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Lewis Cass
22nd United States Secretary of State

In office
March 6, 1857 – December 14, 1860
President James Buchanan
Preceded by William Marcy
Succeeded by Jeremiah Black
President pro tempore of the Senate

In office
December 4, 1854 – December 5, 1854
President Franklin Pierce
Preceded by David Atchison
Succeeded by Jesse Bright
Ambassador to France

In office
October 4, 1836 – November 12, 1842
Appointed by Andrew Jackson
Preceded by Edward Livingston
Succeeded by William King
14th United States Secretary of War

In office
August 1, 1831 – October 4, 1836
President Andrew Jackson
Preceded by John Eaton
Succeeded by Joel Poinsett
2nd Territorial Governor of Michigan

In office
October 29, 1813 – August 1, 1831
Appointed by James Madison
Preceded by William Hull
Succeeded by George Porter
United States Senator
from Michigan

In office
March 4, 1849 – March 4, 1857
Preceded by Thomas Fitzgerald
Succeeded by Zachariah Chandler

In office
March 4, 1845 – May 29, 1848
Preceded by Augustus Porter
Succeeded by Thomas Fitzgerald
Personal details
Born (1782-10-09)October 9, 1782
Exeter, New Hampshire, United States
Died June 17, 1866(1866-06-17) (aged 83)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Elizabeth "Eliza" Spencer Cass
Profession Lawyer
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1813–1814
Rank Brigadier General
Battles/wars War of 1812

Lewis Cass (October 9, 1782 – June 17, 1866) was an American military officer and politician. During his long political career, Cass served as a governor of the Michigan Territory, an American ambassador, a U.S. Senator representing Michigan, and co-founder as well as first Masonic Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Michigan. He was the losing nominee of the Democratic Party for president in 1848. Cass was nationally famous as a leading spokesman for the controversial Doctrine of Popular Sovereignty, which would have allowed voters in the territories to determine whether to make slavery legal instead of having Congress decide.

Early life

Cass was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, where he attended Phillips Exeter Academy. His parents were Major Jonathan Cass and Molly Gilman. In 1800 he moved with his family to Marietta, Ohio. On May 26, 1806, he married the former Elizabeth Spencer.[1] He was initiated an Entered Apprentice of the Freemasons in what is now American Union Lodge No.1 at Marietta on Dec. 5, 1803.[2] His Fellowcraft degree came on April 2, and Master Mason degree on May 7, 1804. On June 24, 1805, he was admitted a Charter member of Lodge of Amity 105 (now No.5), Zanesville. He served as the first Worshipful Master of Lodge of Amity in 1806.[2] Cass was one of the founders of the Grand Lodge of Ohio, representing Lodge of Amity at the first meeting on January 4, 1808. He was elected Deputy Grand Master on January 5, 1809, and Grand Master on January 3, 1810, January 8, 1811, and January 8, 1812.[2] Later he went on to co-found the Grand Lodge of Michigan being elected as its first Grand Master on July 21, 1826.[3][4] He would serve as Grand Master of Michigan again in 1844.[2] In 1807, he became the US Marshal for Ohio.

Territorial governor

During the War of 1812, Cass served as a brigadier general and participated in the Battle of the Thames. As a reward for his service, he was appointed Governor of the Michigan Territory by President James Madison on October 29, 1813, and served until 1831. He was frequently absent, and several territorial secretaries often served as acting governor in his place.

In 1817, he was one of two commissioners (along with Duncan McArthur) who negotiated the Treaty of Fort Meigs, which was signed September 29 of that year with several Native American tribes.[1] Also in 1817, Cass declined to serve as Secretary of War under President James Monroe. In 1820, he led an expedition to the northern part of the territory, in the northern Great Lakes region in present-day northern Minnesota, in order to map the region and discover the source of the Mississippi River. The source of the river had been unknown until then, resulting in an undefined border between the United States and British North America. The expedition erroneously identified Cass Lake as the source of the river. The source of the river was correctly identified in 1832 by Henry Schoolcraft, who had been Cass's expedition geologist, as nearby Lake Itasca.

Later political career

On August 1, 1831, Cass resigned as governor of the Michigan Territory to take the post of Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson, a position he would hold until 1836. Cass was a central figure in formulating and implementing the Indian removal policy of the Jackson administration. Next, Cass was appointed minister to France, a post he retained until 1842.

In the 1844 Democratic convention Cass stood as a candidate for the presidential nomination, losing on the 9th ballot to dark horse candidate James K. Polk, who went on to win the presidential election.

Lewis Cass

Cass represented Michigan in the United States Senate from 1845 to 1848. He served as chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs in the 30th Congress. In 1848, he resigned from the Senate to run for President. William Orlando Butler was his running mate.[5] Cass was a leading supporter of the doctrine of popular sovereignty, which held that the people who lived in a territory should decide whether or not to permit slavery there.[6] His nomination caused a split in the Democratic party, leading many antislavery Democrats to join the Free Soil Party. He also supported the annexation of Texas.

After losing 1848 to Zachary Taylor, he returned to the Senate, serving from 1849 to 1857. He was the first non-incumbent Democratic presidential candidate to lose an election.

From 1857 to 1860, Cass served as Secretary of State under President James Buchanan.[1] He was sympathetic to American filibusterers and was instrumental in having Commodore Hiram Paulding removed from command for his landing of Marines in Nicaragua and compelling the removal of William Walker to the United States.[7] Cass resigned on December 13, 1860, because of Buchanan's failure to protect federal interests in the South and failure to mobilize the federal military, actions that might have averted the threatened secession of Southern states.[8]

Cass died in 1866 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan.

His great-great grandson Cass Ballenger was a U.S. Representative from North Carolina.

Michigan-based attorney, activist and singer-songwriter Jen Cass is Lewis Cass' great-great-great-grandniece.


File:Lewis Cass Legacy Society.png

Lewis Cass Legacy Society logo

  • A statue of Cass is one of the two that were submitted by Michigan to the National Statuary Hall collection in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. It stands in the National Statuary Hall room. (The other statue is of President Gerald Ford, the only U.S. president to come from Michigan.)
  • The Liberty ship S.S. Lewis Cass
  • Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan is named after Cass, as are the Cass River and Cass City in the Thumb area of Michigan.[9][10]
  • The Lewis Cass Legacy Society which supports The Michigan Masonic Charitable Foundation was named for his support of Michigan Freemasonry.
  • Cass High School (Indiana) in Walton, Indiana is named for Lewis Cass.


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T. (eds.) (2004). Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, pp. 83-84. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-362-4.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Past Grand Masters - 1810 Lewis Cass". Grand Lodge of Ohio. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  4. Conover, Jefferson S. (1896). Freemasonry in Michigan. Coldwater, Michigan: The Conover Engraving and Printing Company. pp. 113–122. 
  5. Kleber, John E. (ed.) (1992). The Kentucky Encyclopedia, p. 146. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0, ISBN 978-0-8131-1772-0.
  6. Klunder, Willard Carl (1996). Lewis Cass and the Politics of Moderation, pp. 266-67. Kent State University Press. ISBN 0-87338-536-5, ISBN 978-0-87338-536-7.
  7. Collier, Ellen C. (1993) "Instances of Use of United States Forces Abroad, 1798 - 1993" CRS Issue Brief Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington DC
  8. Cass's resignation statement, quoted in McLaughlin, Andrew Cunningham (1899) Lewis Cass Houghton, Mifflin, Boston, pp. 345-346, OCLC 4377268, (standard library edition, first edition was published in 1891)
  9. Cass City Hydrograph for the Cass River from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website
  10. Cass City, Michigan at

Further reading

External links