Cameron, Simon

Simon Cameron served multiple terms in Senate and held the position of Secretary of War under Lincoln. He was born in 1799 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His father, Charles Cameron, struggled financially and could not afford to educate him. Nonetheless, in his adolescence he became a printer’s apprentice. Later, Cameron took jobs as an editor and invested in his first paper in 1822. That same year, he met and married his wife, Margaretta Brua with whom he fathered ten children. Cameron was a tall, scrawny man with a narrow face and furrowed brow. In 1824 he entered public service and by 1845 became a U.S. Senator, defeating fellow Democrat, James Buchanan, with support from Whigs and anti-Catholics. In response, the regular Democrats unseated Cameron in the subsequent election. In 1857, Cameron won reelection as a Republican. In 1860 he ran for president, but ended up giving his support to Lincoln. Although wary of Cameron’s reputation for political corruption, Lincoln appointed him Secretary of War in 1861. In 1862 the House of Representatives censured Cameron for giving unsupervised contracts to unqualified firms. The House claimed that Cameron practiced patronage and rarely recorded financial records accurately. In 1867 he returned to the Senate, but his censure remained in effect until 1871. Cameron served until 1877 at which point he stepped down so that his son, James Cameron, could take his seat. He died in 1889 at his home in Harrisburg. (By David Park)

Life Span
Full name
Simon Cameron
Place of Birth
Birth Date Certainty
Death Date Certainty
Sectional choice
Free State
No. of Spouses
No. of Children
Charles Cameron (father), Martha Pfoutz (mother), Margaretta Brua (wife, 1822) , J. Donald Cameron (son)
Relation to Slavery
White non-slaveholder
Political Parties
American Party (Know Nothings or Nativists)
Other Affiliations
Nativists (Know Nothings)
Lincoln Administration (1861-65)
US Senate
Other state government

Simon Cameron (Congressional Biographical Directory)

CAMERON, Simon, (father of James Donald Cameron), a Senator from Pennsylvania; born in Maytown, Lancaster County, Pa., March 8, 1799; apprenticed as a printer; newspaper owner and editor; cashier of a bank, president of two railroad companies, and adjutant general of Pennsylvania; elected to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James Buchanan, and served from March 13, 1845, to March 3, 1849; elected as a Republican to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1857, to March 4, 1861, when he resigned, having been appointed Secretary of War; chairman, Committee on Patents and the Patent Office (Twenty-ninth Congress), Committee on Public Buildings (Twenty-ninth Congress), Committee on District of Columbia (Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth Congresses), Committee on Printing (Thirtieth Congress); unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1860; Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Abraham Lincoln 1861-1862; United States Minister to Russia 1862; was again elected as a Republican to the United States Senate in 1867; reelected in 1873, and served from March 4, 1867, until his resignation, effective March 12, 1877; chairman, Committee on Agriculture (Fortieth and Forty-first Congresses), Committee on Foreign Relations (Forty-second through Forty-fifth Congresses), Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds (Forty-second Congress); retired from active business pursuits and traveled extensively in Europe and the West Indies; died near Maytown, Lancaster County, Pa., June 26, 1889; interment in Harrisburg Cemetery, Harrisburg, Pa.
"Cameron, Simon," Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present,

Simon Cameron (American National Biography)

