American Heritage Editors (December 1981). "The Ten Best Secretaries Of State…". American Heritage 33 (1). Retrieved 2011-08-22. 
  • Nahne, Andrew C. (April 1968). "our Little War With The Heathen". American Heritage 19 (3). Retrieved 2011-08-30. 
  • Schartz, Frederick D. (October 1998). "1873 One Hundred And Twenty-five Years Ago". American Heritage 49 (6). Retrieved 2011-08-22. 

American Heritage

Journals and newspapers

  • Corning, A. Elwood (October 1918). Hamilton Fish. New York,  
  • Doenecke, Justus D. (1981). The Presidencies of James A. Garfield & Chester A. Arthur.  
  • Kremer, Gary R. (1991). James Milton Turner and the Promise of America: the Public Life of a Post- Civil War Black Leader.  
  • McFeely, William S. (1981). Grant A Biography. New York,  
  • Nevins, Allan (1957). Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration. Volume: 1. New York,  
  • Smith, Jean Edward (2001). Grant.  
  • United States Department of State (December 4, 1871). Foreign Relations of the United States. Washington D.C.: Washington: Government Printing Office. 



  1. ^ a b c d American Heritage Editors (December, 1981), The Ten Best Secretaries Of State….
  2. ^ a b c d United States Department of State (December 4, 1871), Foreign relations of the United States, pp. 775-777.
  3. ^ a b Kremer 1991, pp. 82–87.
  4. ^ Corning (1918), p. 58.
  5. ^ a b Corning (1918), pp. 12-15.
  6. ^ Corning (1918), p. 16.
  7. ^ a b Corning (1918), pp. 17-20.
  8. ^ a b c Corning (1918), pp. 20-22.
  9. ^ a b c d Corning (1918), pp. 23-25.
  10. ^ a b c d e Corning (1918), pp. 25-29
  11. ^ Corning (1918), pp. 30.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Corning (1918), pp. 30-34
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Corning (1918), pp. 35-48.
  14. ^ Nevins (1957), p. 36
  15. ^ Nevins (1957), p. 37
  16. ^ Nevins (1957), p. 42
  17. ^ a b Nevins (1957), p. 48
  18. ^ Nevins (1957), p. 53
  19. ^ Nevins (1957), pp. 45, 52
  20. ^ New York Times (February 19, 1855), The Merchants Denouncing Hamilton Fish.
  21. ^ a b Nevins (1957), p. 57
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Corning (1918), pp. 46-48."
  23. ^ Corning (1918), pp. 52, 53
  24. ^ a b c d e f g Dictionary of American Biography (1931), Fish, Hamilton, p. 400
  25. ^ a b c d e f Corning (1918), pp. 53, 54
  26. ^ a b c d e f g Hoogenboom (1988), p. 106
  27. ^ Corning (1918), p. 85, 86
  28. ^ Corning (1918), pp. 87, 88
  29. ^ Corning (1918), p. 89, 90
  30. ^ McFeely (1981), p. 332, 333
  31. ^ McFeely (1981), p. 337
  32. ^ a b c d McFeely (1981), p. 338, 339.
  33. ^ Mcfeely (1981), p. 341
  34. ^ Smith (2001), p. 501, 502
  35. ^ McFeely (1981), p. 344
  36. ^ McFeely (1981), p. 340, 341.
  37. ^ Smith (2001), p. 504
  38. ^ Mcfeely (1981), p. 343
  39. ^ a b Smith (2001), p. 505.
  40. ^ Corning, Amos Elwood (1918). Hamilton Fish. pp. 59–84. 
  41. ^ Smith (2001), pp. 463, 464.
  42. ^ Smith (2001), pp. 508, 509
  43. ^ Smith (2001), pp. 510, 511.
  44. ^ Smith (2001), 512-514
  45. ^ Smith (2001), 512-515
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Nahne (April 1968), "our Little War With The Heathen"
  47. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Schwartz (October 1998), 1873 One Hundred And Twenty-five Years Ago
  48. ^ Doenecke (1981), p. 177
  49. ^ Corning (1918), p. 104
  50. ^ Corning (1918), pp. 105, 106.
  51. ^ New York Times (September 12, 1893), Hamilton Fish's Funeral, PDF, Accessed September 25, 2013
  52. ^ Corning (1918), pp. 106-108
  53. ^ Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Fish, Hamilton, (1849–1936)
  54. ^ Biographical Directory of the United States Congress ,Fish, Hamilton, (1888–1991)
  55. ^ Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Fish, Hamilton, Jr., (1926–1996)
  56. ^ Stover, "The management of the Illinois Central Railroad in the 20th century.", PDF file
  57. ^ Political Graveyard (July 19, 2011), Fischetti to Fishelson
  58. ^ Benz (June 26, 1998), The Bull Pulpit


