Amos T. Akerman bigraphy, stories - United States Attorney General

Amos T. Akerman : biography

February 23, 1821 - December 21, 1880

Amos Tappan Akerman (February 23, 1821 – December 21, 1880) served as United States Attorney General under President Ulysses S. Grant from 1870 to 1871. A native of New Hampshire, Akerman graduated from Dartmouth College in 1842. Upon graduation Akerman worked with young boys as Headmaster in North Carolina and as a tutor in Georgia. Having become interested in law Akerman studied and passed the bar in Georgia in 1850; where he and an associate practiced law. In a dual role as an attorney and a farmer making a living; Akerman owned eleven slaves. When the Civil War started in 1861, Akerman joined the Confederate Army and achieved the rank of Colonel.

After the Civil War ended in 1865, Akerman joined the Republican Party during Reconstruction and became an outspoken attorney advocate for African American civil rights in Georgia. Akerman, upon President Grant's appointment as his U.S. Attorney General, vigorously prosecuted the Klan in the South under the Enforcement Acts. Akerman was assisted by Sol. Gen. Benjamin Bristow in the newly established U.S. Department of Justice. Att. Gen. Akerman decided important land grant cases that concerned railroads in a rapidly expanding West. Akerman also ruled on the United States first federal Civil Service Reform law implemented by President Grant and the U.S. Congress. After he resigned office, Akerman continued in his thriving law practice in Georgia and was highly popular in the state.

Return to Georgia and death

Although he was offered another government job, he returned to Georgia, where he continued to practice law until his death in Cartersville, on December 21, 1880.

Headmaster, farmer, and law practice

John M. Berrien Upon graduation, Akerman moved south and got a job as a headmaster instructor of a boy’s academy in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, at that time part of Richmond county. Akerman was known as a strict teacher. In 1846, Akerman was hired as a tutor for John M. Berrien's, children in Savannah, Georgia. Berrien had been President Andrew Jackson's Attorney General and was a prominent Whig.Brown (1997), Amos T. Akerman 1821-1880 Akerman took advantage of Berrien's extensive law library and became fascinated with the field. Akerman passed the Georgia Bar in 1850, moved to Peoria, Illinois where his sister resided, and briefly practiced law. Akerman returned to Georgia and practiced law in Clarksville. Eventually, Akerman opened a law practice in Elberton, Georgia with Robert Heston. In addition to practicing law, Akerman also started a farm and owned eleven slaves. In terms of politics Akerman was a Whig.


Days before he entered active Confederate Army service in 1864 during the Civil War, Akerman married Martha Rebecca Galloway. The couple had eight children; one child had died. His son was Alexander Akerman.

U.S. Attorney General

President [[Ulysses S. GrantBrady 1869]] On June 23, 1870, he was appointed as Attorney General by President Ulysses S. Grant. Interestingly, Akerman was the “only person from the Confederacy to reach cabinet rank during Reconstruction.” Having become attorney general shortly after the creation of the new Justice Department, Akerman dealt with legal issues from the Department of the Interior, such as the question of whether competing railroad companies deserved more land in the West in return for expanding the country’s transportation system. He also dealt with the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal and led massive campaigns against the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), whose violence he had experienced first-hand. Akerman resigned in 1871 because of the beginning of corruption that plagued Grant's administration. His opposition to the Klan and unpartisaned interpretation of the United States Constitution, such as in the case of the railroad magnates, led advisors to pressure President Grant into asking for Akerman's resignation.

Ruled against Union Pacific

On July 1, 1862 President Lincoln signed into law the Pacific Railroad Act that in addition to promoting the transcontinental railroad allowed the Union Pacific Railroad to make subsidiary railroad branch lines, including one through Kansas.Simon (1998), Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, Vol. 22, p. 188 One of these subsidiaries was financially unable to complete the railroad through Kansas, as a result, the Union Pacific applied for federal assistance in the form of land grants and bonds. On June 1, 1871 Att. Gen. Akerman denied land grants and bonds to the Union Pacific and upheld previous rulings against federal assistance. Company attorneys lobbied Akerman to change his mind, however, he refused to change his ruling. This upset Collis P. Huntington and Jay Gould, who were connected to the Union Pacific Railroad and demanded Akerman's removal from office.Foner (1988), Reconstruction: America's unfinished revolution, 1863-1877, p. 458

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