Black, Jeremiah Sullivan

Life Span
Full name
Jeremiah Sullivan Black
Place of Birth
Burial Place
Birth Date Certainty
Death Date Certainty
Sectional choice
Free State
No. of Spouses
No. of Children
Henry Black (father), Mary Sullivan (mother), Mary Forward (wife, 1836)
Attorney or Judge
Writer or Artist
Relation to Slavery
White non-slaveholder
Church or Religious Denomination
Other Religion
Disciples of Christ
Political Parties
Buchanan Administration (1857-61)
State supreme court
State judge

Jeremiah Sullivan Black (American National Biography)

The issue that above all others put Black in the center of sectional controversy was the Buchanan administration's response to South Carolina's secession in December 1860. The question split the cabinet into northern and southern factions. Although Black initially believed in the right of a state to secede, he backed away from urging endorsement of that position in response to the president's request for a legal opinion on secession. The attorney general responded that the federal government had a duty and right to collect duties and to defend public property and execute the laws. Yet this right could only be enforced peacefully, and if force were necessary, only Congress could legislate such procedures. Black asserted that Congress could not "arm one part of the people against another for any purpose beyond that of merely protecting the General Government in the exercise of its proper constitutional functions" (quoted in Works of James Buchanan, vol. 11). Black thus took an essentially conservative approach, which became the position of the administration, a stance that cynics argued was tantamount to saying, "You cannot do it, but we cannot stop you if you do." In essence, Black argued that secession was unconstitutional but that the federal government had no power to coerce a seceded state back into the Union.
Frederick J. Blue. "Black, Jeremiah Sullivan," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
Chicago Style Entry Link
Brigance, William Norwood. “Jeremiah Black and Andrew Johnson.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 19, no. 2 (1932): 205-218. view record
Coleman, Evan J. “Doctor Gwin and Judge Black on Buchanan.” Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine 19 (January 1892): 87-92. view record
Davis, Kenneth W. “Black, Buchanan and Secession.” Laurel Messenger 15 (February 1975): 1, 8. view record
Hubbell, John T. “Jeremiah Sullivan Black and the Great Secession Winter.” Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine 57, no. 3 (1974): 255-274. view record
How to Cite This Page: "Black, Jeremiah Sullivan," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,