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Hamilton Fish (August 3, 1808 September 7, 1893), born in New York Citymarker, was an Americanmarker statesman who served as Governor of New York, United States Senator and United States Secretary of State.


Fish was born at what is now known as the Stuyvesant-Fish Housemarker in Greenwich Villagemarker, New York City, to Nicholas Fish and Elizabeth Stuyvesant (a great-great-granddaughter of New Amsterdam's Peter Stuyvesant), and his parents named him after their friend Alexander Hamilton. Nicholas Fish (1758-1833) was a leading Federalist politician and notable figure of the American Revolutionary War. Hamilton Fish married Julia Kean (a descendant of a New Yorker who was a New Jersey governor, William Livingston) in 1836. They would have three sons and five daughters, and multiple notable relatives.

Fish graduated from Columbia College in 1827 and was admitted to the New York bar in 1830, practicing briefly with William Beach Lawrence. He served as commissioner of deeds for the city and county of New York from 1832 through 1833, and was an unsuccessful candidate for New York State Assembly in 1834.

Political career

Senator Hamilton Fish
As a member of the Whig party, Fish was elected to the House of Representatives, defeating Democrat John McKeon and serving in the 28th Congress from New York's 6th District between 1843 and 1845. After losing his bid for re-election, he returned to private practice as a lawyer. He was the Whig candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York in 1846, but was defeated by Democrat Addison Gardiner who had been endorsed by the Anti-Rent Party. Gardiner was elected in May 1847 a judge of the New York Court of Appealsmarker and vacated the office of lieutenant governor. Fish was then in November 1847 elected to fill the vacancy, and was Lieutenant Governor in 1848.

In November 1848, he was elected Governor of New York, defeating John A. Dix and Reuben H. Walworth, and served from January 1, 1849, to December 31, 1850.

On March 19, 1851, Fish was elected a U.S. Senator from New York, and he took his seat on December 1. In the United States Senate, he was a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations until the end of his term on March 3, 1857. He was a Republican for the latter part of his term and was part of a moderately anti-slavery faction. He opposed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. At the expiration of his term, he traveled with his family to Europe and remained there until shortly before the opening of the American Civil War, when he returned to begin actively campaigning for the election of Abraham Lincoln.

In 1861 and 1862 he was associated with John A. Dix, William M. Evarts, William E. Dodge, A.T. Stewart, John Jacob Astor and other New York men on the Union Defence Committee, which (from April 22, 1861, to April 30, 1862) co-operated with the New York City government in the raising and equipping troops, and disbursed more than $1 million for the relief of New York volunteers and their families.

He was also appointed in 1862 to serve with Edward Raymond Ames to visit the Union Army prisoners being held in the Confederate States of America capital in Richmond, Virginiamarker. The Confederate government, however, refused to allow the commission to enter the city.

Secretary of State

Hamilton Fish in his elder years.
He also served as Secretary of State between March 17, 1869 and March 12, 1877 under Ulysses S. Grant. He was Grant's longest-serving Cabinet officer.

He conducted the negotiations with Great Britainmarker which resulted in the Treaty of Washington of 1871, under which the Alabama claims and the San Juan Boundary Disputemarker (concerning the Oregonmarker boundary line) were referred to arbitration. He also negotiated the reciprocity treaty of 1875 with the Kingdom of Hawaii.

In 1871 Fish presided at the peace conference at Washington between Spainmarker and the allied republics of Perumarker, Chilemarker, Ecuadormarker and Boliviamarker, which resulted in a general truce between those countries.

It was chiefly due to his restraint and moderation that a satisfactory settlement of the Virginius Affair was reached by the United Statesmarker and Spainmarker in 1873.

Within the Department of Statemarker, he promoted testing job applicants to see if they were truly qualified for duty at a consulate.

Later life

After leaving the Cabinet, he returned to the law and managing his real estate in New York City.

He died at Glen Clyffe, his estate near Garrison, New Yorkmarker, in Putnam County, New Yorkmarker, in the Hudson River Valley, and is buried in Garrison at St. Philip's Church-in-the-Highlands Cemetery.

Other involvements

Notable relatives

Fish had many notable ancestors and descendants.



  • Who Was Who in America: Historical Edition, 1607-1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1967.

Further reading

  • Nevins, Allan, Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration (Dodd) 1936. (1937 Pulitzer Prize winner in biography/autobiography category)

External links

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