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Richard Rush (August 29, 1780July 30, 1859) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker. He was the second son (and third child) of Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Julia (Stockton) Rush. He entered the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton Universitymarker) at the age of 14, and graduated in 1797 as the youngest member of his class. He was admitted to the bar in 1800, when he was barely 20 years old, and studied law at the office of William Draper Lewis. He married Catherine Eliza Murray on August 29, 1809, and fathered ten children, of whom three sons and two daughters survived him.

He enjoyed a cultivated childhood; during his life he was a statesman, diplomat, widely-praised orator and key figure in two Administrations (James Madison and John Quincy Adams), and carved a distinguished career in public affairs in his own right. Quickly gaining statewide then national attention as a public speaker and successful trial lawyer, Rush was appointed Attorney General in Pennsylvaniamarker in 1811, after refusing to be a candidate for Congress. In November of the same year, President James Madison made him Comptroller of the Treasury.

From this relatively subordinate position, Rush functioned as one of President Madison's closest friends and confidential advisors throughout the War of 1812. In 1814 he was offered the choice of Secretary of the Treasury or Attorney General of the United States, and choosing the latter, serving until 1817 when, as Acting Secretary of State until the return of John Quincy Adams from Europe, Rush concluded the Rush-Bagot Convention, demilitarizing the Canadian boundary on the Great Lakesmarker.

In October 1817, Rush was appointed Minister to Britain to succeed John Quincy Adams, who had taken the position of Secretary of State upon his return. His "gentlemanly" attitude was appreciated by the British, and he remained there for nearly eight years, proving singularly effective in negotiating a number of important treaties, including the Anglo-American Convention of 1818.

He became surprisingly popular in Englandmarker, despite his previous anti-British record. In 1823, Rush negotiated with Britain over British proposals that the two countries issue a joint declaration against French involvement in Spain's rebelling American colonies, but Britain would not agree to American demands for recognition of the newly independent republics, leading to the separate American declaration of the Monroe Doctrine.

He received one electoral vote as a Federalist for the office of Vice President in the 1820 election, even though the Federalist Party nominated no candidate for President in that election.

Upon the election of John Quincy Adams in 1825, Rush (having made a study of Britain, and the British Navy in particular, while he was there) desired to become the Secretary of the Navy. Adams, however, immediately nominated him for the post of 8th Secretary of the Treasury, which he accepted. He served in this position with remarkable success during the entire Adams Administration from March 7, 1825 until March 5, 1829. Notably, he paid off nearly the whole public debt, and turned over to his successor a large treasury surplus.

In 1828, he was a candidate for Vice President on the re-election ticket with John Quincy Adams, but was defeated. After leaving the Treasury Departmentmarker, he was sent to Englandmarker and the Netherlandsmarker by the cities of Georgetownmarker and Alexandriamarker to negotiate a large loan for the cities, a mission which met with prompt success.

In 1836, President Andrew Jackson sent him to England as Commissioner to secure for the United Statesmarker the legacy left the government by James Smithson. He was successful in this undertaking, bringing to this country the sum of $508,318.46, which would eventually be used to establish the Smithsonian Institutionmarker in Washington, DCmarker. Rush later became one of the first regents of the institution.

In 1847, Richard Rush was appointed as Minister to France by President James K. Polk. When his negotiations were interrupted by the overthrow of King Louis-Philippe, he was among the first foreign diplomats to recognize the new French Second Republic. He remained in France until his recall by the new Whig administration in 1849, when he returned to the land of his birth, to retire in Philadelphiamarker. He there died on July 30, 1859. Prior to his death, Rush had been the last surviving member of the Madison and Monroe Cabinets.


This article contains material from the US Department of Justice Attorneys General of the United States which, as a US government publication, is in the public domain.

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