- James Speed
Infobox US Cabinet official
United States Attorney General
December 2, 1864
July 22, 1866
Jefferson County, Kentucky, U.S.
death_date=death date and age|1887|6|25|1812|3|11
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
spouse=Jane Cochran Speed
Lawyer, Professor, Politician
James Speed (
March 11, 1812– June 25, 1887) was an American lawyer, politician and professor.
James Speed was born in
Jefferson County, Kentucky, to Judge John Speed and his second wife Lucy Gilmer Fry. He graduated from St. Joseph's Collegein Kentucky, studied law at Transylvania Universityand was admitted to the bar at Louisville, in 1833. He joined the Whig Party and became a strong opponent of slavery. In 1847 Speed was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives. At this early point in his career, Speed was already agitating for the emancipation of American slaves. Because of these views, his candidacy for becoming a delegate to the 1849 Kentucky Constitutional Convention was rejected.
From 1851 to 1854, Speed served on the
Louisville Board of Aldermen, including two years as its president. He taught as a professor in the Law Department of the University of Louisvillefrom 1856 to 1858, and would later return to teach from 1872 to 1879.
As the coming Civil War was increasing in likelihood, Speed worked to keep Kentucky in the Union. He also became a commander of the
Louisville Home Guard. Elected to the Kentucky Senatein 1861 he became the leader of the pro-Union forces. In 1862 he controversially introduced a bill to "confiscate the property" of those supporting the Confederacy in Kentucky.
In December 1864, President
Abraham Lincolnappointed Speed Attorney General of the United States. After the assassination of Lincoln he became associated with the Radical Republican group and advocated the vote for male African Americans. Disillusioned with the increasingly conservative policies of President Andrew Johnson, Speed resigned from the Cabinet in July 1866 and resumed the practice of law.
Speed's radical views were unpopular in Kentucky and his attempt to be elected to the Senate in 1867 ended in failure. In 1868, Speed was a candidate for the Republican nomination for
Vice President of the United Statesbut lost it to Schuyler Colfax.
Speed was a delegate to the
National Union Conventionin Philadelphiain 1866 and served as president of the Convention. He was a candidate for U.S. Representative from Kentucky's 5th District in 1870, and was a delegate to Republican National Conventionfrom Kentucky in 1872. He died in Louisville in 1887, and is interred at Cave Hill Cemeteryin that city.
He was the father of
James Breckenridge Speedand brother of Joshua Fry Speed, as well as a distant descendant of the English cartographer John Speed.
#cite encyclopedia |ency=The Encyclopedia of Louisville |edition=1 |year=2001 |article=Speed, James
first = Bryan S.
last = Bush
year = 2008
title = Lincoln and the Speeds: The Untold Story of a Devoted and Enduring Friendship
publisher = Acclaim Press
id = ISBN 978-0-9798802-6-1
List of Louisvillians
Louisville in the American Civil War
* [http://www.mlwh.org/inside.asp?ID=95&subjectID=2 Mr. Lincoln's White House: James Speed Biography]
* [http://www.bryansbush.com/hub.php?page=articles&layer=a0710 "Joshua and James Speed"] — Article by Civil War historian/author Bryan S. Bush
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