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Amos T. Akerman

Amos Tappan Akerman
31st United States Attorney General
In office
November 23, 1870 – December 13, 1871
President Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by Ebenezer R. Hoar
Succeeded by George H. Williams
Personal details
Born (1821-02-23)February 23, 1821
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, U.S.
Died December 21, 1880(1880-12-21) (aged 59)
Political party Whig; Republican
Spouse(s) Martha Rebecca Galloway Akerman
Alma mater Dartmouth College
Profession Lawyer, Politician
Religion Presbyterian
Military service
Allegiance  Confederate States of America
Service/branch  Confederate States Army
Battles/wars American Civil War

Amos Tappan Akerman (February 23, 1821 – December 21, 1880) served as 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 Benjamin Bristow in the newly established 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.


  • Early years 1
  • Headmaster, farmer, and law practice 2
  • Civil War 3
  • Reconstruction 4
  • U.S. Presidential election 1868 5
  • U.S. Attorney Georgia 1869 6
    • White vs. Clement 6.1
  • U.S. Attorney General 7
    • Ruled against Union Pacific 7.1
    • Ruled on Civil Service Law 7.2
    • Prosecuted Klan 7.3
    • Resignation controversy 7.4
  • Return to Georgia and death 8
  • Family 9
  • References 10
  • Sources 11

Early years

Akerman was born on February 23, 1821, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as the ninth of Benjamin Akerman's twelve children.[1] He attended Phillips Exeter Academy high school, and then attended Dartmouth College located in Hanover, graduating as a member of the class of 1842 with Phi Beta Kappa honors.[1]

Headmaster, farmer, and law practice

John M. Berrien

Upon graduation, a lung condition forced Akerman to move south. Akerman quickly got a job as a headmaster instructor of a boy's academy in

Legal offices
Preceded by
Ebenezer R. Hoar
U.S. Attorney General
Served under: Ulysses S. Grant

November 23, 1870 – December 13, 1871
Succeeded by
George H. Williams
  • Jean Edward Smith, Grant, 2001, New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-84927-5
  • Government Printing Office biography
  • William S. McFeely, Grant: A Biography (1997) ISBN 978-0945707158
  • William S. McFeely, "Amos T. Akerman: The Lawyer and Racial Justice", in Region, Race, and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward, ed. J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson (1982) ISBN 978-0195030754
  • Trelease, Allen W. "Akerman, Amos Tappan" in American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
  • Trelease, Allen W. White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction (1971) ISBN 978-0061317316


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Parker (9/12/2002), Amos T. Akerman (1821–1880), viewed on 1-15-2015
  2. ^ a b c d e Brown (1997), Amos T. Akerman 1821–1880
  3. ^ a b Richard Zuczek (2006). Encyclopedia of the Reconstruction. Greenwood Milestones in African American History. Greenwood. p. 28.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Able Letter from Honorable Amos T. Akerman of Georgia". The New York Times. September 12, 1868. p. 1. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Davis (June 1869), Can a Negro hold office in Georgia?, pp. 4–7.
  6. ^ a b c Davis (June 1869),Can a Negro hold office in Georgia?, pp. 103–112.
  7. ^ a b c d Davis (June 1869), Can a Negro hold office in Georgia?, pp. 65–79.
  8. ^ a b c John Y. Simon (1998). Papers of Ulysses S. Grant. Papers of Ulysses S. Grant 22. Southern Illinois University Press. p. 188.  
  9. ^ a b c Eric Foner (1988). Reconstruction: America's unfinished revolution, 1863–1877. HarperCollins. p. 458.  
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "The Civil Service; Opinion of Attorney-General Akerman on the Civil Service Commission". The New York Times. September 8, 1871. p. 5. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f McFeely (1981), pp. 367–373.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Smith (2001), pp. 544–547
  13. ^ a b c d e f g McFeely (1981), pp. 373–374
  14. ^ McFeely (1981), pp. 369–370, 373.
  15. ^ McFeely (1981), p. 369.


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.[1] His son was Alexander Akerman.[1]


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.

Return to Georgia and death

[15] Akerman supported Grant's renomination in 1872 and believed that Grant would continue to enforce anti-terrorist laws.[13], with Akerman's resignation "went any hope that the Republican party would develop as a national party of true racial equality".William S. McFeely According to historian [13] After Akerman resigned he did not have any hard feelings towards President Grant.[9] Rumor was that Presidient Grant was pressured by Secretary of Interior [13][9] During December, while Akerman was busy prosecuting the Klan he was unexpectedly asked to resign by President Grant.

