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Edwards Pierrepont (1875–1876) - Attorney General

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Edwards Pierrepont was born in 1817 in North Haven, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale College in 1837, studied law at New Haven Law School, and then was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1840. After serving as a tutor at Yale, he moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he joined a law firm and practiced for five years.

Pierrepont moved to New York City in 1846, established his own law practice, and became active in Democratic politics. He was elected as a judge of the superior court of New York City in 1857, serving three years in the position until the Civil War broke out. Pierrepoint then threw his energies into preserving the Union, raising money to keep the border states from seceding and supporting Republican Abraham Lincoln’s reelection as President and President Johnson’s policies of Reconstruction.

After the Democrats nominated Horatio Seymour as their candidate for President in 1868, Pierrepont left the party and backed the Republican candidate, Ulysses S. Grant. Following his election, President Grant appointed Pierrepont the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York; Pierrepont served in the post for one year (1869-1870). Although he declined the position of U.S. minister to Russia in 1873, he did accept Grant’s offer to join the cabinet in 1875, becoming the fourth attorney general (of five total) in the Grant administration. Pierrepont served for one year, during which time he prosecuted frauds associated with the Whiskey Ring.

Pierrepont resigned in 1876 to become the U.S. minister to Great Britain, a post he held until 1877. Following that stint, he returned to his private law practice. Edwards Pierrepont died in 1892.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Joan Waugh

Professor Waugh is a professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her writings include:

U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth (University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

Wars within a War: Controversy and Conflict over the American Civil War (editor with Gary W. Gallagher, University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture (editor with Alice Fahs, University of North Carolina Press, 2004)

Unsentimental Reformer: The Life of Josephine Shaw Lowell (Harvard University Press, 1998)