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George Ellis Pugh
United States Senator
from Ohio

In office
March 4, 1855 – March 3, 1861
Preceded by Salmon P. Chase
Succeeded by Salmon P. Chase
3rd Ohio Attorney General

In office
January 12, 1852 – January 9, 1854
Governor Reuben Wood
William Medill
Preceded by Joseph McCormick
Succeeded by George Wythe McCook
Member of the Ohio House of Representatives
In office
December 4, 1848 – December 1, 1850
Serving with Alexander Long and five others
Preceded by four others
Succeeded by five others
Personal details
Born (1822-11-28)November 28, 1822
Cincinnati, Ohio
Died July 19, 1876(1876-07-19) (aged 53)
Cincinnati, Ohio
Resting place Spring Grove Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Theresa Chalfant
Children three
Alma mater Miami University

George Ellis Pugh (November 28, 1822 – July 19, 1876) was a Democratic politician from Ohio. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1855 to 1861.


Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Pugh attended Miami University. He began practicing law in 1843, later serving as a captain in the 4th Ohio Regiment in the Mexican–American War. He was commended for gallantry and bravery in action at the Battle of Atlexco. After serving in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1848 to 1850, he served as State Attorney General from 1852 to 1854. Pugh served a single term in the United States Senate from 1855 to 1861, losing a re-election bid to Salmon P. Chase, whom he had replaced. In the Senate, he became a champion of the Western Democracy, that is, Midwestern Democrats, first against the Republicans,[1] and later against Stephen A. Douglas' opponents inside the Democratic Party.[2] He spoke in favor of the Lecompton Constitution on March 16, 1858, but followed the instructions of the Ohio legislature in voting against that constitution.[3] On February 23, 1859, during the lame-duck session, Albert Gallatin Brown attacked Douglas over popular sovereignty. Douglas defended his position, and was joined by Charles E. Stuart of Michigan, David C. Broderick of California, and Pugh. Pugh said, "In the whole Dred Scott case, there was no act of a Territorial legislature before them [the justices] in any shape or form." Pugh explained, "This is the first time I ever heard, in a case where nine judges pronounce their opinions seriatim, that because one of them {Roger B. Taney} in illustration collaterally makes a reference, that becomes the decision of the court." Pugh answered the demand for a federal slave code, to be imposed on all territories, in this way: "Never; while I live, never! I consider it a monstrous demand."[4] Pugh later had an exchange with Jefferson Davis about the difference, if any, between Douglas' Freeport Doctrine on popular sovereignty and the doctrine Davis had set forth in a speech at Portland, Maine.[5]

Despite his loss to Republican Salmon P. Chase in his attempt to secure a second term to the Senate in 1860, Pugh would continue to vocally politically during his remaining time in office. Most notably, during the secession crisis following the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, Pugh would be one of the most vocal voices in Congress in arguing against the use of coercion to force the seceding Southern states back into the Union. In leaving Congress, he would leave the mantle of being the leading voice for this position to fellow Ohioans Clement L. Vallandigham and George H. Pendleton in the House of Representatives.

He is best known as a member of the counsel for the defense of Clement L. Vallandigham in 1863. During the Civil War, he fell into disfavor with the citizens of Ohio because he was a Democrat and for defending Vallandigham and later in 1863, he lost the election for the office of Lieutenant Governor. He also lost in the election for Congress in 1864 and refrained from seeking public office for several years while continuing his legal profession.

He emerged to the political front again in 1873 when he was elected to become a delegate to the Ohio State Constitutional Convention but withdrew from the deliberations and declined to serve. He died in Cincinnati in 1876 when he was 53 years old. Pugh ran for the lieutenant governorship in 1863 and the United States House of Representatives in 1864, losing both times.

George Ellis Pugh descended from Ellis Pugh, Sr. (1656–1718), an early Welsh immigrant to Pennsylvania. Ellis was a Quaker minister who, with his wife Sinah, emigrated to Pennsylvania to escape religious persecution in 1686. George's branch of this line migrated from Philadelphia to Prince George, Virginia, Bush River, South Carolina and Cincinnati, Ohio. George was the son of Lot and Rachel (Anthony) Pugh, who were married in Hamilton County, Ohio, on July 7, 1814. George had three brothers and a sister.

Pugh married Theresa Chalfant in 1840 and had three children, Robert Chalfont, Nina Theresa and Thomas. He became a Roman Catholic in 1855.[6]


  1. Don E. Fehrenbacher (1978), The Dred Scott Case, 2001 reprint, New York: Oxford, Part 2, "A Decade of Litigation", Ch. 12, "Before the Supreme Court", p. Co, ISBN 978-0-19-514588-5.
  2. Don E. Fehrenbacher (1978), The Dred Scott Case, 2001 reprint, New York: Oxford, Part 3, "Consequences and Echoes", Ch. 20, "The Freeport Doctrine", p. 508, ISBN 978-0-19-514588-5.
  3. Don E. Fehrenbacher (1978), The Dred Scott Case, 2001 reprint, New York: Oxford, Part 3, "Consequences and Echoes", Ch. 20, "The Freeport Doctrine", p. 510, ISBN 978-0-19-514588-5.
  4. Don E. Fehrenbacher (1978), The Dred Scott Case, 2001 reprint, New York: Oxford, Part 3, "Consequences and Echoes", Ch. 20, p. 508, ISBN 978-0-19-514588-5.
  5. Don E. Fehrenbacher (1978), The Dred Scott Case, 2001 reprint, New York: Oxford, "Notes", p. 707, n. 39, ISBN 978-0-19-514588-5.
  6.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed (1913). "George Ellis Pugh". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

Further reading

  • Don E. Fehrenbacher (1979), The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics, New York: Oxford, ISBN 0195145887 .

External links

  • George E. Pugh at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
Legal offices
Preceded by
Joseph McCormick
Attorney General of Ohio
Succeeded by
George Wythe McCook
United States Senate
Preceded by
Salmon P. Chase
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Ohio
Served alongside: Benjamin F. Wade
Succeeded by
Salmon P. Chase

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