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government official and diplomat
Richard Rush was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 29, 1780, the second son (and third child) of prominent physician Benjamin Rush and Julia (Stockton) Rush. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1797, stdied law at the office of William Draper Lewis, and was admitted to the bar in 1800. He married Catherine Eliza Murray on August 29, 1809, and the couple ultimately had ten children.
Almost as soon as he had established his practice, Rush began gaining statewide and then national attention as a public speaker and successful trial lawyer. That attention led to his being named Attorney General of Pennsylvania in 1811, and as Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury later that same year. In the latter position, Rush became one of President James Madison's most trusted advisors throughout the War of 1812.
In 1814 Madison offered Rush the choice of Secretary of the Treasury or Attorney General of the United States. Rush chose the latter, making him the youngest person ever to serve in that position. Since the attorney generalship was at the time a part-time position, Rush maintained his private law practice while in the office. He also found time to edit a codification of United States laws before Madison's term ended in 1817.
Upon the inauguration of President James Monroe on March 10, 1817, Rush was made acting Secretary of State, in which position he served until John Quincy Adams' return from Europe on September 22, 1817. During his brief tenure in that position, Rush concluded the discussions with British Ambassador Charles Bagot that ended with the Rush-Bagot Treaty, in which the United States and Great Britain agreed to mutually disarm the Great Lakes.
In October 1817, Rush replaced John Quincy Adams as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the United Kingdom; the appointment was formalized on February 12, 1818, and he remained in the position until April 27, 1825. Despite having once been known for his anti-British sentiments, Rush became quite popular in Britain and was therefore able to negotiate a number of important treaties with the British government. The most important of those treaties, the Anglo-American Treaty of 1818, fixed the 49th parallel as the boundary between Canada and the United States, from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains, and permitted for 10 years the settlement of both U.S. citizens and British subjects in the Oregon Territory without prejudicing the claim of either government to the region. He also participated in conferences concerning Latin America with George Canning, British Foreign Minister, that led to the enunciation of the Monroe Doctrine.
In 1820, Rush received one electoral vote as a Federalist for the office of Vice-President, despite the Federalists having no presidential candidate that year. In 1824 he received a single vote at the Democratic-Republican Convention to be John Quincy Adam's running mate. Upon Adams' election to the presidency, Rush was named Secretary of the Treasury, in which position he served from March 7, 1825 to March 5, 1829. During his tenure Rush paid off almost all of the national debt and left his successor with a substantial treasury surplus.
Rush was the vice-presidential candidate during Adams' unsuccessful campaign for re-election. After leaving the Treasury Department, he was asked by the cities of Georgetown and Alexandria, Virginia, to negotiate loans from England and the Netherlands; he was successful. In 1835 he and Benjamin C. Howard were sent by President Andrew Jackson to prevent an outbreak of hostilities in the Ohio-Michigan boundary dispute. In 1836 Jackson sent him to England to accept the legacy left to the United States by James Smithson. That legacy led to establishment of the Smithsonian Institution, and Rush served as one of its first regents.
Rush returned to public service on March 3, 1847, when President James Knox Polk named him Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to France. After King Louis Philippe was overthrown, Rush was among the first foreign diplomats to recognize the French Second Republic. He remained in France until March 3, 1849, when he was recalled by new President Zachary Taylor.
Upon his return to the United States, Rush retired to Philadelphia, where he died on July 30, 1859.
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to the Civil War, 1775/1783-1861
19th Century, 1845-1861
This page was last updated on June 26, 2017.