Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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KNOTT, James Proctor, congressman, born near Lebanon, Marion County, Kentucky, 29 August, 1830. He studied in the neighboring schools and in Shelbyville, whither his father, Joseph Percy Knott, had moved. When he was sixteen years old he began to study law, and in May, 1850, went to Memphis, Scotland County, Maine, and was employed in the county-clerk's office until he was twenty-one, when he was licensed to practise. In 1858 he was elected to the legislature, and at once made chairman of the judiciary committee. During this session articles of impeachment were preferred against Judge Albert Jackson, and Mr. Knott and Charles Hardin, afterward governor of Missouri, were chosen as managers. Pending the trial, which was held in June, 1859, a vacancy occurred in the office of attorney-general, and Mr. Knott was appointed to fill it at the unanimous request of the senate and the governor's cabinet. In 1860 he was elected to the same office by a flattering majority. At the beginning of the civil war Mr. Knott was arrested by General Nathaniel Lyon, and, refusing to take an oath that he regarded as too stringent, was sent as a prisoner to the St. Louis arsenal, but after a time released, remaining under surveillance until March, 1862. In 1861, as he refused to take the test-oath that was prescribed for officials, his office was de-elated vacant, and he was disbarred from practice. In 1862 he removed to Lebanon, Kentucky, where he practised law, and in 1866 was elected to congress. He was not at first allowed to take his seat, but was finally admitted. His first, speech was on the admission of John Young Brown to a seat, and was directed against the constitutionality of the test-oath, its applicability to members of congress, and its retrospective operation. He was re-elected in 1868, and served on the committee on the District of Columbia and the committee on private land claims. In his speech against the bill for the improvement of Pennsylvania avenue he obtained a hearing by giving a humorous turn to the debate, and the bill was laughed out of congress. It was toward the end of the same congress that he made his "Duluth" speech, which gave him a reputation as a humorist. Mr. Knott was not in the 42d and 43d congresses, but after a vigorous canvass he was elected, and served from 1875 till 1883. He was appointed by Speaker Kerr chairman of the judiciary committee, and in the second session he also became chairman of the special committee on the powers and privileges of the house in reference to counting the votes for president. In the 45th congress he was reappointed by Speaker Randall as chairman of the committee on the judiciary, and again in the 46th and 47th congresses. In 1882 Mr. Knott declined a renomination, and in 1883 was elected governor of Kentucky.
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