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Henry Stanbery (1866–1868) - Attorney General

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Henry Stanbery was born in New York City in 1803. He graduated from Washington College (Pennsylvania) in 1803 and then returned to Ohio, the state where Stanbery had spent most of his older childhood. The new graduate studied law, was admitted to the Ohio bar, and then joined a Lancaster, Ohio, law practice that also included Thomas Ewing, a future secretary of the treasury and the interior.

From 1846 to 1851, Stanbery served as the first attorney general of Ohio, returning to private practice in 1853, this time in Cincinnati. For the next thirteen years, he practiced law, suspending his work only when President Andrew Johnson offered him the post of attorney general in 1866. Johnson had tried to appoint Stanbery as chief justice of the Supreme Court, but the Senate voted the nomination down in retribution for Johnson’s lenient policies of Reconstruction.

The President was more successful in appointing Stanbery as attorney general, and the latter remained in that post until 1868, when he resigned to become the President’s chief counsel in his impeachment case. After Johnson was cleared, the President tried to renominate Stanbery as attorney general but was opposed by the Senate. Henry Stanbery thus returned to Cincinnati and to his law practice. He died in 1881.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Elizabeth R. Varon

Professor Varon is the Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia. Her writings include:

Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 (University of North Carolina Press, 2008)

Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy (Oxford University Press, 2003)

We Mean to Be Counted: White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia (University of North Carolina Press, 1998)