Smith, Caleb B.

Born: 1808-04-16 Boston, Massachusetts

Died: 1864-01-07 Indianapolis, Indiana

Smith moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, when he was six. He attended Miami University for two years before traveling to Connersville, Indiana, to study law under Oliver H. Smith, and earned admittance to the bar in 1828. Three years later, he married Elizabeth B. Walton, with whom he had three children. Smith gradually became involved in Whig politics - failing to secure a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives in 1831 and editing the Whig-leaning Indiana Sentinel. In 1833, he reversed his previous political fortunes and won election as a state representative - serving in that capacity, with a few gaps, until 1841, and serving as speaker of the house. He unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1841 but secured a seat in 1843, which he held until 1849. During that time, Smith served alongside Abraham Lincoln and, like many Whigs, voiced opposition to the Mexican War. Smith supported Zachary Taylor's 1848 presidential campaign, hoping to secure a cabinet position, but instead earned appointment to a board of commissioners investigating claims of American citizens against Mexico. He returned to Cincinnati in 1851 to practice law and subsequently served as president of the Cincinnati and Chicago Railroad. In 1859, he moved to Indianapolis to resume his legal career. By that time he had joined the Republican Party and was one of Indiana's delegates to the 1860 party convention, where he supported Lincoln's presidential nomination. After Lincoln won the presidency, he appointed Smith secretary of the interior. Smith found running the Department of the Interior frustrating and spent most of his energy supporting the administration's efforts to colonize free blacks in Central America. He resigned his position at the end of 1862 and Lincoln appointed him federal judge for the Indiana District. He died in his Indianapolis office after serving in the position for about a year.

Sylvia B. Larson, "Smith, Caleb Blood," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 20:143-45.