Richard Rush, U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury

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Richard D. Rush

Birthdate: (78)
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: July 30, 1859 (78)
Place of Burial: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Benjamin Rush, signer of the "Declaration of Independence" and Julia Rush
Husband of Catherine Elizabeth Rush
Father of Benjamin Rush; James Murray Rush; Richard Rush; Sarah Maynadier Rush; Julia Rush and 5 others
Brother of John Rush; Anne Emily Rush; Susanna Rush; Mary Rush; James Rush and 8 others

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About Richard Rush, U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury

Richard Rush (August 29, 1780 – July 30, 1859) was United States Attorney General under James Madison and United States Secretary of the Treasury under John Quincy Adams as well as John Quincy Adams running mate when he ran for re-election on the National Republican ticket in 1828. Rush also served as United States minister to England and France at various times.

Early life and education

Rush was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the second son (and third child) of Benjamin Rush (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and a prominent physician) and Julia (Stockton) Rush. He entered the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University) at the age of 14, and graduated in 1797 as the youngest member of his class. He was admitted to the bar in 1800, when he was barely 20 years old, and studied law at the office of William Draper Lewis.


Rush married Catherine Eliza Murray on August 29, 1809. They were the parents of ten children, of whom three sons and two daughters survived him.


Rush enjoyed a cultivated childhood; during his life he was a statesman, diplomat, widely-praised orator and key figure in two Administrations (James Madison and John Quincy Adams), and carved a distinguished career in public affairs in his own right.

After his entering the bar in 1800 Rush quickly gaining statewide and then national attention as a public speaker and successful trial lawyer. In 1811 he was appointed Attorney General of Pennsylvania. Shortly before this he had declined an offer to run for congress. In November 1811, President James Madison appointed Rush Comptroller of the Treasury.

Federal Government service

From the position as Comptroller of the treasury subordinate position, Rush functioned as one of President Madison's closest friends and confidential advisors throughout the War of 1812. He was one of the War Hawks who advocated war with Britain. In 1814 Madison offered Rush the choice of Secretary of the Treasury or Attorney General of the United States, of which positions Rush chose the latter. With his appointment as Attorney General Rush became the youngest person to serve as United States Attorney General. Rush served as United States Attorney General from 1814-1817. At this time the attorney generalship was a part-time position, and so Rush also maintained his private law practice while in this office. On top of this he edited a codification of United States laws during this time.

He was Acting Secretary of State from the start of James Monroe's term as president until the return of John Quincy Adams from Europe. During this time Rush concluded the Rush-Bagot Convention, demilitarizing the Canadian boundary on the Great Lakes.

In October 1817, Rush was appointed Minister to Britain to succeed John Quincy Adams, who had taken the position of Secretary of State upon his return. His "gentlemanly" attitude was appreciated by the British, and he remained there for nearly eight years, proving singularly effective in negotiating a number of important treaties, including the Anglo-American Convention of 1818.

He became surprisingly popular in England, despite his previous anti-British record. In 1823, Rush negotiated with Britain over British proposals that the two countries issue a joint declaration against French involvement in Spain's rebelling American colonies, but Britain would not agree to American demands for recognition of the newly independent republics, leading to the separate American declaration of the Monroe Doctrine.

He received one electoral vote as a Federalist for the office of Vice President in the 1820 election, even though the Federalist Party nominated no candidate for President in that election.

Upon the election of John Quincy Adams in 1825, Rush (having made a study of Britain, and the British Navy in particular, while he was there) desired to become the Secretary of the Navy. Adams, however, immediately nominated him for the post of 8th Secretary of the Treasury, which he accepted. He served in this position with remarkable success during the entire Adams Administration from March 7, 1825 until March 5, 1829. Notably, he paid off nearly the whole public debt, and turned over to his successor a large treasury surplus.

In 1828, he was a candidate for Vice President on the re-election ticket with John Quincy Adams, but was defeated. After leaving the Treasury Department, he was sent to England and the Netherlands by the cities of Georgetown and Alexandria to negotiate a large loan for the cities, a mission which met with prompt success.

In 1836, President Andrew Jackson sent him to England as Commissioner to secure for the United States the legacy left the government by James Smithson. He was successful in this undertaking, bringing to this country the sum of $508,318.46, which would eventually be used to establish the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Rush later became one of the first regents of the institution.

After a short time with the Anti-Masonic Party, in the later 1830s Rush became a member of the Democratic Party.

In 1847, Richard Rush was appointed as Minister to France by President James K. Polk. When his negotiations were interrupted by the overthrow of King Louis-Philippe, he was among the first foreign diplomats to recognize the new French Second Republic. He remained in France until his recall by the new Whig administration in 1849, when he returned to the land of his birth, to retire in Philadelphia. He died there on July 30, 1859. Prior to his death, Rush had been the last surviving member of the Madison and Monroe Cabinets.


During the 1820s, Rush was a member of the prestigious society, Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, who counted among their members former presidents Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams and many prominent men of the day, including well-known representatives of the military, government service, medical and other professions.

US Presidential Cabinet Member. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was the son of Dr. Benjamin Rush, who signed the Declaration of Independence. He graduated from graduated in 1797, went on to study law, was admitted to the bar in 1800 and served as Attorney General of Pennsylvania, in 1811. President Madison appointed him Attorney General of the United States in 1814 and for a short time in 1817, he also performed the duties of the Secretary of State. He served as Minister to England, (1817-25) and as President John Quincy Adams’ Secretary of the Treasury, (1825-39). He also served as United States Minister to France, (1847-49) and on the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. He died at age 78 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (bio by: [fg.cgi?page=mr&MRid=46568383" target="_blank John "J-Cat" Griffith)] Maintained by: Find A Grave Record added: Jun 13, 2001

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Richard Rush, U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury's Timeline

August 29, 1780
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
January 23, 1811
Age 30
July 10, 1813
Age 32
March 11, 1815
Age 34
September 17, 1817
Age 37
November 11, 1818
Age 38
April 23, 1820
Age 39
July 28, 1821
Age 40
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
June 29, 1823
Age 42