James M. Birney

James M. Birney
U.S. Minister to the Netherlands
In office
Preceded by Charles T. Gorham
Succeeded by William Lewis Dayton, Jr.
13th Lieutenant Governor of Michigan
In office
January 2, 1861  April 3, 1861
Governor Austin Blair
Preceded by Edmund Burke Fairfield
Succeeded by Joseph R. Williams
Member of the Michigan Senate
In office
Personal details
Born (1817-06-17)June 17, 1817
Danville, Kentucky
Died May 8, 1888(1888-05-08) (aged 70)
Bay City, Michigan
Resting place Pine Ridge Cemetery, Bay City, Michigan
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Amanda S. Moulton
Children James G. Birney, Arthur Moulton Birney, Sophia Hull Birney, Alice Birney
Parents James Gillespie Birney
Agatha (McDowell) Birney
Alma mater Centre College
Miami University
Yale College
Profession Lawyer
Newspaper Publisher

James M. Birney (June 17, 1817 – May 8, 1888) was an American lawyer, newspaper publisher and politician from the U.S. state of Michigan. He served as the 13th Lieutenant Governor of Michigan and as the U.S. Minister to the Netherlands.

Early life

Birney was born in Danville, Kentucky, the eldest son of Agatha (McDowell) and James Gillespie Birney, who was a presidential candidate for the Liberty Party in the 1840 and 1844 elections. He spent his early years in Alabama and Kentucky. He was educated at Centre College in Danville and in 1836 graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.[1] For the next two years, he was employed by the university as a professor of the Greek and Latin languages. After this, he studied law at Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut.

Completing his studies, Birney moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and began the practice of law until 1856, when he succeeded to his father's business interests in the Saginaw Valley of Michigan, where his father had made large investments in what has become Bay City. He moved there with in the summer of 1857. One of Birney's most notable early acts of public service was procuring the passage in 1857 of an act in the state legislature changing the name of "Lower Saginaw" to Bay City. In 1856, Birney had the distinction of editing the city's first newspaper, the Bay City Press, which lasted for only a few weeks.

Political career

In 1858, Birney was nominated as a Republican candidate for the Michigan Senate. At the time the senate district was regarded as a stronghold of the Democratic Party, thus it was seen as a significant achievement that Birney garnered all of the votes in the district within Bay County except for five. He served a single term in the Senate representing the Saginaw district. While in the Senate, he was chairman of the committee on public instruction and a member of the judiciary committee.

In 1860, he was nominated by the state Republican convention as the candidate for Lieutenant Governor with Austin Blair as candidate for Governor. Birney was elected to office by a majority of over 20,000 votes. While serving as Lieutenant Governor, a vacancy occurred in Michigan's 10th circuit court, and the governor offered the position to him. Birney resigned as Lieutenant Governor April 3, 1861 to accept the judicial appointment and served in that position for four years.[2] He lost in the next judicial election and was succeeded by Jabez G. Sutherland.

After leaving the bench, Birney established the Bay City Chronicle in 1871 as a weekly Republican paper and in June 1873 began publishing the Morning Chronicle. He was also a delegate to Republican National Convention from Michigan in 1872.[3]

In 1872, Governor Henry P. Baldwin nominated Birney to U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant as Centennial Commissioner for Michigan to celebrate the Hundredth Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1876. He was unable to serve in this capacity, however, as he was appointed on December 17, 1875 as U.S. Minister to the Netherlands. He departed for The Hague in 1876 and served until 1882.[4]

Birney died on May 8, 1888 in Bay City, Michigan. He is interred in Pine Ridge Cemetery in Bay City.[5]

Personal life

While in New Haven studying at Yale College, Birney married Amanda Moulton on June 1, 1841. His wife was the stepdaughter of Nathaniel Bacon, Esquire of New Haven. Birney and his wife had five children: James G. Birney, Arthur Moulton Birney, Sophia Hull Birney, Alice Birney and one child that died in infancy. The eldest, James G. Birney, distinguished himself as Captain in the 7th Regiment of Michigan Volunteers and died while an officer of the U.S. regular army.


  1. "James Birney III (1817-1888)". Bay-Journal. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  2. "James Birney (1817-1888)". Bay-Journal. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  3. Blume, Kenneth J. (2010). The A to Z of U.S. Diplomacy from the Civil War to World War I. Scarecrow Press. p. 54. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  4. Blume, Kenneth J. (2010). The A to Z of U.S. Diplomacy from the Civil War to World War I. Scarecrow Press. p. 54. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  5. "James Birney III (1817-1888)". Bay-Journal. Retrieved June 5, 2014.

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Edmund B. Fairfield
Lieutenant Governor of Michigan
January 2 - April 3, 1861
Succeeded by
Joseph R. Williams
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Charles T. Gorham
U.S. Minister to the Netherlands
Succeeded by
William Lewis Dayton, Jr.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/15/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.