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,