Three of Fish's direct descendants, all named Hamilton, served in the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of New York. Hamilton Fish II, Fish's son, served one term as U.S. Representative from 1909 to 1911.[53] Fish II also served as assistant to Secretary of State Hamilton Fish. Hamilton Fish III, Fish's grandson, served as U.S. Representative from 1920 to 1945.[54] Hamilton Fish IV, Fish's great-grandson, served as U.S. Representative from 1969 to 1995.[55] Another son Stuyvesant Fish was an important railroad executive.[56] Another son, Nicholas Fish II, 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.[57] Hamilton Fish, Fish's grandson by Nicholas, was 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 the Battle of Las Guasimas, Cuba.[58]

Notable descendants

There is a memorial to Fish at the Cathedral of All Saints (Albany, New York).

Charles Francis Adams describe Fish as "a quiet and easy-going man; but, when aroused, by being, as he thought, 'put upon', he became very formidable. Neither was it possible to placate him." Fish's 20th Century biographer, A. Elwood Corning, stated that Fish was free from "petty jealousies and prejudices which so often drag the reputation of statesmen down to the level of politicians" and that Fish "used the language and practiced the manners of a gentleman." As an invaluable member of the Grant Administration, Fish commanded "men's confidence, and respect by his firmness, candor, and justice."[52]

On September 11, 1893 Fish was buried in Garrison at St. Philip's Church-in-the-Highlands Cemetery under waving trees along on the hills by the Hudson River shoreline. He was buried next to his wife and oldest daughter. Fish was buried near the grave of Edwards Pierrepont, President Grant's U.S. Attorney General. Many notable persons attended Fish's funeral, while Bishop Potter conducted services. Julia Grant, widowed wife of Ulysses S. Grant, attended Fish's funeral.[51]

The Hamilton Fish memorial at the Cathedral of All Saints (Albany, New York).

Funeral and legacy

Fish resided in Glen Clyffe, his estate near Garrison, New York, in Putnam County, New York, in the Hudson River Valley. His health remained good until around 1884, having suffered from neuralgia. On September 6, 1893 Fish had retired from the evening having played cards with his daughter. The following morning on September 7, Fish, at the age of 85, suddenly died. His death was attributed to old age.[50]

Fish was a long time member of the New York Society of the Cincinnati by right of his father's service as an officer in the Continental Army. Fish succeeded to his father's "seat" in the Society upon his father's death in 1833. In 1848, Fish became the Vice President General of the national Society and, in 1854, he became its President General. In 1855 Fish was elected President of the New York Society. Fish served as both President General of the national Society and President of the New York Society until his death in 1893. His 39-year tenure in office as President General is by far the longest in the Society's history.

After leaving the Grant Cabinet in 1877 and briefly serving under President Hayes, Fish returned to private life, practicing law and managing his real estate in New York City. Fish was revered in the New York community and enjoyed spending time with his family.

Studio black and white portrait of Hamilton Fish in his elder years.
Hamilton Fish in his elder years.

