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Edward Bates (September 4, 1793March 25, 1869) was a U.S.marker lawyer and statesman. He served as United States Attorney General under Abraham Lincoln from 1861 to 1864. He was also the brother of both Frederick Bates and James Woodson Bates.


Born in Goochland County, Virginiamarker on his family plantation Belmont, he attended school in Marylandmarker and served in the War of 1812. He moved to St. Louismarker, Missouri Territory in 1814 and there studied law, earning admittance to the bar in 1817, and serving as a U.S. Attorney from 1821 to 1826.

Bates's private practice partner was Joshua Barton who would be the first Missouri Secretary of State. Barton became infamous for fighting duels on Bloody Island marker. In 1816 Bates was the second to Barton in a duel with Thomas Hempstead, brother of Edward Hempstead Missouri Territory's first Congressional representative. The fight ended without bloodshed. Barton would be killed in a duel on the island in 1823.

His first foray into politics came in 1820, when he was elected as a member of the state's constitutional convention and then became the new state's attorney general. In 1822, Bates was elected to the Missouri House of Representativesmarker. He moved up to the United States House of Representatives for a single term (1827-1829), then returned to Missouri to sit in the State Senate from 1831 to 1835, then again in the Missouri House from 1835. He ran for the U.S. Senate, but lost to Democrat Thomas Hart Benton.

Bates became a prominent member of the Whig Party during the 1840s. President Millard Fillmore asked him in 1850 to be U.S. Secretary of War, but Bates declined. Charles Magill Conrad then accepted the position. At the Whig National Convention in 1852, Bates was considered for the vice-presidential slot on the ticket, and he led on the first ballot before losing on the second ballot to William Alexander Graham.

After the breakup of the Whig Party in the 1850s, Bates became a Republican, and was one of the four main candidates for the party's 1860 presidential nomination receiving support from Horace Greeley who later switched to supporting Abraham Lincoln. The next year, after winning the election, Lincoln appointed Bates as his Attorney General, an office Bates held from 1861 until 1864. Bates believed that free blacks should be deported to Africa, a position that sometimes led to clashes with Lincoln. Bates was the first Cabinet member to hail from the region west of the Mississippi River.

Bates returned to Missouri after leaving Lincoln's cabinet. He died in St. Louis in 1869.

See also

  • Polly Berry, woman who hired Bates to represent her daughter's suit for freedom
  • Lucy Delaney, 14-year-old slave freed in 1844 suit brought by her mother Polly Berry and argued by Bates


  1. Dictionary of Missouri Biography by Lawrence O. Christensen (Editor), William E. Foley (Editor), Gary R. Kremer (Editor), Kenneth H. Winn (Editor) - University of Missouri Press (October 1999) ISBN 0826212220
  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: BATES, Edward
  • Cain, Marvin R. Lincoln’s Attorney General: Edward Bates of Missouri. Columbia : University of Missouri Press, 1965.
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York : Simon & Schuster, 2005.
  • Judah, Charles and George Winston Smith. The Unchosen. New York : Coward-McCann, 1962.

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