Spero News

Daniel S. Dickinson: War Democrat
Wednesday, April 06, 2016
by James Thunder
In 1865, President Lincoln, following his re-election with the National Union Party, nominated Daniel S. Dickinson, a nationally known “War Democrat,” to the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. April 11 marks the 150th anniversary of the death of this great American.
In his life, Daniel S. Dickinson had a large national profile. He might have become president in any of four consecutive elections:
in 1852 if he had not rejected Virginia’s votes for him for the Democratic nomination for president;
in 1856 if he had not declined to be considered for the Democratic nomination;
in 1860 if the Democrats had been united and had nominated him; or
in 1864 if the delegation of his native New York had favored Dickinson over Andrew Johnson of Tennessee for vice president.
Dickinson had achieved great success at a young age – like Theodore Roosevelt.
Elected the first mayor of Binghamton, New York in 1834 at age 34, he thereafter went from triumph to triumph: State Senator, at age 36 (1836-1841), Lieutenant Governor of New York at age 42 (1842), United States Senator at age 44 (1844-1851), and New York Attorney General (1861).
A principal source for the story of his life is the 1987 biography, by author M. Hinman, Daniel Dickinson: Defender of the Constitution.
This essay incorporates, with permission, material from K. Chris Todd, ed., 225 Years (1789-2014): The United Sates Attorneys for the Southern District of New York (2014), to which the author was a principal contributor. See pdf here.

Spero News columnist James Thunder is an attorney based in Washington DC.

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