Advance Notice: Briefs

On this Day in 1857: Cass becomes U.S. Secretary of State

By: - March 6, 2019 12:03 pm

Lewis Cass statue in the U.S. Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Lewis Cass of Michigan on March 6, 1857, became U.S. Secretary of State.

Cass previously served as Michigan territorial governor from 1813 to 1831. He later had two stints in the U.S. Senate, from 1845 to 1848, and 1849 to 1857.

During his tenure as territorial governor, Cass helped President Andrew Jackson implement the policy of removing Native Americans, known as the Trail of Tears.

While in the U.S. Senate, Cass advocated for popular sovereignty, a pre-Civil War doctrine asserting the right of the people living in a newly organized territory to decide by vote of their territorial legislature whether or not slavery would be permitted there. Cass had been a slave owner.  

He resigned as U.S. Secretary of State in December 1860 in protest of President James Buchanan’s handling of the threatened secession of several Southern states.

Cass died in 1866 at age 83. A Detroit high school is named in his honor. His statue stands in the U.S. Capitol.

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.