Later life and death

President Grant at the close of his second term, and Secretary Fish, remained interested in establishing an inter-oceanic canal treaty.[24] Fish and the State Department negotiated with a special envoy from Nicaragua in February, 1877 for an inter-oceanic treaty.[24] Negotiations, however, failed as the status of the neutral zone could not be established.[24]

Nicaragua inter-oceanic canal negotiations 1877

As the 1876 Republican convention approached during the U.S. Presidential Election, President Grant, unknown to Fish, had written a letter to Republican leaders to nominate Fish for the Presidential ticket. The letter was never read at the convention and Fish was never nominated. President Grant believed that Fish was a good compromise choice between the rival factions of James G. Blaine and Roscoe Conkling. Cartoonist Thomas Nast drew a caricature of Fish and Rutherford B. Hayes as the Republican Party ticket. Fish, who was ready to retire to private life, did not desire to run for President and was content at returning to private life. Fish found out later President Grant had written the letter to the convention.[49]

Republican convention 1876

The U.S. settled the Liberian-Grebo war in 1876 when Hamilton Fish dispatched the USS Alaska, under President Grant's authority, to Liberia. Liberia was in practice an American colony. U.S. envoy James Milton Turner, the first African American ambassador, requested a warship to protect American property in Liberia. Turner, bolstered by U.S. naval presence in harbor and support of the USS Alaska captain, negotiated the incorporation of Grebo people into Liberian society and the ousting of foreign traders from Liberia.[3]

Liberian-Grebo war 1876

Fish also negotiated the reciprocity treaty of 1875 with the Kingdom of Hawaii. Hawaiian sugar was made duty-free, while the importation of manufactured goods and clothing was allowed into the island kingdom.[48] By opening Hawaii to free trade the process for eventual statehood into the United States had begun.

Hawaiian reciprocal trade treaty 1875

When news reached the United States of the executions, President Grant and Secretary Fish were forced to make an immediate response.[47] Many Americans demanded a full-scale war with Spain.[47] Fish found out that the registration was falsified under American ownership, however, the executions of Americans demanded action.[47] Fish, coolly handled the situation, called upon Spanish minister, Admiral José Polo de Bernabé in Washington D.C. and held a conference.[47] A settlement was made where Spain relinquished the severely damaged Virginius to the U.S. Navy, while survivors were released that included 13 Americans.[47] The Spanish Captain who ordered the executions was censured, and Spain paid $80,000 reparations to American families whose family members were executed in Santiago.[47] The national honor of both Spain and the United States was preserved and it was chiefly due to the restraint and moderation of Fish and Bernabé that a satisfactory settlement of the Virginius' Affair was reached by the United States and Spain.[47]

During the 1870s Cuba was in a state of rebellion against Spain. In the United States, Americans were divided on whether to militarily aid the rebel Cubans. Many jingoists believed the United States needed to fight for the Cuban rebels and pressured the Grant Administration to take action.[47] A privately owned ship, the Virginius, was used to run guns, ammunition, and vital supplies to the Cuban rebels. The captain of the Virginius was Joseph Fry, former officer of the Confederate and Federal Navies. On October 31, 1873, the Virginius was run down in neutral waters by the Spanish warship, the Tornado, off of Morant Bay, Jamaica.[47] After being hit, the Virginius took on water and was forced to surrender to the Spanish authorities. The 103 crew members consisted of Cuban rebel recruits and 52 American and British citizens.[47] The Spanish hauled down and trampled the American flag, and brought the prisoners to Santiago. A total of 53 Virginius crew members were executed by the Spanish authorities.[47] The Spanish finally stopped the carnage as a British warship appeared with guns ready to fire on Santiago. The American Navy, at this time, although formidable worldwide, was in decline after the American Civil War.[47]

Black and white sketch of people celebrating Virginius prisoner release.
Celebration demonstrations in New York over the release of Virginius prisoners. Secretary Fish negotiated the release of the Virginius prisoners from Spanish authorities.
Morgan-January 1874

Virginius affair 1873

The Asiatic Squadron remained on the Han River for three weeks, but the Koreans would not open negotiations for a commercial treaty.[46] As the American squadron left, the Koreans believed that they had won a great victory over the Americans.[46] The attempt to open Korea up to trade was similar to how Commodore Matthew Perry in 1854 had approached the opening of Japan. Korea, however, proved to be more isolated than Japan. In 1881, Commodore Robert W. Shufeldt, without using a naval fleet, went to a more conciliatory Korean government and made a commercial treaty. The U.S. was the first Western nation to establish formal trade with Korea.[46]