Resignation controversy

[12] The result of Akerman and Bristows prosecutions and President Grant's willingness to enforce the law to stop the Klan, led to massive African American voting turnouts in 1872.[12] Sixty-five percent of the Klansmen convicted were put in federal prison for five years.[12] With the assistance of Sol. Gen. Benjamin Bristow there were 3000 indictments of Klansmen throughout the South, and there were 600 convictions.[12][11] in nine South Carolina counties on October 17, 1871 Akerman, who was in the state, personally led U.S. Marshals and the U.S. Army into the country side and made hundreds of arrests, while 2000 Klansmen fled the state.habeas corpus After Grant had suspended [12] Akerman and Bristow acted quickly and efficiently.[11], passed by Congress and signed into law by President Grant on April 20, 1871.Ku Klux Klan Act Akerman also had the legal authority to prosecute under the [1] Having lived in Georgia, Att. Gen. Akerman was well aware of the widespread violent tactics known as "outrages" of the

Ku Klux Klan was prosecuted by U.S. Att. Gen. Amos T. Akerman. Three Mississippi Klan members arrested in September, 1871.

Prosecuted Klan

On September 7, 1871 Att. Gen. Akerman ruled on the newly formed Civil Service Commission passed by Congress on March 3, 1871 and signed into law by President Grant on March 4.[10] In the United States first ever Civil Service Reform legislation a commission was set up to establish rules, testing, and regulations, authorized by the President, for the best possible candidates to be appointed civil service positions.[10] The funding for the Commission only lasted for one year until June 30, 1872.[10] Akerman ruled that the Commission, run by a chairman appointed by the President, was legal, since Congress and the President had every right in their constitutional power to put in the best candidates to serve in the United States Government.[10] Akerman believed this was the original intent of the framers of the U.S. Constitution.[10] Akerman, however, ruled that the Commission did not constitutionally have the power to forbid an appointment; only to aid the President and Congress to put in the best person qualified for the job.[10] Akerman also ruled that the competitive testing need not be overly restrictive as to take away the appointment powers given to the President and Congress under the U.S. Constitution.[10]

Ruled on Civil Service Law

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.[8] 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.[8] On June 1, 1871, Attorney General Akerman denied land grants and bonds to the Union Pacific and upheld previous rulings against federal assistance.[8] 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.[9]

Ruled against Union Pacific

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 nonpartisan 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.

President Ulysses S. Grant
Brady 1869

U.S. Attorney General

In June 1869, Akerman argued in defense of Richard W. White, a mulatto who had won the state election for Superior Court county clerk.[5] White's opponent, William James Clement, represented by Sol. Gen. Alfred B. Smith of the Eastern Georgia Circuit court, stated White was ineligible to hold office since White was a black man.[5] A lower court had ruled that if the Clement could prove White was a black man, he could not hold office.[6] The case went to the Georgia's Supreme Court where Akerman defended White's election and his color did not deny him the right to hold office.[6] Akerman argued that the old laws originating from slavery in the South did not apply anymore since the Reconstruction Act of 1867 stated that Georgia had no civilian government.[7] Akerman argued that since blacks had a right to vote in Georgia, that they had the right to hold public office.[7] Akerman argued that blacks had participated in the Georgia's new constitutional government in 1868 without distinction of color.[7] Akerman argued that both President Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant had appointed black men to public office and that the current U.S. Constitution did not recognize a person's color.[7] The Supreme Court reversed the lower courts decision and stated that White had the right to hold public office regardless of his race.[6]

White vs. Clement

In 1869 President Grant appointed Akerman as U.S. Attorney in Georgia. President Grant, initially, attempted to protect African American voters by the use of State courts.

U.S. Attorney Georgia 1869

[4] Akerman admitted he was initially strongly opposed to blacks voting, however, his opinion changed as he viewed the only way blacks could gain protection was through suffrage.[4] Akerman believed that freedmen deserved federal protection from the law and that he endorsed their enfranchisement at the ballot.[4]'s Reconstruction plan.Andrew Johnson Akerman believed that Congressional Reconstruction had been the better plan for the Southern states, opposed to President [4] Akerman wrote that violence in the South against blacks was motivated by revenge after being defeated by the North, slaves having been taken away, and were dissenfranchised politically.[4] Akerman believed Grant would respect the "rights of the laborer as a freeman, citizen and voter".[4] Akerman believed Grant would restore order and peace to the violence-plagued South.[4] During the 1868 Presidential election there was concern that Akerman supported presidential candidate

U.S. Presidential election 1868 Akerman joined the


[3] Although he was against

Civil War

[2] In terms of politics Akerman was a Whig.[2] In addition to practicing law, Akerman also started a farm and owned eleven slaves.[1]

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