Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HARRIS, Ira, jurist, born in Charleston, Montgomery County, New York, 31 May, 1802; died in Albany, New York, 2 December, 1875. He was brought up on a farm, was graduated at Union college in 1824, studied law in Albany, and was admitted to the bar in 1828. During the succeeding seventeen years he attained a high rank in his profession. He was a member of the assembly in 1844 and 1845, having been chosen as a Whig, and in 1846 was state senator and a delegate to the Constitutional convention. In 1848 he became judge of the supreme court, and held that office for twelve years. In February, 1861, Judge Harris was elected United States senator from New York, as a Republican, serving from 4 July, 1861, to 3 March, 1867. In the senate Mr. Harris served on the committee on foreign relations and judiciary, and the select joint committee on the southern states. Although he supported the administration in the main. he did not fear to express his opposition to all measures, however popular at the time, that did not appear to him either wise or just. Judge Harris was for more than twenty years professor of equity, jurisprudence, and practice in the Albany law school, and during his senatorial term delivered a course of lectures at the law school of Columbian university, Washington, D. C. He was for many years president of the board of trustees of Union college, was one of the founders of Rochester university, of which he was the chancellor, and was president of the American Baptist missionary union and other religious bodies.--His brother, Hamilton, lawyer, born in Preble, Cortland County, New York, 1 May, 1820, was graduated at Union college in 1841, admitted to the Albany bar in 1845, and was soon distinguished as a successful advocate. He was elected to the legislature in 1850, and was a member of the Whig joint legislative committee of six that was appointed to frame the platform, and call state conventions, of what has since become the Republican party. He was district attorney in 1853, a member of the Republican state committee in 1863, and from 1864 till 1870 its chairman. In 1868 he was a delegate to the Republican national convention at Chicago, also chairman of the new capitol commission from 1866 till his resignation in 1875, serving in the state senate from that date until 1879, when he refused to accept a renomination. In 1876 he was nominated by the Republican party for congress, but was defeated, and continued his seat in the state senate. Since 1879 he has withdrawn from public life and devoted himself to the practice of his profession. His private library, consisting of 3,500 volumes, many of which are biographical works, is one of the most carefully selected in the state of New York.
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