On May 8, 1871, Low and Rear Admiral John Rodgers, commander of the Asiatic Squadron, voyaged to Korea with five warships, eighty-five guns, and 1,230 sailors and marines.[46] On May 16, the naval squadron reached Nagasaki Bay and a week later lowered anchor near the mouth of the Han. The Koreans sent unofficial representatives to stall for time and hope the American squadron would leave.[46] In June, the American fleet while doing nautical survey was fired upon by the Korean forts on the Han River leading to Seoul. The American fleet fired back, damaging the forts. The Americans demanded an apology on the grounds that the honor of the American flag had been violated.[46] On June 10, a U.S. military expedition was launched after the Koreans failed to apologize for the attack; the objective was to destroy the Korean forts on Kanghoa Island. The U.S.S. Monocacy pounded the forts with 9 inch guns while 546 sailors and 105 marines landed on the island and captured and destroyed the Korean forts.[46] The "Citadel" fortress, on a steep 115-foot hillside, put up the stiffest resistance to the American troops, who fought in hand-to-hand combat with the Korean Tiger Hunters. All of the Korean forts taken, were destroyed and leveled on June 11. Three hundred fifty Korean Tiger Hunters were killed, compared with only one American officer and two American sailors.[46] Lieut. Hugh W. McKee was the first U. S. Navy officer to die in battle in Korea.[46]

[46] Fish had told the fleet not to use force unless the honor of the U.S. Flag was infringed by the Koreans.[46] The purpose of the expedition was to seek retribution for the assaulted sailors and to open up a commercial treaty with the King of Korea.[46], minister to China, to take the Asiatic Fleet and voyage to Seoul.Frederick F. Low In April 1871, Fish ordered [46] In 1871,

Black and white photo of U.S. Naval Officers on ship off the coast of Korea in 1871.
U.S. Naval officers in the Asiatic Squadron on board the U.S.S. Colorado off Korea in June 1871.

Korean expedition and conflict 1871

On April 11, 1871 a peace conference, presided over by Hamilton Fish, was held in Washington D.C. between Spain and the South American republics of Peru, Chile, Ecuador, and Bolivia, which resulted in an armistice between the countries.[2] These countries had been in a "technical" state of war since 1866, and the United States in 1871 served as mediator under the direction of Hamilton Fish.[2] Representing Spain was Mauricio Lopez Roberts; Manuel Freyer represented both Peru and Bolivia; Joaquín Godoy represented Chile; and Antonio Flores represented Ecuador. President Grant gave Fish full powers to control negotiations at the détente meeting between the five countries. The signed armistice treaty consisted of seven articles; hostilities were to cease for a minimum of three years and the countries would allow commercial trade with neutral countries.[2]

South American détente and armistice 1871

On January 9, 1871, Fish met with British representative Sir John A. Macdonald. After 37 meetings, on May 8, 1871 the Treaty of Washington was signed at the State Department and became a "landmark of international conciliation". The Senate ratified the treaty on May 24, 1871.[44] On August 25, 1872, the settlement for the Alabama claims was made by an international arbitration committee meeting in Geneva and the United States was awarded $15,500,000 in gold for damaged done by the Confederate warships. Under the treaty settlement over disputed Atlantic fisheries and the San Juan Boundary (concerning the Oregon boundary line) was made. The treaty was considered an "unprecedented accomplishment", having solved border disputes, reciprocal trade, and navigation issues. A friendly perpetual relationship between Great Britain and America was established, with Britain having expressed regret over the Alabama damages.[45]

Color caricature sketch of Sec. Hamilton Fish with extended beard in standing position holding top hat in hand.
Caricature of Hamilton Fish
Vanity Fair - 1872

