Mifflin Dallas, statesman, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
10 July, 1792; died there. 31 December 1864, was graduated with first-class
honors at Princeton in 1810, and then studied law in his father's office, being
admitted to tile bar in 1813. The same year he received the appointment of
private secretary to Albert Gallatin, and accompanied that gentleman on his
mission to Russia, to negotiate a treaty of peace with England. On his return to
this country, in the following year, he assisted his father for some months in
his duties as secretary of the treasury, and then began the practice of law in
New York City, and was solicitor of the U. S. bank. In 1817 he was appointed
deputy attorney general for Philadelphia County. Taking an active part in
politics, and supporting the candidacy of General Jackson for the presidency in
1824 and 1828, Mr. Dallas was in 1829 elected mayor, and, on the elevation of
Gem Jackson to the presidency, in 1829 was appointed U. S. attorney for that
district. He retained this office till 1831, when he was elected to the U. S.
senate in the place of Isaac D. Barnard, who had resigned. He took a prominent
part in the debates of that body until the expiration of his term, in 1833, when
he declined a re-election, returned to the practice of the law, and filled the
office of attorney general of Pennsylvania from 1833 till 1835.
1837 President Van Buren appointed him minister to Russia, which post he
retained till October, 1839, when he was recalled, at his own request, and again
resumed legal practice. George M. Dallas and James Buchanan were for many years
rival leaders of the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania, and aspirants for the
presidency of the United States. In May, 1844, the democratic convention at
Baltimore nominated him for vice-president of the United States on the ticket
with James K. Polk for president. The democratic candidates were elected by an
electoral vote of 170 out of 275. The questions of the time were the tariff and
the annexation of Texas. Mr. Polk's election caused the admission of Texas to
the Union just before the close of Mr. Tyler's term of office, but the subject
of the tariff was left for the new administration. The appointment of his rival,
Buchanan, as secretary of state, left Mr. Dallas without influence on the policy
of the administration; but the tie in the senate on the free-trade tariff of
1846, and its adoption by his casting vote, gave him prominence. The House of
Representatives passed abandoning the protective policy, a bill that levied
duties on imports for the purpose of revenue only, in 1846, but when it reached
the senate that body was evenly divided, so that the decision rested with the
vice-president. In giving his vote Mr. Dallas said that, though the bill was
defective, he believed that proof had been furnished that a majority of the
people desired a change, to a great extent, in principle, if not fundamentally;
but in giving the casting vote for a low tariff he violated pledges made to the
protectionists of Pennsylvania that had secured the vote of the state for his
party in the presidential election. His term expired in 1849.
1856 Mr. Dallas succeeded Mr. Buchanan as minister to Great Britain, and
continued in that post from 4 February, 1856, until the appointment by President
Lincoln of Charles F. Adams, who relieved him on 16 May, 1861. At the very
beginning of his diplomatic service in England he was called to act upon the
Central American question, and the request made by the United States to the
British government that Sir John Crampton, the British minister to the United
States, should be recalled. Mr. Dallas managed these delicate questions in a
conciliatory spirit, but without any sacrifice of national dignity, and both
were settled amicably. At the close of his diplomatic career Mr. Dallas returned
to private life and took no further part in public affairs except to express
condemnation of secession. Many of his speeches were published, among them
"An Essay on the Expediency of erecting any Monument to Washington except
that involved in the Preservation of the Union" (1811); "A Vindication
of President Monroe for authorizing General Jackson to pursue the Hostile
Indians into Florida" (1819); "Speech in the Senate on Nullification
and the Tariff " (1831); "Eulogy on Andrew Jackson " (1845);
"Speech on giving his Casting Vote on the Tariff of 1846 " (1846);
"Vindication of the Vice-President's Casting Vote in a Series of
Letters" (1846); " Speech to the Citizens of Pittsburgh on the War,
Slavery, and the Tariff" (1847); "Speech to the Citizens of
Philadelphia on the Necessity of maintaining the Union, the Constitution, and
the Compromise" (1850). A "Series of Letters from London,"
written while he was minister there, in 1856-'60, was edited and published by
his daughter Julia (Philadelphia, 1869). -- Edited
Appleton's Cyclopedia American Biography Copyright©
2001 by VirtualologyTM
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