In 1856 Cameron joined the Republican party, which absorbed many Know Nothings, and that year John Frémont, the first presidential candidate of the new party, briefly favored him for vice president. In 1857 Cameron returned to the U.S. Senate after a campaign that Thaddeus Stevens likened to "wholesale private bribery." Charges of bribing voters were too vague for official action, although a brief investigation was conducted. Despite his unsavory reputation, through hard work and the use of his personal contacts Cameron emerged as an important national leader of the Republicans and one of the party's national strategists. In the Senate he opposed the English Bill, which would have admitted Kansas immediately if the territory accepted the proslavery Lecompton constitution and a reduced land grant. He was best known for his active lobbying for tariffs protecting his state's coal and iron interests.
Jean Baker, "Cameron, Simon," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
Date Event
Simon Cameron is born in Maytown, Pennsylvania
- Pennsylvania Opposition Party Convention nominates Cameron for President and Curtin for Governor
Pennsylvania Republicans meet in Harrisburg and Philadelphia to ratify the recent nominations in Chicago
President-Elect Lincoln meets Alexander McClure in Springfield, Illinois
President-Elect Lincoln selects Senator Simon Cameron as his Secretary of War
The U.S. Senate, sitting in extraordinary session, confirms all of President Lincoln's cabinet choices
Governor Alexander Ramsey makes Minnesota the first state to pledge its militia to the Union
Secretary of War Cameron outlines his quotas of volunteers to state governors
The governor of North Carolina sends an immediate refusal to provide troops for the Union
Governor Magoffin of Kentucky refuses troops for "the wicked purpose" of subduing the South
Secretary of War Simon Cameron resigns and is appointed minister to Russia
U.S. Senate confirms Edwin M. Stanton's nomination as Secretary of War on a vote of 36-2
The U.S. Senate votes 26-14 to confirm Simon Cameron as the new ambassador to Russia
In Philadelphia, former Secretary of War Cameron arrested and sued for false imprisonment
U.S. House censures former Secretary of War Simon Cameron for his lax fiscal dealings while in office
Simon Cameron dies in Maytown, Pennsylvania
Date Title
New York Times, “The Tariff Bill,” January 16, 1857
Recollection of Jesse W. Fell, Conversation with Abraham Lincoln in early 1859
Lowell (MA) Citizen & News, “Presidential,” August 30, 1859
Abraham Lincoln to William E. Frazer, November 1, 1859
William E. Frazer to Abraham Lincoln, November 12, 1859
New York Herald, “Trouble among the Republican President Makers,” February 28, 1860
Newark (OH) Advocate, “The Chicago Convention,” March 2, 1860
Alexander Kelly McClure to Eli Slifer, April 14, 1860
- Recollection by Henry C. Whitney, Republican National Convention, May 16-18, 1860
New York Herald, “Commencement of Republican Cabinet Making,” June 12, 1860
James O. Putnam to Leonard Swett, copied in Swett to Abraham Lincoln, July 1860
New York Herald, “Who are the Cooks in Pennsylvania?,” November 8, 1860
John P. Sanderson to David Davis, November 12, 1860
New York Herald, “Cabinet Rumors from Pennsylvania,” January 1, 1861
John P. Verree to Abraham Lincoln, January 1, 1861
Anonymous to Abraham Lincoln, January 1, 1861
Joseph Medill to Charles H. Ray and John Locke Scripps, January 6, 1861
Israel Washburn Jr. to Abraham Lincoln, January 21, 1861
New York Herald, “Greeley for Senator, Why Not?,” February 3, 1861
New York Herald, “More Trouble About Old Abe’s Cabinet,” February 10, 1861
New York Times, “Hon. David Wilmot United States Senator,” March 15, 1861
Fayetteville (NC) Observer, “More Stealing in Pennsylvania,” July 1, 1861
Fayetteville (NC) Observer, “Secretary Cameron,” July 8, 1861
John P. Crawford to Abraham Lincoln, August 10, 1861
Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Simon Cameron,” August 11, 1861
Chicago (IL) Tribune, “How They Do It,” September 21, 1861
Alexander Galt to Amy Galt, Washington DC, December 5, 1861
Abraham Lincoln to David Hunter, December 31, 1861
Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Resignation of Secretary Cameron,” January 14, 1862
Abraham Lincoln to Albert G. Hodges, April 4, 1864
Henry J. Raymond to Abraham Lincoln, August 22, 1864, New York City
Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Reception of Colored Troops,” November 15, 1865
Philadelphia (PA) North American, "Reception of Colored Troops," November 15, 1865
- John G. Nicolay's conversation with James Moorhead, May 12-13, 1880
Chicago Style Entry Link
Stewart, John D. “The Great Winnebago Chieftain: Simon Cameron’s Rise to Power, 1860-1867.” Pennsylvania History 39 (1972): 20-39.
view record
Bradley, Erwin. Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s Secretary of War: A Political Biography. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1966. view record
Crippen, Lee Forbes. Simon Cameron, Ante-Bellum Years. Oxford: Mississippi Valley Press, 1942. view record
Libhart, Lemar Landon. "Simon Cameron's Political Exile as United States Minister to Russia." Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society 72, no. 4 (1968): 189-228. view record
Pindell, Richard. 'He Would Steal?' Civil War Times Illustrated 29, no. 2 (1990): 46-53. view record
Stewart, John D., II. “The Great Winnebago Chieftan: Simon Cameron's Rise to Power, 1860-1867.” Pennsylvania History 39, no. 1 (1972): 20-39. view record
How to Cite This Page: "Cameron, Simon," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,