The Johnson-Clarendon treaty, presented to Congress by President Ulysses S. Grant, was overwhelmingly defeated by the Senate and the claims remained unresolved.[41] Anglophobia led by Charles Sumner was at an all-time high when Fish became Secretary of State. Sumner had demanded Britain cede Canada to the United States as payment for the Alabama Claims. In late 1870, an opportunity arrived to settle the Alabama Claims under Prime Minister William E. Gladstone. Fish, who was determined to improve relations with Britain, along with President Grant and Senate supporters, had Charles Sumner removed by vote from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the door was open for renewed negotiations with Britain.[42]

During the previous administration of President Andrew Johnson, Secretary of State Seward attempted to resolve the Alabama Claims with the Johnson-Clarendon convention and treaty. The Alabama Claims had arisen out of the American Civil War, when Confederate raiding ships built in British ports (most notably the C.S.S. Alabama) had sunk a significant number of Union merchant ships.

Studio black and white portrait of American High Commissioners. Sec. Hamilton Fish seated in center.
The American High Commissioners met in Washington D.C. Hamilton Fish served as chairman. Brady - 1871

Treaty of Washington 1871

President Grant and Secretary Fish were interested in establishing an inter-oceanic canal through Bogota between the United States and Colombia that established a Panama route for the inter-oceanic canal.[24] The Colombian Senate, however, amended the treaty so much that the strategic value of the inter-oceanic canal construction became ineffective. As a result, the United States Senate refused to ratify the treaty.[24]

Colombian inter-oceanic canal treaty 1870

In a private conference with President Grant, Fish agreed to support the Santo Domingo annexation if President Grant sent Congress a non-belligerency statement not to get involved with the Cuban rebellion against Spain.[35] Charles Sumner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was against the treaty, believing that Santo Domingo needed to remain independent, and that racism against U.S. black citizens in the South needed to be dealt with in the continental United States. Sumner believed that blacks on Santo Domingo did not share Anglo-American values.[36] On January 10, 1870 Grant submitted the Santo Domingo treaty to the United States Senate.[37] Fish believed Senators would vote for annexation only if statehood was withdrawn; however, President Grant refused this option.[38][39] The Senate took its time deliberating, and finally rejected the treaty on June 30, 1870. Eighteen Senators led by Charles Sumner defeated the treaty.[39] Pres. Grant, angered at Sumner's refusal to support the treaty, fired Sumner's friend J. Lothrop Motley, Grant's ambassador to England, for disregarding Fish's instructions regarding the Alabama Claims. Grant believed that Sumner had in January 1870 stated his support for the Santo Domingo treaty. Sumner was then deprived of his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1871 by Grant's allies in the Senate.[40]

After President Grant assumed office on March 4, 1869 one of his immediate foreign policy interests was the annexation of the Caribbean island nation of the Dominican Republic, at that time referred to as Santo Domingo, to the United States.[30] President Grant believed the annexation of Santo Domingo would increase the United States' mineral resources and alleviate the effects of racism against African Americans in the South.[31] Hamilton Fish, though loyal to President Grant, did not desire annexation; the divided island nation, run by mulatto leader President Buenaventura Báez, had been troubled with civil strife.[32] Báez had imprisoned an American citizen, Davis Hatch, for speaking out against the Báez government.[33] Fish told Grant that the Senate would not be ready to pass a Santo Domingo annexation treaty.[32] In April 1869 Fish gave Grant's private secretary Orville Babcock "special agent" status to search the island.[32] In September 1869, Babcock made a preliminary treaty that would annex Santo Domingo to the United States and give it the opportunity to apply for statehood.[32] In October 1869, Fish drew up a formal treaty that included: a $1,500,000 payment of the Dominican national debt; Samaná Bay would be leased to the United States for $150,000 yearly payment; Santo Domingo would eventually be given statehood.[34]

Studio black and white portrait photo of Sen. Charles Sumner.
Senator Charles Sumner, Fish's former senatorial colleague, led opposition against the annexation of Santo Domingo.

