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Pennsylvania State Flag

Simon Cameron

Born: March 8, 1799
Place: Maytown, Pennsylvania
Died: June 26, 1889
Place: Donegal Springs, Pennsylvania

Simon Cameron Simon Cameron was born on March 8, 1799 in Maytown, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His father died when he was nine years old. His formal schooling was very limited from that point on, but he was inquisitive and learned to read and write through his own perseverance. Soon after his father died, he became apprenticed to a printer, which afforded him the opportunity to learn a trade as well as have access to books and news. During his teenage years, his interests expanded from the mechanics of the print trade to perfecting his journalistic skills. In his early 20's, Cameron worked for a variety of print shops and newspapers, as a printer, an editor, and as a partner in publishing ventures.

By the time Cameron was in his mid 20's, he had not only accumulated a comfortable amount of personal capital, but he had also developed important connections with business and political contacts. His interests turned toward investments and development projects. As a savvy businessman, he engaged in multiple enterprises, including founding a bank, constructing rail lines, and building canals. Cameron continued to nurture his political associations, recognizing that when he leant his support, he could expect political favors himself. He was an early supporter of Andrew Jackson, and later helped Martin Van Buren in his political organization. He served for a short time as Pennsylvania's adjutant-general. In 1838 President Van Buren offered Cameron a position as a commissioner to settle claims of the Winnebago Indians. In 1845, Cameron aligned with the Democratic Party, and was elected to the United States Senate where he served until 1849. In 1856, this time as a Republican, Cameron was again elected U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

In 1860, Simon Cameron had substantial support at the Republican national convention as a candidate for both the presidency and the vice presidency. But he saw that he did not have the whole-hearted support he needed to win, so he threw his own support to Abraham Lincoln. As President, Mr. Lincoln rewarded Cameron by appointing him his Secretary of War, a crucial position as the nation became embroiled in its Civil War. Cameron's strong views on aggressive war measures, which included his desire to arm fugitive slaves, drew heated opposition from other Cabinet members, and was questioned by Lincoln himself. Simon Cameron resigned his position as Secretary of War in January of 1862, and then accepted the appointment as Minister to Russia, which solidified the Russian government's support of the Union. Leaving this post in the fall of the same year, Cameron returned to his home where he stayed out of political office until 1866, at which point he was again elected to the U.S. Senate. In 1872, Cameron served as chairman of the Foreign Relations committee. He was re-elected to the Senate for the fourth time in 1873, and retired from office in 1877, paving the way for his son James Donald Cameron to fill the vacancy.

Simon Cameron understood politics. In many ways, he was one of America's first "political bosses", a powerful and astute politician with a long and successful career serving his state and his country. Simon Cameron died on June 26, 1889, at the age of 90.


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