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Ira Harris

Ira Harris

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Ira Harris was an American jurist and senator from New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. He was also a friend of Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

's.

Life


Harris grew up on a farm, and graduated from Union College
Union College
Union College is a private, non-denominational liberal arts college located in Schenectady, New York, United States. Founded in 1795, it was the first institution of higher learning chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. In the 19th century, it became the "Mother of Fraternities", as...

 in 1824. Then he studied law in Albany
Albany, New York
Albany is the capital city of the U.S. state of New York, the seat of Albany County, and the central city of New York's Capital District. Roughly north of New York City, Albany sits on the west bank of the Hudson River, about south of its confluence with the Mohawk River...

, and in 1828 was admitted to the bar.

He was a Whig member from Albany County
Albany County, New York
Albany County is a county located in the U.S. state of New York, and is part of the Albany-Schenectady-Troy Metropolitan Statistical Area. The name is from the title of the Duke of York and Albany, who became James II of England . As of the 2010 census, the population was 304,204...

 of the New York State Assembly
New York State Assembly
The New York State Assembly is the lower house of the New York State Legislature. The Assembly is composed of 150 members representing an equal number of districts, with each district having an average population of 128,652...

 in 1845 and 1846. He was a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1846. He was a member of the New York State Senate
New York State Senate
The New York State Senate is one of two houses in the New York State Legislature and has members each elected to two-year terms. There are no limits on the number of terms one may serve...

 (3rd District) in 1847.

He was a justice of the New York Supreme Court
New York Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of the State of New York is the trial-level court of general jurisdiction in thestate court system of New York, United States. There is a supreme court in each of New York State's 62 counties, although some smaller counties share judges with neighboring counties...

 (3rd District) from 1847 to 1859, and was ex officio a judge of the New York Court of Appeals
New York Court of Appeals
The New York Court of Appeals is the highest court in the U.S. state of New York. The Court of Appeals consists of seven judges: the Chief Judge and six associate judges who are appointed by the Governor to 14-year terms...

 in 1850 and 1858.

U.S. Senate


In February 1861
United States Senate election in New York, 1861
The 1861 United States Senate election in New York was held on February 5, 1861, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.-Background:Whig William H...

, Harris was elected a U.S. Senator from New York to succeed William H. Seward
William H. Seward
William Henry Seward, Sr. was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

 who did not seek re-election, but would be appointed U.S. Secretary of State by Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

. In the U.S. Senate, Harris served on the Committees on Foreign Relations, and the Judiciary, and the Select Joint Committee on the Southern States. Although he supported the administration in the main, he did not fear to express his opposition to all measures, however popular at the time, that did not appear to him either wise or just. He visited Lincoln at the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 often and grew a friendship with him. He was also a good friend of his predecessor in the senate William H. Seward
William H. Seward
William Henry Seward, Sr. was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

.

His son William Harris was a colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 in the Army Ordnance Department. His daughter Clara Harris
Clara Harris
Clara Harris was an American socialite.-Biography:Clara Harris was the daughter of U.S. Senator Ira Harris of New York....

 and his stepson/future son-in-law Henry Rathbone
Henry Rathbone
Henry Reed Rathbone was a United States military officer and diplomat who was present at the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Rathbone was sitting with his fiancée, Clara Harris, next to the President and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, when John Wilkes Booth entered the president's box at...

 were the Lincolns' guests at Ford's Theatre
Ford's Theatre
Ford's Theatre is a historic theater in Washington, D.C., used for various stage performances beginning in the 1860s. It is also the site of the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865...

 on April 14, 1865, when the president was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth was an American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. Booth was a member of the prominent 19th century Booth theatrical family from Maryland and, by the 1860s, was a well-known actor...

. Booth stabbed Rathbone in the arm when he tried to stop the assassin from escaping. Clara and Henry were married in 1867, but were also step siblings, Harris having remarried to Pauline Rathbone, Henry's mother.

Judge Harris was for more than twenty years a professor of equity, jurisprudence and practice in the Albany Law School
Albany Law School
Albany Law School is an ABA accredited law school based in Albany, New York. It was founded in 1851 by Amos Dean , Amasa Parker, Ira Harris and others....

 and during his senatorial term delivered a course of lectures at the law school of Columbian University (now George Washington University)
George Washington University
The George Washington University is a private, coeducational comprehensive university located in Washington, D.C. in the United States...

, Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

. In the Senate, he also served on the Joint Committee on Reconstruction
United States Congress Joint Committee on Reconstruction
The Joint Committee on Reconstruction, also known as the Joint Committee of Fifteen, was a joint committee of the United States Congress that played a major role in Reconstruction in the wake of the American Civil War...

 which drafted the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

.

Harris was buried at the Albany Rural Cemetery
Albany Rural Cemetery
The Albany Rural Cemetery was established October 7, 1844, in Menands, New York, just outside of the city of Albany, New York. It is renowned as one of the most beautiful, pastoral cemeteries in the United States, at over . Many historical American figures are buried there.-History:On April 2,...

 with his first wife Clarissa.

His grandson, Henry Riggs Rathbone
Henry Riggs Rathbone
Henry Riggs Rathbone was a congressman from Illinois, USA. During their engagement to be married, his future parents were present at Abraham Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865...

, was a congressman from Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

.

External links