Dominican Republic annexation treaty 1869–1870

By 1869, Cuban nationals were in open rebellion against their mother country Spain, due to the unpopularity of Spanish rule. American sentiment favored the Cuban rebels and President Grant appeared to be on the verge of acknowledging Cuban belligerency. Fish, who desired settlement over the Alabama Claims, did not approve of recognizing the Cuban rebels, since Queen Victoria and her government had recognized Confederate belligerency in 1861. Recognizing Cuban belligerency would have jeopardized settlement and arbitration with Great Britain.[27] In February 1870, Senator John Sherman authored a Senate resolution that would have recognized Cuban belligerency. Working behind the scenes Fish counseled Sherman that Cuban recognition would ultimately lead to war with Spain. The resolution went to the House of Representatives and was ready to pass, however, Fish, worked out an agreement with President Grant to send a special message to Congress that urged not to acknowledge the Cuban rebels.[28] On June 13, 1870 the message written by Fish was sent to Congress by the President and Congress, after much debate, decided not to recognize Cuban belligerency. President Grant continued the policy of Cuban belligerent non recognition for the rest of his two administrations. This policy, however, was tested in 1873 with the Virginius Affair.[29]

Cuban belligerency and insurrection 1869–1870

The method of record keeping, however, was cumbersome, having remained the same since John Quincy Adams.[26] Rather than world regions, countries were listed in alphabetical order; the correspondence was embedded in bound diplomatic and consular category archives, rather than by subject matter.[26] Added to countries' information was a miscellaneous category filed chronologically.[26] This resulted in a tedious and time consuming process to make briefings for Congress.[26] Diplomatic ministers, only 23 in 1877, were not kept informed of current world events that took place in other parts of the world.[26]

[26] When Fish assumed office he immediately began a series of reforms in the

Reformed U.S. State Department 1869

Hamilton Fish was appointed Secretary of State by President Ulysses S. Grant and served between March 17, 1869 and March 12, 1877. He was President Grant's longest-serving Cabinet officer. Upon assuming office in 1869, Fish was initially underrated by some statesmen including former Secretaries of State William H. Seward and John Bigelow. Fish, however, immediately took on the responsibilities of his office with diligence, zeal, and intelligence.[23] Fish's tenure as Secretary of State was lengthly, almost eight years, and he had to contend with many foreign policy issues including the Cuban insurrection, the Alabama Claims, and the Franco-Prussian War.[24]

U.S. Secretary of State

In 1862 Fish was appointed by President Lincoln on a commission to serve with Bishop Edward R. Ames to visit the Union Army prisoners being held in the Confederate States of America capital in Richmond, Virginia.[22] The Confederate government, however, refused to allow the commission to enter the city.[22] Instead, Fish and Rev. Ames were able to start a system of prisoner exchange that remained virtually unchanged throughout the American Civil War.[22] After the war ended Fish went back to private practice as a lawyer in New York.[22]

In 1861 and 1862 Fish joined and participated on the Union Defense Committee of the State of New York, that from April 22, 1861, to April 30, 1862 co-operated 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.[22] The committee included chairman John A. Dix, William M. Evarts, William E. Dodge, A.T. Stewart, John Jacob Astor and other New York men.[22] Fish was appointed chairman of the committee after Dix joined the Union Army.[22]

After Abraham Lincoln had been elected President in 1860, Fish spent time with Brevet Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, commander of the Federal Army.[22] Fish's private secretary had aided the efforts of the Star of the West, an American merchant ship sent by President James Buchanan to bring relief supplies to Major Robert Anderson at Fort Sumter.[22] While Fish was dining with General Scott in New York a telegram was received that announced the Confederates had attacked the Star of the West in Charleston Bay. When Fish stated that this meant war, Scott replied "Don't utter that word, my friend. You don't know what a horrid thing war is." [22]

Painting of Winfield Scott.
Winfield Scott and Hamilton Fish dined regularly in New York during the onset of the American Civil War.

