George Mifflin Dallas - Encyclopedia

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GEORGE MIFFLIN DALLAS (1792-1864), American statesman and diplomat, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the 10th of July 1792. He graduated at Princeton in 1810 at the head of his class; then studied law in the office of his father, Alexander J. Dallas, the financier, and was admitted to the bar in 1813. In the same year he accompanied Albert Gallatin, as his secretary, to Russia, and in 1814 returned to the United States as the bearer of important dispatches from the American peace commissioners at Ghent. He practised law in New York and Philadelphia, was chosen mayor of Philadelphia in 1828, and in 1829 was appointed by President Jackson, whom he had twice warmly supported for the presidency, United States attorney for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, a position long held by his father. From 1831 to 1833 he was a Democratic member of the United States Senate, in which he advocated a compromise tariff and strongly supported Jackson's position in regard to nullification. On the bank question he was at first at variance with the president; in January 1832 he presented in the Senate a memorial from the bank's president, Nicholas Biddle, and its managers, praying for a recharter, and subsequently he was chairman of a committee which reported a bill re-chartering the institution for a fifteen-year period. Afterwards, however, his views changed and he opposed the bank. From 1833 to 1835 Dallas was attorney-general of Pennsylvania, and from 1835 to 1839 was minister to Russia. During the following years he was engaged in a long struggle with James Buchanan for party leadership in Pennsylvania. He was vicepresident of the United States from 1845 to 1849, but the appointment of Buchanan as secretary of state at once shut him off from all hope of party patronage or influence in the Polk administration, and he came to be looked upon as the leader of that body of conservative Democrats of the North, who, while they themselves chafed at the domination of southern leaders, were disposed to disparage all anti-slavery agitation. By his casting vote at a critical period during the debate in the Senate on the tariff bill of 1846, he irretrievably lost his influence with the protectionist element of his native state, to whom he had given assurances of his support of the Tyler tariff of 1842. For several years after his retirement from office, he devoted himself to his law practice, and in 1856 succeeded James Buchanan as United States minister to England, where he remained until relieved by Charles Francis Adams in May 1861. During this trying period he represented his country with ability and tact, making every endeavour to strengthen the Union cause in Great Britain. He died at Philadelphia on the 1st of December 1864. He wrote a biographical memoir for an edition of his father's writings, which was published in 187 r.

His Diary of his residence in St Petersburg and London was published in Philadelphia in 1892.

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