Ebenezer Hoar
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1875
Preceded byConstantine Esty
Succeeded byJohn Tarbox
30th United States Attorney General
In office
March 5, 1869 – November 22, 1870
PresidentUlysses Grant
Preceded byWilliam Evarts
Succeeded byAmos Akerman
Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Personal details
Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar

(1816-02-21)February 21, 1816
Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJanuary 31, 1895(1895-01-31) (aged 78)
Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyWhig (Before 1854)
Republican (1854–1895)
Caroline Brooks
(m. 1840; died 1892)
EducationHarvard University (AB, LLB)

Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar (February 21, 1816 – January 31, 1895) was an American politician, lawyer, and jurist from Massachusetts. He served as U.S. Attorney General from 1869 to 1870, and was the first head of the newly created Department of Justice. Hoar assisted President Ulysses S. Grant in appointing two United States Supreme Court justices and was himself nominated to the Court. His nomination was rejected by the United States Senate, in part for his positions on patronage reform. In 1871, Hoar was appointed by Grant to the United States high commission that negotiated the Treaty of Washington between the U.S. and the United Kingdom, helping to settle the Alabama Claims.

Early life and legal career

Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar was born in Concord, Massachusetts, on February 21, 1816, to Samuel and Sarah Hoar (née Sherman).[1] Hoar came from a long line of Puritan ancestry. His family had emigrated to America in 1640, initially settling in Braintree, Massachusetts.[2] Hoar was sent to a religious private female teacher at the early age of two. By the age of three, Hoar was able to read the Bible fluently as an adult.[3] By four, Hoar was fully literate, having surpassed his older sister in reading and writing. As Hoar grew up he was known for quick thinking and witty sayings.[4] In 1831, Hoar entered Harvard University at the age of fifteen.[5] Upon graduation in 1835, he moved West and served as an instructor at a school for girls in Pittsburgh.[6] After teaching, he traveled to Kentucky and heard the famous politician Henry Clay speak, then returned to Concord to study law at his father's office.[7] In 1837, Hoar returned to Harvard where he studied law for eighteen months and for six months in the law office of Emory Washburn. On September 30, 1839, he passed the bar and had received a LL.B. degree from Harvard, where upon he practiced law in 1840 in Concord and Boston.[8]

Massachusetts politics

In the 1840s, Hoar began his political career as an anti-slavery member of the Whig Party. Hoar stated that he was a Conscience Whig rather than a Cotton Whig, who represented the Massachusetts textile interests and the Southern cotton industry.[9]

In 1846, Hoar was elected to the Massachusetts Senate. In 1848, Hoar worked with his father to form the Free Soil Party of Massachusetts. The new party opposed the extension of slavery in the Western territories.[9]

In 1849, Hoar was appointed a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Boston and served until 1855.

In 1859, Hoar was appointed as an associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. While on the bench Judge Hoar was known for his critiquing of younger lawyers; one of those who impressed Hoar was Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.[9]

After the American Civil War, Hoar opposed the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.[9]

Attorney General (1869–1870)

On March 5, 1869, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Hoar the 30th Attorney General of the United States.[10] All of Grant's appointments, including Hoar, were initially a shock to the Senate, since Grant chose his cabinet independently from leaders of the Republican Party.[11][12] The Senate immediately approved all of Grant's appointments, and press reaction was generally optimistic, applauding Grant's cabinet as one free from "trickery and corruption."[11] Hoar served as Grant's principal legal and political advisor, since Grant had never held public elected office until his election to the presidency.[11][13] In July 1870, Hoar became the first attorney general to head the Department of Justice, created to strengthen the enforcement and investigation powers of the President.

Boutwell appointment

One of Hoar's first duties as Attorney General was to rule on the appointment of New York businessman Alexander T. Stewart as Secretary of the Treasury. Stewart was opposed by Senators Charles Sumner and Roscoe Conkling, who cited a 1789 law prohibiting any Secretary who was "concerned or interested in carrying on the business of trade or commerce."[14][15] Stewart had proposed he renounce his legal title to any retail business until after his potential term ended. However, Hoar advised Grant that Stewart's plan was legally impractical.[16] Taking Hoar's advice, Grant instead appointed George S. Boutwell as Secretary of the Treasury.[16] Boutwell's appointment, however, made Hoar's continuance in Grant's Cabinet tenuous, since both Boutwell and Hoar were from Massachusetts during an era in which it was traditional and politically expedient to have no more than one presidential cabinet member from any single state.[17]

Supreme Court nomination and rejection

On December 14, 1869,[18] President Grant nominated Hoar to the associate justice seat on the United States Supreme Court created by the Judiciary Act of 1869. The nomination engendered much controversy. As Attorney General, Hoar had alienated senators by not consulting them before recommending to the president nominees for circuit judge. In addition, senators were indignant about Hoar's positions on patronage reform and about his previous opposition to the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.[19] The nomination was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which recommended against confirmation. On February 3, 1870, the Senate rejected Hoar 24-33 in a roll call vote.[18]

Grant had an additional associate justice to fill in December 1869, when Robert C. Grier retired. Grant nominated Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to succeed Grier.[20] Stanton was swiftly confirmed, but died soon thereafter before he took office.[21]

On Hoar's advice, Grant nominated William Strong and Joseph P. Bradley to fill the twin vacancies.[21] Both were easily confirmed.[18]

Hepburn v. Griswold

One hour after both Strong and Bradley were submitted to the Senate, the Supreme Court ruled in Hepburn v. Griswold that the 1862 Legal Tender Act that had authorized the Treasury to print paper money as legal tender was unconstitutional.[21] President Grant, Hoar, and his entire cabinet had been against the Court's 4–3 Hepburn ruling, believing that the nation's money supply would be reduced and that this would ruin the economy.[22] On March 31, 1870, Hoar went before the Supreme Court and argued that the Hepburn decision caused instability in the national economy, in case the country needed to print money during an emergency, as had been done during the American Civil War.[23] One year later, with justices Strong and Bradley on the bench, the Court reversed the Hepburn ruling in a 5–4 decision, making paper money legal tender.[23] Although President Grant and Hoar were accused of packing the Court, Strong and Smith's names had been submitted to the Senate prior to the Hepburn decision.[23][24]


Hoar was a moderate Republican who opposed federal intervention in protecting African American citizens during Reconstruction.[25][26] Hoar believed that Southerners would behave responsibly and find a way to protect African Americans.[25] President Grant, however, had lost faith in the Southerners to comply with constitutional and federal law that protected African Americans.[25]

In May 1870, Congress passed the first of three anti-terrorism laws known as Enforcement Acts to counter Klan violence in the South. In order to increase the federal government's investigative and enforcement powers, Congress created the Department of Justice and Solicitor General in June 1870.[27] President Grant was under increased pressure to replace Hoar with a more Radical Attorney General, one who did not oppose federal intervention to stop lawlessness in the South.[28]


In June 1870, President Grant sent Hoar a letter that requested his resignation without explanation.[29]

Hoar was initially shocked at the sudden resignation request, and went to see Grant, having previously taken pardon requests to Grant at the White House. President Grant told Hoar that Southern Senators wanted a Southerner in the cabinet and that he needed support from Southern Senators.[29]

Hoar complied and sent Grant a letter of resignation. Controversy ensued when Grant's personal secretaries allowed Hoar's resignation letter to be disclosed to the press.[28] None of Grant's other cabinet members knew that Grant had asked for Hoar's resignation.[30][31]

Hoar remained in Grant's cabinet until November 1870, when his successor Amos T. Akerman was sworn in. Akerman was from Georgia and aggressively supported Reconstruction and the federal protection of African American civil rights.[31][32]

Alabama Claims

Main articles: Alabama Claims and Treaty of Washington (1871)

The American High Commissioners to the Treaty of Washington of 1871. U.S. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish served as chairman. From left to right: Robert Schenck, Ebenezer R. Hoar, George Henry Williams, Sec. Hamilton Fish, Samuel Nelson, J.C. Bancroft Davis. Brady1871

Hoar was one of five United States members of a joint high commission with the United Kingdom to settle Civil War claims, and also territorial claims in relation to the Dominion of Canada. The commission's work led to the signing of the Treaty of Washington in 1871. The treaty defined a method of international arbitration to settle disputed sovereign maritime and territorial issues, and also clarified the rules for maritime trade between Canada and the United States. The issues deferred to arbitration were: the Alabama Civil War claims, other claims and counterclaims growing out of the Civil War, the San Juan water boundary with the Dominion of Canada in Puget Sound, and Nova Scotia fishery rights.

A subsequent joint arbitration commission, acting under the treaty, issued a decision in September 1872, rejecting American claims for indirect war damages but ordering Britain to pay the United States $15.5 million (~$352 million in 2023) as compensation for the Alabama claims.[33][34][35]

U.S. Representative and retirement

Hoar was elected as a Republican to the 43rd Congress (1873–75). He was not a candidate for renomination in 1874 and returned to practicing law.

Hoar chaired the 1875 centennial celebration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, held in Concord and attended by many leading individuals of the day, including President Grant.[33] He also served on the board of overseers of Harvard University from 1868 through 1882.