American Civil War

During his tenure, the nation and Congress were in tremendous political upheaval over slavery, that included violence, disorder, and disturbances of the peace.[13] In 1856, pro slavery advocates invaded Kansas and used violent tactics against those who were anti-slavery.[13][21] In May 1856, Senator Charles Sumner was viciously attacked by Preston Brooks in the Senate Chamber.[21] 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.[13] While in France, Fish studied foreign policy with diplomats and distinguished Americans; having gained valuable experience that would eventually benefit his tenure as Secretary of State.[13]

In the United States Senate, he was a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations until the end of his term on March 4, 1857.[17] Fish became friends with President Franklin Pierce's Secretary of State William L. Marcy and Attorney General Caleb Cushing.[17] He was a Republican for the latter part of his term and was part of a moderately anti-slavery faction.[18] During the 1850s the Republican Party replaced the Whig Party as the central party against the Democratic Party.[13] By 1856, Fish privately considered himself a Whig although he knew that the Whig Party was no longer viable politically. Fish was a quiet Senator, rather than an orator, who liked to keep to himself.[13] Fish often was in disagreement with Senator Sumner, who was firmly opposed to slavery and advocated equality for blacks.[13] His policy was to vote for legislation on the side of "justice, economy, and public virtue." [13] He strongly opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise.[13] Fish often voted with the Free Soil faction and was strongly against the Kansas-Nebraska Bill.[19] In February 1855, merchants represented by Moses H. Grinnell, criticized Fish's bill on immigration and maritime commerce. Fish's bill was designed to protect Irish and German immigrants who were dying on merchant ships during oceanic passage to America. The merchants believed that Fish's bill was oppressive to commercial interests over human interests.[20]

Studio portrait photo of Sen. Hamilton Fish seated position showing head and shoulders with top hat and cane held in right hand.
U.S. Senator Hamilton Fish

After Gov. Fish had retired from office he did not openly seek the nomination to be elected U.S. Senator.[13] However, Fish's supporters, in January, 1851, nominated him as a candidate for U.S. Senator. Though Fish was a popular governor a deadlock ensued over his nomination.[13][14] There had been misgivings by certain state Senators in the New York legislature over Fish's views on slavery.[13] Before the election Fish had declined to speak specifically on compromise legislation over slavery, but had only stated government should enforce the laws.[13] Although Fish did not favor the spread of slavery he was hesitant to support the free soil movement.[15] Finally, when two Democratic Senators who were against Fish's nomination were conspicuously absent, the Senate took action and voted.[16] On March 19, 1851, Fish was elected a U.S. Senator from New York and he took his seat on December 1, serving alongside future Secretary of State William H. Seward.[13]

U.S. Senator

In November 1848, he was elected Governor of New York, defeating John A. Dix and Reuben H. Walworth, and served from January 1, 1849, to December 31, 1850.[12] At 40 years of age, Fish was one of the youngest governors to be elected in New York history.[12] Fish spoke out against the extension of slavery from land acquired from the Mexican American War.[12] He also advocated and signed into law free public education facilities throughout New York state.[12] He advocated and signed into law the building of an asylum and school for the intellectually disabled.[12] In 1850, Fish recommended that the state legislature form a committee to collect and publish the Colonial Laws of New York.[12] None the bills that Governor Fish vetoed were overturned by the New York legislature.[12]


Gubernatorial portrait of Hamilton Fish.

Fish 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.[10] Leasing farmers in New York refused to pay rent to large land tract owners and sometimes resorted to violence and intimidation.[10] Fish had opposed the use of illegal tactics not to pay rent.[10] Gardiner was elected in May 1847 a judge of the New York Court of Appeals and vacated the office of lieutenant governor.[10] Fish was then in November 1847 elected to fill the vacancy, and was Lieutenant Governor in 1848.[10] Lieut. Gov. Fish had a favorable reputation for being "conciliatory" and for his "firmness" over the New York Senate.[11]

Lieutenant Governor

For eight years after his defeat as a Representative in the New York State Assembly, Fish was reluctant to run for office.[9] However, Whig party leaders in 1842 convinced him to run for the House of Representatives.[9] In November, Fish was elected to the House of Representatives; having defeated Democrat John McKeon and serving in the 28th Congress from New York's 6th District between 1843 and 1845.[9] The Whigs at this time were in the minority in the House, however, Fish gained valued national experience serving on the Committee of Military Affairs.[9] After losing his bid for re-election, he returned to private practice as a lawyer.

