Rush, Richard

Born: 1780-08-29 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Died: 1859-07-30 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Flourished: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Born during the Revolutionary War, Richard Rush was the son of famed physician and Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Rush. At thirteen years of age, Rush attended the College of New Jersey (Princeton), graduating four years later in 1797. He then focused on law and was admitted to the bar in 1800. Rush quickly became a well-known and successful lawyer and politician. At his death in 1859, one notice declared, “He was a diplomat and statesman, a jurist, a scholar, and a writer; and he was of first class in every one of these pursuits.”

In 1811, Rush became attorney general of Pennsylvania, and within three more years he was the eighth and youngest U.S. attorney general under President James Madison. He expanded his resume in 1817 as a minister to England under President James Monroe, a post that ended in 1825 when he was recalled to be secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury under President John Quincy Adams. Adams also chose Rush to be his running mate as vice president. Rush was instrumental in the founding of the Smithsonian Institution as the agent appointed by the United States in 1836 to secure the bequest of founder James Smithson. Rush became minister to France under President James K. Polk in 1847, serving until 1851. Following his return to the United States, Rush became a private citizen and focused on literary pursuits, including a book about George Washington’s personal life and his own experiences in Washington, DC.

Richard Rush married Catharine E. Murray in 1809. At his death, Rush had four sons and three daughters.

“Attorney General: Richard Rush,” The United States Department of Justice,, accessed 5 May 2023; Bernard S. Katz, C. Daniel Vencill, eds., Biographical Dictionary of the United States Secretaries of the Treasury 1789-1995 (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996), 303, 309; Cyrus Adler, “The Relation of Richard Rush to the Smithsonian Institution,” Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 52, part 2, no. 1821 (January 1909), 235, 237; Maryland, U.S., Compiled Marriages, 1655-1850, 28 August 1809, Anne Arundel (Lehi, UT: Operations, 2004); Washington, D.C., U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1737-1952, 18 October 1859 (Lehi, UT: Operations, 2015); Gravestone, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA.