Lafayette S. Foster
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
March 7, 1865 – March 2, 1867
Preceded byDaniel Clark
Succeeded byBenjamin Wade
United States Senator
from Connecticut
In office
March 4, 1855 – March 3, 1867
Preceded byFrancis Gillette
Succeeded byOrris S. Ferry
Mayor of Norwich
In office
Preceded byWilliam Alfred Buckingham
Succeeded byWilliam Alfred Buckingham
Personal details
Lafayette Sabine Foster

(1806-11-22)November 22, 1806
Franklin, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedSeptember 19, 1880(1880-09-19) (aged 73)
Norwich, Connecticut, U.S.
Political partyWhig (Before 1854)
Opposition (1854–1860)
Republican (1860–1866)
Democratic (1866–1880)
SpouseJoanna Boylston Lanman
EducationBrown University (BA)

Lafayette Sabine Foster (November 22, 1806 – September 19, 1880) was an American politician and lawyer from Connecticut. He served in the United States Senate from 1855 to 1867 and was a judge on the Connecticut Supreme Court from 1870 to 1876.


Born in Franklin, Connecticut, Foster attended common schools as a child and graduated from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1828.[1] He taught school in Providence for some time and studied law back in Norwich, Connecticut. He took charge of an academy in Centerville, Maryland, where he was admitted to the Maryland bar in 1830, then returned to Norwich and was admitted to the federal bar in 1831.

Foster was editor of the Republican, a Whig newspaper out of Connecticut, and served in the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1839 to 1840, 1846 to 1848 and 1854, serving as Speaker of the House for three years. He was the Whig nominee for Governor of Connecticut in 1850 and 1851, but lost both elections. He served as mayor of Norwich, Connecticut, from 1851 to 1852 before being elected as an Oppositionist to the United States Senate in 1854, and reelected in 1860 as a Republican, serving from 1855 to 1867. There, he served as chairman of the Committee on Pensions from 1861 to 1867. His wife, Joanna Boylston Lanman, died on April 11, 1859.

Foster was elected President pro tempore of the Senate at the beginning of the 39th Congress in 1865, and held that title until the end of his term in 1867. Six weeks after he was elected, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Two of Booth's accomplices also intended to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson as well as Secretary of State William H. Seward. Seward's assassin, Lewis Powell, struck but failed to kill, whereas Johnson's assassin, George Atzerodt, never acted. With Johnson's accession to the presidency, Foster became first in the United States presidential line of succession. Had Atzerodt followed through and successfully assassinated Johnson, Foster would have become acting president (in accordance with Article II, section 1 of the United States Constitution).

In 1866 Foster was elected as a Companion of the Third Class (i.e. an honorary member) of the Pennsylvania Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States - a military society of officers who served in the Union armed forces during the American Civil War and their descendants.

Foster sought reelection to a third term in 1866, but was defeated by Orris S. Ferry; his Senate career ended on March 3, 1867. He became a professor of law at Yale College in 1869 and returned to the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1870. He was once again elected Speaker of the House, but resigned to take a seat on the Connecticut Supreme Court. He was a Democratic candidate for the United States House of Representatives in 1874, but was unsuccessful and resigned from the court in 1876, retiring from public life. During his retirement he helped tutor young lawyers like Charles W. Comstock. Foster died in Norwich, Connecticut, on September 19, 1880, and was interred there in Yantic Cemetery.[2]


  1. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Vol. II. James T. White & Company. 1921. p. 95. Retrieved May 3, 2021 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "Death of Lafayette S. Foster". The Boston Globe. Norwich, Connecticut. September 20, 1880. p. 4. Retrieved May 3, 2021 – via
Party political offices Preceded byJoseph Trumbull Whig nominee for Governor of Connecticut 1850, 1851 Succeeded byGreen Kendrick U.S. Senate Preceded byFrancis Gillette U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Connecticut 1855–1867 Served alongside: Isaac Toucey, James Dixon Succeeded byOrris S. Ferry Preceded byJohn Renshaw Thomson Chair of the Senate Pensions Committee 1861–1865 Succeeded byPeter G. Van Winkle Political offices Preceded byDaniel Clark President pro tempore of the United States Senate 1865–1867 Succeeded byBenjamin Wade

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress