Belmont, August

Life Span
    Full name
    August Belmont
    Place of Birth
    Burial Place
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Free State
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    Simon Schonberg (father), Fredericka Elsaas Schonberg (mother), Caroline Slidell Perry (wife, 1849)
    Relation to Slavery
    White non-slaveholder
    Other Religion
    Household Size in 1860
    Children in 1860
    Occupation in 1860
    Residence in 1860
    Wealth in 1860
    Marital status in 1860

    August Belmont, Pre-War Political Career (American National Biography)

    With unlimited energy and ambition and a willingness to spend money, Belmont set out early on a career in politics. Influenced mainly by his wife's uncle, John Slidell, a powerful Louisiana politician of the antebellum and Civil War periods, Belmont became the New York manager of James Buchanan's unsuccessful campaign for the 1852 Democratic presidential nomination. Franklin Pierce, the eventual nominee, won the presidency and rewarded Belmont, who had contributed generously to Pierce's presidential campaign, by appointing him minister to the Netherlands. During his tenure at The Hague (1853-1857), Belmont negotiated successfully a commercial treaty, designed to open the Dutch East Indies to American trade, and a criminal extradition treaty between the two countries. He also played a behind-the-scenes role in drafting the Ostend Manifesto (Oct. 1854), a diplomatic initiative that he hoped would lead to American acquisition of Cuba. Belmont supported Buchanan's successful bid for the 1856 presidential nomination, but when Buchanan refused Belmont's request to be named minister to Spain, the banker resigned his diplomatic post, returned to New York, and shifted his allegiance to Buchanan's major Democratic antagonist, Illinois senator Stephen A. Douglas.
    Irving Katz, "Belmont, August," American National Biography Online, February 2000,

    August Belmont, Wartime and Post-War Political Career (American National Biography)

    Following his nomination in 1860 by the northern wing of the Democratic party, Douglas selected Belmont to run the presidential campaign as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Following Douglas's defeat in November and his death the following June, no political heir appeared; most of the veteran Democrats in Congress were southerners who had seceded with their states. Belmont then assumed the party's national leadership in his position as chief executive officer of the existing organization and held it for twelve years. Few northern Democrats challenged him, owing to the distractions of war and the ensuing reconstruction. Belmont sided with "War" Democrats and used his influence as an international banker to discourage the Rothschilds and other prominent European financiers from investing in or underwriting Confederate bonds. In 1862 Belmont, with Samuel J. Tilden and other leading Democrats, purchased the New York World and installed as editor Manton M. Marble, one of Belmont's closest, lifelong friends. Until Marble's retirement in 1876, he and Belmont succeeded in making the World the nation's leading Democratic organ. In 1864 Belmont helped an ally, General George B. McClellan (1826-1885), obtain the party's presidential nomination, but Abraham Lincoln easily won reelection. Belmont fought against any Democratic merger with President Andrew Johnson's National Union party in 1866. When his first choice for the 1868 nomination, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, refused to desert the cause of African-American suffrage, Belmont saw the prize go to former New York governor Horatio Seymour (1810-1886), who, as Belmont predicted, campaigned weakly and lost to General Ulysses S. Grant. Belmont resigned as Democratic national chairman after the 1872 national convention and gradually reduced his political activities, though he championed Delaware senator Thomas F. Bayard's presidential ambitions in the next three campaigns.
    Irving Katz, "Belmont, August," American National Biography Online, February 2000,

    August Belmont (Encyclopedia America)

    BELMONT, August, American banker: b. Alzey, Germany, 1816; d. 24 Nov. 1890. He was educated at Frankfort, and was apprenticed to the Rothschild's banking house in that city when 14 years old. In 1837 he went to Havana to take charge of the firm's interests, and soon afterward was sent to New York, where he established himself in the banking business and as the representative of the Rothschilds. He was Consul-General of Austria 1844-50; became chargé d'affaires at The Hague in 1853; and was Minister-resident there in 1854-58. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1860, and when a portion of the delegates withdrew and organized the convention in Baltimore he was active in that body, and through it became chairman of the Democratic National Committee, an office he held till 1872. He was an active worker in the party till 1876, when he closed his political career.
    "Belmont, August,” The Encyclopedia America: A Library of Universal Knowledge (New York: The Encyclopedia Americana Corp., 1918), 2: 493.

    August Belmont (New International Encyclopaedia)

    BELMONT, AUGUST (1816-90). An American financier. He was born in Alzey, Germany; was for several years employed in the banking house of the Rothschilds at Frankfort and Naples, and removed to New York as their representative in 1837. He was consul-general for Austria from 1844-50, and in 1853 was appointed by President Pierce chargé d'affaires at The Hague, where he afterwards became Minister Resident, resigning in 1858. He was interested in politics, and was chairman of the National Democratic Committee from 1860 to 1872. He was prominent on the turf, and as a patron of art, and owned a fine collection of paintings.
    Daniel Coit Gilman, Harry Thurston Peck, and Frank Moore Colby, eds., “Belmont, August,” The New International Encyclopaedia (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1909), 2: 732.

    August Belmont (New York Times)

    The death of Mr. AUGUST BELMONT, following at no great interval that of Mr. JOHN JACOB ASTOR, removes another of the conspicuous figures that have connected the modern city of New-York with the era of the stage coach and packet boat. Although Mr. BELMONT was not established in business in New-York until 1837, when the city was already showing the results of its first impulses of expansion and when the building and use of steam railways, even, had made progress sufficient to foreshadow to the more imaginative men of that day the future greatness of the country they were to open up to settlement and trade, Mr. BELMONT found in the city of his adoption only the small beginnings of the business and financial activities that were to grow up in his lifetime and in which he was to bear so prominent a part.

    Few men have been more closely identified with the life and movement of the city during the past half century than Mr. Belmont. His position in the financial world as the head of a great banking house and the agent of the ROTHSCHILDS, his prominence in politics, his liberality as a patron of music and art, his unflagging devotion to the interests of the turf, his social standing, all made him one of the New-Yorkers whom everybody knew, if not personally, at least by wide reputation.

    Puritan austerity, we doubt not, would have looked with sour-faced disapproval upon AUGUST BELMONT as a man who got out of life too much pleasure himself and gave too much to others. By persons of more joyous temperaments he will be remembered as a man who, combining solid business qualities with a noteworthy aptitude for the less serious affairs of life, contributed, certainly in as large a measure as any other of its citizens, to make the city of New-York an agreeable place of residence to those fortunate persons who can spend now and then an hour, after their shops and their souls have been cared for, in pursuits and pastimes having only an indirect relation to the weightier interests just mentioned. With Such persons, and they are clearly in the majority, it is the custom to call men like AUGUST BELMONT benefactors of their kind.
    “August Belmont,” New York Times, November 25, 1890, p. 4: 4.

    August Belmont (National Cyclopaedia)