Personal life

While studying law at Harvard, Hoar met Caroline Downes Brooks (1820–1892) of Concord. The two married on November 20, 1840. Their marriage produced seven children, Caroline, Samuel, Charles Emerson, Clara Downes, Elizabeth, and Sherman; Sarah Sherman died an infant. The Hoar marriage was happy; however, Caroline had suffered from illness for many years.[36]

Caroline was the half-sister of US Representative George M. Brooks of Massachusetts.

Hoar family

Hoar's father Samuel Hoar was an influential lawyer and politician. Through his mother, Sarah Sherman, E. Rockwood Hoar was the grandson of American founding father Roger Sherman and Rebecca Minot Prescott. Hoar's brother George Frisbie Hoar served as U.S. Senator from Massachusetts from 1877 to his death in 1904. Hoar's children include U.S. Representative Sherman Hoar (1860–1898) and Samuel Hoar (1845–1904). Hoar's grandchildren include Massachusetts State Senator and Assistant Attorney General Roger Sherman Hoar. Hoar's first cousin Roger Sherman Baldwin was a U.S. Senator and Governor of Connecticut. Another first cousin, William Maxwell Evarts, was a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State (and immediately preceded Hoar as U.S. Attorney General), and yet another one, Sherman Day, was a California State Senator, 1855–56, U.S. Surveyor General, 1868–71, and an original trustee of the University of California. Hoar is distantly related to political commentator Tucker Carlson.[37]


Hoar died in Concord in 1895. He is interred in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

See also


  1. ^ The New York Times (February 1, 1895), E. Rockwood Hoar Dead
  2. ^ Storey-Emerson, p. 2
  3. ^ Storey-Emerson, p. 11
  4. ^ Storey-Emerson, p. 13
  5. ^ Storey-Emerson, pp. 16-17
  6. ^ Storey-Emerson, pp. 26–27
  7. ^ Storey-Emerson, p. 28
  8. ^ Storey-Emerson, p. 30
  9. ^ a b c d Gale Encyclopedia of American Law, "Hoar, Ebenezer Rockwood", vol. 5, 3rd ed, pp. 285–286
  10. ^ The New York Times (March 6, 1869), Official Announcement of President Grant's Cabinet
  11. ^ a b c Smith, p. 469
  12. ^ Storey-Emerson, p. 162
  13. ^ Storey-Emerson, p. 165
  14. ^ Smith, p. 468
  15. ^ Smith, p. 470
  16. ^ a b Storey-Emerson, p. 166
  17. ^ Storey-Emerson, p. 171
  18. ^ a b c McMillion, Barry J. (March 8, 2022). Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2020: Actions by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and the President (PDF) (Report). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved March 28, 2022.
  19. ^ Hogue, Henry B. (August 20, 2010). Supreme Court Nominations Not Confirmed, 1789–2010 (PDF) (Report). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  20. ^ Smith, pp. 506–507
  21. ^ a b c Smith, p. 507
  22. ^ Smith, pp. 507–508
  23. ^ a b c Smith, p. 508
  24. ^ Storey-Emerson, p. 199
  25. ^ a b c McFeely, pp. 365–366
  26. ^ Smith, pp. 543–544
  27. ^ Smith, p. 544
  28. ^ a b McFeely, p. 366
  29. ^ a b McFeely, p. 365
  30. ^ Storey-Emerson, p. 208
  31. ^ a b Cox, Jacob Dolson (August 1895). "How Judge Hoar ceased to be Attorney-General". The Atlantic Monthly. 76 (454): 162–173. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  32. ^ McFeely, p. 369
  33. ^ a b Robbins, Paula The Hoar Family Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography. Unitarian Universalist Historical Society. Retrieved January 30, 2007.
  34. ^ "The Alabama Claims". United States Department of State. n.d. Archived from the original on June 28, 2012. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  35. ^ Office of the State Historian (n.d.). "The Alabama Claims, 1862-1872". United States Department of State. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
  36. ^ Storey-Emerson, p. 32
  37. ^ Morch, Albert (February 15, 1971). "Albert Morch [Column]". San Francisco Examiner. p. 15 – via Newspapers.com.


Legal offices Preceded byBenjamin Thomas Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 1859–1869 Succeeded byMarcus Morton Preceded byWilliam Evarts United States Attorney General 1869–1870 Succeeded byAmos Akerman U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byConstantine Esty Member of the U.S. House of Representativesfrom Massachusetts's 7th congressional district 1873–1875 Succeeded byJohn Tarbox