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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FISH, Nicholas, soldier, born in New York City, 28 August 1758 ; died there, 20 June 1833. He entered the College of New Jersey at the age of sixteen, but soon left and began the study of law in the office of John Morro Scott. in the spring of 1776 he was appointed aide-de-camp to General Scott; on 21 June of that year, major of brigade under the same officer; on 21 November major of the 2d New York regiment, and at the ease of the war was a lieutenant colonel, He was in both brittles of Saratoga, in 1778 was a division inspector under Steuben, commanded a body of light infantry at the battle of Monmouth, served in Sullivan's expedition against the Indians in 1779 was attached to the light infantry under Lafayette in 1'780, mid in 1781 took an active part with his regiment in the operations that resulted in the surrender of Cornwallis. He was major of the detachment under Hamilton, which gallantly stormed a British redoubt at Yorktown.
Colonel Fish was an excellent disciplinarian, was an intimate friend of Alexander Hamilton, and possessed in a high degree the confidence of Washington. He was appointed adjutant general of the state of New York in April 1786, an office that he held many years. He was a supervisor of the revenue under Washington in 1794, and an alderman of New York City from 1806 to 1817. He married Miss Stuyvesant, a descendant of the Dutch colonial governor of New Amsterdam. Colonel Fish was an active member of many of the benevolent, literary, and religious institutions of his native City, and became president of the New York society of the Cincinnati in 1797.
His son, Hamilton Fish, statesman, born in New York City, 3 August 1808, was graduated at Columbia in 1827, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1830. He was for several years a commissioner of deeds. In politics he was a Whig, and was the defeated candidate of that party for the state assembly in 1834. In 1842 he was elected a representative in congress from the sixth district of New York over John McKeon, the Democratic candidate, and served one term. In 1846 he was a candidate for lieutenant governor. The Whig candidate for governor, John Young, was elected, but Mr. Fish, who had incurred the hostility of the anti-renters by his warm denunciation of their principles, was defeated. His successful competitor, Addison Gardiner, a Democrat who had received the support of the anti-renters, resigned the office in 1847 on becoming a judge of the court of appeals, and Mr. Fish was elected in his place.
In 1848 he was chosen governor by about 30,000 majority, the opposing candidates being John A. Dix and Reuben H. Walworth. In 1851 he was elected U. S. senator in place of Daniel S. Dickinson. In the senate he opposed the repeal of the Missouri compromise, and acted with the Republican Party from its formation to the end of his term, though he was not especially prominent in the party. When his senatorial term expired in 1857 he went to Europe with his family, and remained till shortly before the beginning of the civil war. On his return he took an active part in the campaign that resulted in the election of Abraham Lincoln. In January 1862, in conjunction with Bishop Ames, he was appointed by See. Stanton a commissioner to visit the U. S. soldiers imprisoned at Richmond and elsewhere, " to relieve their necessities and provide for their comfort." The Confederate government declined to admit the commissioners within their lines, but intimated a readiness to negotiate for a general exchange of prisoners. The result was an agreement for an equal exchange, which was carried out substantially to the end of the war.
In 1868 he aided in the election of General Grant, was appointed secretary of state by him in March 1869, and was reappointed at the beginning of his second term in March 1873, serving from 11 March 1869, to 12 March 18'77. He introduced a system of examinations of applicants for consulates, to test their knowledge of subjects connected with their duties, On 9 February 1871, the president appointed him one of the commissioners on the part of the United States to negotiate the treaty of Washington, which was signed by him on 8 May of that year° He effected a settlement of the longstanding northwestern boundary dispute, giving the Island of San Juan to the United States, and successfully resisted an effort by Great Britain to change the terms of the extradition treaty by municipal legislation. In the settlement of the Alabama question he procured the acceptance of a doctrine by the Geneva tribunal, securing the United States against claims for indirect damages arising out of Fenian raids, or Cuban filibustering expeditions. In November 1873, he negotiated with Admiral Polo, Spanish minister at Washington, the settlement of the "Virginius" question. He was for some years president of the New York historical society, and was president general of the New York society of the Cincinnati.
Hamilton's son, Nicholas Fish, born in New York City, 17 February 1846, was graduated at Columbia in 1867, and at Harvard Law School in 1869. I[e was appointed assistant secretary of the United States legation at Berlin on 1 July 1871, and became secretary of the legation in July 1874. He was afterward appointed minister to Switzerland and Belgium.
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