U.S. Representative

Sketch of young Rep. Hamilton Fish showing head and shoulders with narrow trim beard.
U. S. Representative Hamilton Fish
Sketch by Fenderich - 1844

New York political career

On December 15, 1836 Hamilton Fish married Julia Kean (a descendant of a New Yorker who was a New Jersey governor, William Livingston).[8] The couple's lengthy married life was described as happy and Mrs. Fish was known for her "sagacity and judgement".[8] The couple would have three sons and five daughters.[8] Hamilton Fish had multiple notable descendants and relatives.

Marriage and family

Fish graduated from Columbia College of Columbia University in 1827 after serving as president of the Philolexian Society and was admitted to the New York bar in 1830, practicing briefly with William Beach Lawrence. At Columbia, Fish became fluent in French, a language that would later help him as U.S. Secretary of State.[7] He served as commissioner of deeds for the city and county of New York from 1832 through 1833, and was an unsuccessful Whig candidate for New York State Assembly in 1834.[7]

Hamilton Fish was born on August 3, 1808 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.[5] Nicholas Fish (1758–1833) was a leading Federalist politician and notable figure of the American Revolutionary War. Col. Fish was active in the Yorktown Campaign that resulted in the surrender of Lord Cornwallis.[5] Peter Stuyvesant was a prominent founder of New York, then a Dutch Colony, and his family owned much property in Manhattan.[6]

Early life and career


  • Early life and career 1
  • Marriage and family 2
  • New York political career 3
    • U.S. Representative 3.1
    • Lieutenant Governor 3.2
    • Governor 3.3
    • U.S. Senator 3.4
  • American Civil War 4
  • U.S. Secretary of State 5
    • Reformed U.S. State Department 1869 5.1
    • Cuban belligerency and insurrection 1869–1870 5.2
    • Dominican Republic annexation treaty 1869–1870 5.3
    • Colombian inter-oceanic canal treaty 1870 5.4
    • Treaty of Washington 1871 5.5
    • South American détente and armistice 1871 5.6
    • Korean expedition and conflict 1871 5.7
    • Virginius affair 1873 5.8
    • Hawaiian reciprocal trade treaty 1875 5.9
    • Liberian-Grebo war 1876 5.10
    • Republican convention 1876 5.11
    • Nicaragua inter-oceanic canal negotiations 1877 5.12
  • Later life and death 6
  • Funeral and legacy 7
  • Notable descendants 8
  • References 9
  • Sources 10
    • Books 10.1
    • Journals and newspapers 10.2
      • American Heritage 10.2.1
      • New York Times 10.2.2
    • Internet 10.3
    • Purdue University 10.4
  • External links 11

After traveling to Europe, Fish returned to America and supported Korea in 1871. Leaving office and politics in 1877, Fish returned to private life and continued to serve on various historical associations. Fish's male descendants would later serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for three generations. Fish died of old age in his luxurious New York State home in 1893.

Fish came from a prominent wealthy New York family and attended Columbia College of Columbia University. Upon graduation, Fish passed the bar, worked as New York's commissioner of deeds, and ran unsuccessfully for New York State Assembly as a Whig candidate in 1834. After his marriage, Fish returned to New York politics in 1843 and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Fish ran for New York's Lieutenant Governor in 1846, however, he was defeated by a Democratic Anti-Rent Party contender. When the office was vacated in 1847, Fish ran and was elected Lieutenant Governor. In 1848 Fish ran and was elected Governor of New York having served only one term. In 1851, Fish was elected U.S. Senator for the state of New York and served only one term. Fish gained valuable experience serving on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. During the 1850s Fish became a Republican after the Whig party dissolved. In terms of the slavery issue, Fish was a moderate, having disapproved of the Kansas–Nebraska Act and the expansion of slavery.

[4] President Grant stated that Hamilton Fish was the person whom he most trusted for political advice.[3] war.Liberian-Grebo Fish worked with James Milton Turner, America's first African American consul, to settle the [2]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.