About Simon Cameron
Simon Cameron (March 8, 1799 – June 26, 1889) was an American politician who served as United States Secretary of War for Abraham Lincoln at the start of the American Civil War. After making his fortune in railways and banking, he turned to a life of politics. He became a U.S. senator in 1845 for the state of Pennsylvania, succeeding James Buchanan. Originally a Democrat, he failed to secure a nomination for senator from the Know-Nothing party, and joined the People's Party, the Pennsylvania branch of what became the Republican Party. He won the Senate seat in 1857, and became one of the candidates for the Republican nomination in the presidential election of 1860.
Cameron gave his support to Abraham Lincoln, and became his Secretary of War. He only served a year before resigning amidst corruption. Cameron became the minister to Russia during the Civil War, but was overseas for less than a year. He again served in the Senate, eventually being succeeded by his son, J. Donald Cameron, and only resigned from the Senate upon confirmation that his son would succeed him.
Cameron was born in Maytown, Pennsylvania, to Charles Cameron and Marth Pfoutz. He was orphaned at nine and later apprenticed to a printer, Andrew Kennedy, editor of the Northumberland Gazette before entering the field of journalism. He was editor of the Bucks County Messenger in 1821. A year later, he moved to Washington, D.C., and studied political movements while working for the printing firm of Gales and Seaton. He married Margaret Brua and returned to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where he purchased and ran the Republican in 1824.
Cameron served as state printer of Pennsylvania from 1825 until 1827 and was state adjutant general in 1826. He constructed several rail lines and merged them into the Northern Central Railway. He founded the Bank of Middletown in 1832 and engaged in other business enterprises. In 1838, he was appointed as commissioner to settle claims of the Winnebago Indians.
Cameron became a Whig Party member, and later a member of the Democratic Party, before being elected to replace James Buchanan in the Senate in 1844. He switched to the Republican Party and was nominated for President, but gave his support to Abraham Lincoln at the 1860 Republican National Convention. Lincoln, as part of a political bargain, named Cameron Secretary of War. Because of allegations of corruption, however, he was forced to resign early in 1862. His corruption was so notorious that a Pennsylvania congressman, Thaddeus Stevens, when discussing Cameron's honesty with Lincoln, told Lincoln that "I don't think that he would steal a red hot stove". When Cameron demanded Stevens retract this statement, Stevens told Lincoln "I believe I told you he would not steal a red-hot stove. I will now take that back." He was succeeded by Edwin M. Stanton, who had been serving as a legal advisor to the War Secretary. Cameron then served as United States Minister to Russia.
In 1866, Cameron was again elected to the Senate and served there until 1877, when on assurances from the Pennsylvania General Assembly that his son, James Donald Cameron, would be the successor to his seat, he resigned. His son had already been named as Secretary of War in 1876.
Cameron retired to his farm at Donegal Springs Cameron Estate near Maytown, Pennsylvania where he died on June 26, 1889. He is buried in the Harrisburg Cemetery in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Cameron County, Pennsylvania and Cameron Parish, Louisiana are named in his honor.
"An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought."
"I am tired of all this sort of thing called science here... We have spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it should be stopped." (on the Smithsonian Institution, 1861)
Simon Cameron, U.S. Senator and Secretary of War's Timeline
March 8, 1799
Maytown, Lancaster, PA, USA
May 14, 1833
Middletown, PA, USA
June 26, 1889
Maytown, Lancaster, PA, USA