Why Some Succeed While Others Fail: Lewis Cass

A man worthy of no small attention was Lewis Cass. Born at Exeter, New Hampshire, October 9th, 1782. He served in the war of 1812, rising to the rank of major in the army. He was a school-fellow with Daniel Webster, became a school teacher at Wilmington, Delaware, and walking from that place to Ohio, where his parents moved, began the practice of law in Zanesville in 1802.

In 1806 he married and soon after was elected to the legislature of Ohio. He performed a most conspicuous part in the Burr trial, favoring the law which caused the arrest of the supposed conspirator. He became a colonel in the war of 1812, being included in the surrender of General Hull, of Detroit, and was instrumental in bringing about that General’s arrest on the charge of cowardice and treason. He was afterward exchanged and served as aid to General Harrison in the battle of the Thames. He was appointed military governor of Michigan in the autumn of 1813, having risen to the position of Brigadier General.

In 1815 he purchased for $12,000 the whole plat of Detroit, and the subsequent rise made him immensely rich. He became Secretary of War under Jackson in 1831. He next became minister to France in 1842. Three years after this he was elected United States senator from Michigan, and resigned in 1848 to become a candidate for the presidency, but a division in his party caused the election of Taylor. He was then re-elected to fill the vacancy caused by his resignation, and again re-elected in 1854 for a full term of six years. He supported measures favorable to the promotion of slavery notwithstanding the Michigan legislature had instructed him to vote otherwise. He favored Douglass’ Kansas-Nebraska bill.

He warmly favored Buchanan’s nomination and became his Secretary of State, but promptly resigned when the president refused to reinforce Fort Sumter; thus closing a career of over fifty years of almost continuous public service. He, however, gave his support from this time to the Union and lived to see that triumphant suppression of treason. He died on the 18th day of June, 1866. He was a man of pure integrity, great ability, a fine scholar and an effective public speaker. He was exceedingly generous in all worthy petitions which his great wealth enabled him to gratify unsparingly. He was also an author of some note.