Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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PEARCE, James Alfred, senator, born in Alexandria, Virginia, 14 December, 1805; died in Chestertown, Maryland, 20 December, 1862. He was graduated at Princeton in 1822, studied law in Baltimore, and was admitted to the bar in 1824, after which he began to practise at Cambridge, Maryland At the end of a year he went to Louisiana with his father and engaged in sugar-planting for three years. He then returned to Maryland and settled in Kent county, where he resumed the practice of his profession. He was elected to the Maryland house of delegates in 1831, in 1835 to congress as a Democrat, and he served, except during one term in 1839-'41, until 1843, when he was chosen to the United States senate, where he remained until his death. During his long service in the senate he was especially interested in the library of Congress, the Smithsonian institution, and the coast survey. President Fillmore offered him a seat on the bench of the United States district court of Maryland, which he declined. During the same administration he was nominated and confirmed secretary of the interior, but this honor was also declined upon the ground that he could be of more use to his country in the senate. He took a deep interest in educational matters, and in 1832 was elected one of the visitors and governors of Washington college, in which institution he afterward lectured on law. Mr. Pearce was regarded as one of the wisest and safest members of the senate.
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