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Caleb Cushing Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Caleb Cushing passes away in 1879.

Caleb Cushing was an American politician and jurist.

Cushing was born on January 17th, 1800 in Salisbury, Massachusetts. At the age of two his family moved across the Merrimack River to Newburyport. At the age of 10 his mother passed away. At the age of thirteen he entered Harvard University where he graduated in 1817. In 1820 and 1821 he worked as a teacher of mathematics before he was admitted to practice in the Massachusetts Court of Common Pleas. In 1824 he began practicing law in Newburyport.

In 1825, Cushing served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. This begin intermittent times where he served in the lower house of the Massachusetts Legislature. In 1826 he was elected to the Massachusetts Senate. He returned to the House in 1828. In 1829 he traveled to Europe for two years, before returning to Massachusetts and to the House of Representative in 1833.

In 1834, Cushing was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he served until 1843. While there he was nominated by President John Tyler as the United States Secretary of the Treasury. He was nominated three times in one day and was rejected by the Untied States Senate all three times. Instead Cushing was appointed by Tyler as the United States Ambassador to China. There he the Treaty of Wang Hiya, the first treaty between the United States and China. He also negotiated a treaty of navigation and commerce with Japan.

By 1847, Cushing was back in Massachusetts and back in the Massachusetts House of Representatives where he sponsored a bill to raise money to equip a regiment for the Mexican-American war. The bill was unsuccessful and Cushing funded the regiment by private means. During the war he served with the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment as a colonel at first and then as a brigadier-general of volunteers. After the war he was nominated twice for Governor, losing both times.

In 1853, Cushing became Attorney General of the United States. During the lead up to the Civil War, Cushing was what was called a "doughface". This was a term used to describe people who lived in the North and had Southern sympathies. As an example he supported the Dredd Scott Decision so aggressively when Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote the decision he sent Cushing a letter thanking him for the support. Despite Cushing's "doughface" ideas, he did support the Union during the Civil War.

After the Civil War, Cushing was back to being a diplomat. He traveled to Bogotá, Colombia to negotiate the right of way treaty across the Isthmus of Panama. At the Geneva Conference he was one of the counsels who worked on the Alabama Claims. The claims were seeking compensation from the British for vessels sunk by the CSS Alabama, a Confederate ship built in a British Shipyard. In a similar negotiation while he was Minister to Spain, Cushing negotiated during the Virginius Affair. The Virginius was a vessel hired by Spanish separatists to help transport supplies for a revolution against Spain in Cuba. The vessel was captured by the Spanish and the American and British crew were arrested as pirates by the Spanish and sentenced to death. 53 members of the crew were executed before the executions were stopped. Cushing negotiated a settlement for the American families who had a family member executed.

Cushing passed away on January 2nd, 1879.

Cushing was a member of St. John's Lodge in Newburyport, Massachusetts.