Arnold, Isaac N.

Born: 1815-11-30 Hartwick, New York

Died: 1884-04-24 Chicago, Illinois

Arnold attended Hartwick Seminary and then taught school while he studied law. In 1835, he gained admission to the bar in New York and he practiced in Cooperstown until he moved to Chicago, in 1836. In 1837, he formed a law partnership with Mahlon D. Ogden. During his legal career, Arnold handled cases in the federal courts, in the county circuit courts in northern Illinois, and in the Illinois Supreme Court, where he faced Abraham Lincoln as opposing counsel twice. In 1837, he won election as Chicago's first city clerk. As a Democrat, he was a presidential elector for James K. Polk in 1844. He served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1842 to 1846 and from 1857 to 1858. Arnold joined the Republican Party in 1856 and won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1860, where he remained until 1865. While in Congress, Arnold pushed hard for confiscation and emancipation. In 1862, he introduced a bill establishing slavery as only a "sectional" institution, which was eventually passed but only applied to the territories. He was also the first to propose a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. This initial attempt failed but was later revived and passed as the Thirteenth Amendment. When Arnold lost his seat in 1865, Lincoln appointed him as an auditor for the Treasury Department.

James A. Rawley, "Arnold, Isaac Newton," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 1:636-37; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ward 9, Chicago, Cook County, IL, 57; Theodore Calvin Pease, "Arnold, Isaac Newton," Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1964), 1:368-69; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 109, 210, 212, 222. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.