Charles Joseph Bonaparte, U.S.Attorney General
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Historical records matching Charles Joseph Bonaparte, U.S. Secretary of the Navy and Attorney General
About Charles Joseph Bonaparte, U.S. Secretary of the Navy and Attorney General
Charles Joseph Bonaparte (June 9, 1851 – June 28, 1921) was an American lawyer and political activist from Maryland who served in the Cabinet of President Theodore Roosevelt. Bonaparte was Secretary of the Navy and then Attorney General. While Attorney General, he created the Bureau of Investigation (now the FBI). He was a great-nephew of Emperor Napoleon I of France.
Charles Joseph Bonaparte was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the son of Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte (1805–1870) and Susan May Williams (1812–1881), from whom the American line of the Bonaparte family descended, and a grandson of Jérôme Bonaparte, the youngest brother of Emperor Napoleon I. However, the American Bonapartes were not considered part of the dynasty and never used any titles.
He graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law School, where he later served as a university overseer. He practiced law in Baltimore and became prominent in municipal and national reform movements.
On September 1, 1875, Bonaparte married the former Ellen Channing Day (1852–1924), daughter of attorney Thomas Mills Day and Anna Jones Dunn. They had no children.
In 1899 Bonaparte was the keynote speaker for the first graduating class of the Notre Dame of Maryland University. He spoke on "The Significance of the Bachelor's Degree":
Today, and here for the first time in America, a Catholic college for the education of young ladies bestows the bachelor's degree...
The Style of Scholarship...which benefits the recipient of the bachelor's degree has two distinctive and essential marks. It implies in the first place a broad, generous sympathy with every form of honest, rational and disinterested study or research.
A Scholar who is also, and first of all, a gentleman may be...specially interested is some particular field of knowledge, but he is indifferent to none. He knows how to value every successful effort to master truth; how to look beyond the little things of science...to the great things - God's handiwork as seen in nature, God's mind as shadowed in the workings of the minds of men.
Young ladies, of this degree has such meaning for your brothers, what meaning has it for you.
Bonaparte lived in Baltimore County, Maryland and his home, Bella Vista, was designed by the architects Wyatt & Nolting in 1896. It lies east of Maryland Route 147. The house was not electrified since Bonaparte refused to have electricity or telegraph lines installed due to a dislike of technology, verified by his use of horse-drawn coach until his death.
Bonaparte died in Bella Vista, and is interred at Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery. He died of "Saint Vitus Dance" (chorea). A nearby street in Baltimore County bears the name of Bonaparte Ave.
After Bonaparte's death the house was later owned by bootleggers Peter and Michael Kelly. After they left, it was destroyed in a fire caused by faulty wiring on January 20, 1933. The site was replaced by a poured concrete mansion, but a large carriage house dating back to 1896 is still on the estate.
 Political activity
He was a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners from 1902 to 1904, chairman of the National Civil Service Reform League in 1904 and appointed a trustee of The Catholic University of America.
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Bonaparte Secretary of the Navy. In 1906 Bonaparte moved to the office of Attorney General, which he held until the end of Roosevelt's term. He was active in suits brought against the trusts and was largely responsible for breaking up the tobacco monopoly. In 1908, Bonaparte founded the Bureau of Investigation (BOI).
He was one of the founders, and for a time the president, of the National Municipal League.