James Speed

James Speed

Infobox US Cabinet official
name=James Speed

title=United States Attorney General
term_start=December 2, 1864
term_end=July 22, 1866
predecessor=Edward Bates
successor=Henry Stanberry
birth_date=birth date|1812|3|11|mf=y
birth_place=Jefferson County, Kentucky, U.S.
death_date=death date and age|1887|6|25|1812|3|11
death_place=Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
party=Whig, Republican
spouse=Jane Cochran Speed
profession=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 College in Kentucky, studied law at Transylvania University and 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 Louisville from 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 Senate in 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 Lincoln appointed 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 States but lost it to Schuyler Colfax.

Speed was a delegate to the National Union Convention in Philadelphia in 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 Convention from Kentucky in 1872. He died in Louisville in 1887, and is interred at Cave Hill Cemetery in that city.

He was the father of James Breckenridge Speed and 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

Further reading

*cite book
first = Bryan S.
last = Bush
year = 2008
title = Lincoln and the Speeds: The Untold Story of a Devoted and Enduring Friendship
publisher = Acclaim Press
location = Morley, Missouri
id = ISBN 978-0-9798802-6-1

ee also

*List of Louisvillians
*Louisville in the American Civil War

External links

* [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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