- NAME: Simon Cameron
- OCCUPATION: Business Leader, U.S. Representative, Editor, Government Official
- BIRTH DATE: March 08, 1799
- DEATH DATE: June 26, 1889
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Maytown, Pennsylvania
- PLACE OF DEATH: Maytown, Pennsylvania
- Nickname: "General Simon Cameron"
- Full Name: Simon Cameron
- Nickname: "General Cameron"
Best Known For
Simon Cameron was a Pennsylvania senator who later served as President Abraham Lincoln's secretary of war.
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Born in Pennsylvania on March 8, 1799, Simon Cameron was considered by many to be on of America's first political bosses. He began his career in government under President James Buchanan by handling a land claim situation. His political ambitions led him to be elected to the Senate in 1845 and appointed as President Lincoln's secretary of war in 1861. Cameron's sphere of political influence, in Pennsylvania in particular,
"An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought."
was immense. He greatly influenced elections during his time, including the appointment of his own son as his senatorial replacement.
Simon Cameron was born on March 8, 1799, in Maytown, Pennsylvania. The son of an impoverished tailor, Cameron was orphaned at age 9. Despite having limited schooling, he became an avid reader and writer. This desire for education was fostered when Cameron became a printing apprentice. He immersed himself in all facets of the publishing, from printing mechanics to journalism.
By 1821, Cameron had landed a position as editor of the Bucks County Messenger, a Pennsylvania newspaper. By the following year, he had relocated to the nation's capital, where the Messenger was heavily involved in covering Congress. This may have sparked Cameron's own political interests, as he joined the Whig Party soon after his move to Washington, D.C.
After marrying Margaret Brua, Cameron moved back to the Harrisburg area in 1824. There, he ran a Republican local paper. From 1825 to 1827, he served as Pennsylvania's state printer. (Cameron also was the state adjutant general in 1826.)
In addition to politics, Cameron—often referred to as "General Simon Cameron"—successfully dabbled in the railroad and banking businesses. He helped orchestrate Martin Van Buren's presidential nomination and James Buchanan's senatorial election. His backing of Van Buren led to a career-making opportunity. When the commander-in-chief asked Cameron to help settle the claims of the Winnebago Indians in the Wisconsin Territory, a politician was born.
Despite accusations of leading a financial scandal that cheated the Winnebago Indians out of land claims—which were never proven—Cameron soon climbed the political ladder. After James Buchanan relinquished his U.S. Senate seat to accept his appointment as U.S. secretary of state by President James Polk, Cameron, then a Democrat, was elected as his successor. Cameron served in the Senate from 1845 to 1849, when he was defeated. He then switched party affiliations, becoming a member of the People's Party (which later became the Republican Party), and gained re-election to the Senate in 1856.
Just a few years later, Cameron unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency, losing to Abraham Lincoln.
Despite the defeat, Cameron remained loyal to the Republican Party, standing behind Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln. His support paid off when Lincoln appointed him secretary of war on March 5, 1861, just one day after Cameron resigned from the Senate.
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President Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet was truly one of the most unique in American history, including several of his disappointed presidential opponents—William Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Simon Cameron and Edward Bates, who lost the Republican Party's presidential nomination to Lincoln in 1860—as well as dogmatic politicians like Montgomery Blair, Hannibal Hamlin, Edwin Stanton, Gideon Welles and Lincoln's future successor, President Andrew Johnson. Learn more about these historic figures, Abraham Lincoln's presidency, the American Civil War and more, only at Biography.com.
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