    BELMONT, August, banker and diplomat, was born at Alzei in the Palatinate, Rhenish Prussia, Dec. 8, 1816, son of a wealthy landed proprietor, who gave to his son every opportunity of self-improvement in the best schools of the locality, and under the most thorough instructors. When the son was fourteen years of age, he was placed in the Frankfort house of the great banking firm of Rothschild Bros. , in order that he should become a thorough master of the principles of financiering. In this he proved a ready pupil, and at the end of three years, he was advanced to the supervision of the branch house in Naples, Italy. In 1887 he was sent to New York city, to found another branch of the great Rothschild house, under the name of August Belmont & Co. He took the first opportunity to become a citizen of the United States, and from that time was conspicuously identified with the political, diplomatic, commercial, financial, and social affairs of his adopted country. He affiliated with the Democratic party, and cast his first presidential vote for the electors on the Polk and Dallas ticket in 1844. During the same year he was appointed by the Austrian government consul-general in the United States. He resigned the position in 1850, as a protest against the treatment Hungary was then subjected to by the government of Austria. In 1853 Mr. Belmont took an active part in the presidential campaign that resulted in the election of President Pierce, and was appointed charge d'affaires of the U. S. legation at the Hague. In 1855 the rank of the mission was raised, and Mr. Belmont became minister resident of the United States at the Hague. During his incumbency he negotiated a highly important consular convention, and received from the government at Washington special thanks for the service rendered. He also persuaded the state department of the United States to locate consuls in the Dutch East Indies, a diplomatic favor theretofore persistently denied. In 1856, upon the retirement of the Pierce administration, Mr. Belmont resigned as U. S. minister to Holland, and upon his return to America, became an active leader of the Democratic party. He deprecated civil war, and made heroic efforts to maintain peace between the contending sections. He became a natural supporter of Stephen A. Douglas, the champion of compromise. At the Charleston Convention of 1860, to which Mr. Belmont was a delegate, he went with the Douglas wing, and was an active champion of that leader in the Baltimore Convention, and was by the convention made chairman of the National Democratic committee. Upon the election of Mr. Lincoln, he declared that the election could not be considered a just provocation of war, and when South Carolina seceded, he in his official position wrote to the governor of all the other southern states, as well as to the leading southern politicians, and urged them to refrain from a course which he prophetically declared must end in disaster for the South. His words, as written Nov. 30, 1860, were: "Secession in South Carolina signifies civil war, which must be followed by a dissolution of the whole state structure, after infinite sacrifices of money and blood. If patriotism and love of the Union are not strong enough to prevent the people of the South from carrying out their insane purpose, I still hope that they will not lose the instinct of self- preservation." When the South decided to secede, Mr. Belmont became one of Mr. Lincoln's staunchest supporters, and urged a vigorous prosecution of the war. He helped to raise and equip the first German regiment, and on May, 15, 1861, as they were leaving for the seat of war, he presented them with a stand of colors, and in an address to the men, outlined their duty toward the flag of their adoption. Mr. Lincoln and Secretary Seward, knowing the great influence Mr. Belmont had in European financial circles, found in him a ready and willing ally in directing the minds of the commercial and financial leaders of the old world to the superior strength and importance of the North over the South, and discouraging the recognition of the Confederacy as a belligerent. He wrote to the Rothschilds in London and Paris, and his letters were laid before the English and French ministers of state, Palmerston and Thouvenal. In 1861 Mr. Belmont personally visited England, and had an interview with Palmerston, whose laconic reply Mr. Belmont transmitted to Mr. Lincoln: "We do not like slavery, but we need cotton, and hate your Morrill protective tariff." In 1863 he visited Paris and wrote: "I am convinced that the emperor is the chief person from whom we must encounter danger. The secessionists here — and their number is legion- are very sanguine of the speedy recognition by, and assistance of, France." In 1864-68 Mr. Belmont, as chairman of the National Democratic committee, opened and directed the political campaign. In 1872, upon the party nominating Horace Greeley as its candidate, Mr. Belmont resigned. He was a delegate to every National Democratic convention, from 1860 until 1884. He was a member of the Union Club, and for many years president of the Manhattan Club, and of the American Jockey Club, and was deeply interested in the development of American thoroughbreds, and largely contributed to the elevation of the turf in this country. He maintained at the time of his death, one of the best stock farms and one of the leading stables of thoroughbreds in the United States. In 1849 Mr. Belmont was married to a daughter of Com. Matthew C. Perry. Of six children, four are now (1894) living. Perry Belmont, August Belmont, Jr., Oliver H. P. Belmont, and a daughter, the wife of Samuel S. Haviland. Mr. Belmont died at his home in New York city, Nov. 24, 1890.
    “Belmont, August,” The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: James T. White & Company, 1901), 2: 499.
    Chicago Style Entry Link
    Belmont, August. A Few Letters and Speeches of the late Civil War. New York, 1870. view record
    Belmont, August. Letters, Speeches and Addresses. New York, 1890. view record
    Black, David. The King of Fifth Avenue: The Fortunes of August Belmont. New York: Dial Press, 1981. view record
    Katz, Irving. August Belmont: A Political Biography. New York: Columbia University Press, 1968. view record
    How to Cite This Page: "Belmont, August," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,