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House Speaker Biographies

Photo credit:

"COOPER, James, (1810-1863)," Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.  www.bioguide.congress.gov

 

 


Photo credit:

"COOPER, James, (1810-1863)," Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.  www.bioguide.congress.gov

 

 

 

James Cooper

Born: May 8, 1810, Frederick County, MD.  Died: March 28, 1863, Columbus, Franklin County, OH.   Member of the House: Adams County, 1844, 1845, 1847, and 1849.  Affiliation: Whig.

James Cooper was born in Frederick County, Maryland, and later moved to Pennsylvania to pursue his education.  He graduated from Washington College (now Washington and Jefferson College) in 1832, and then studied law with the renowned Adams County lawyer and United States Congressman, Thaddeus Stevens. Cooper began practicing law in Gettysburg after being admitted to the bar in 1834.  Cooper was elected as a Whig to the 26th and 27th United States Congresses (1839-1843), and served as chair of the Committee on Indian Affairs during the latter term.  Cooper is one of the few Representatives to serve in Congress prior to serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Cooper was elected as a Whig to represent Adams County in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 1844, 1845, 1847, and 1849 sessions.  He was elected Speaker for the 1847 session.  While Speaker, Act 159 was passed, which forbade the holding of southern slaves in Pennsylvania jails and prison, as well as criminalized any effort to kidnap persons with the intent of selling or forcing them into slavery outside of Pennsylvania. Additionally, Act 365 of 1847 provided for the creation of Sullivan County from land previously considered part of Lycoming County.

Following his term as Speaker, Cooper was appointed Pennsylvania Attorney General by Governor William F. Johnston, a position he held from July 31, 1848 to December 30, 1848.  He then briefly returned to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 1849 session.  However, after being elected to the United States Senate as a Whig on January 10, 1849, Cooper, took office in Washington, DC, on March 4, 1849, and served as a Senator until March 3, 1855.  After his retirement from the United States Senate, he moved to Frederick, Maryland, and opened a law office.

When the Civil War broke out, Cooper was authorized by President Abraham Lincoln to recruit a brigade for his home state of Maryland, becoming brigadier general in 1861.  He went on to serve in West Virginia and Ohio, where he was appointed commandant at Camp Chase, located near Columbus, Ohio.  James Cooper died of pneumonia at Camp Chase on March 28, 1863, and is interred at Mount Olivet Cemetery in the city of Frederick, Frederick County, Maryland.