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History and GovernmentCongressional BiographiesIllinois / Minnesota / Missouri

James SHIELDS

(1806/1810-1879)
Senate Years of Service:
1849-1855; 1858-1859; 1879-1879
Party:
Democrat; Democrat; Democrat

SHIELDS, James, (nephew of James Shields [1762-1831]), a Senator from Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri; born in Altmore, County Tyrone, Ireland, in either 1806 or 1810; attended a hedge school, private schools, and pursued classical studies; immigrated to the United States about 1826; studied law; admitted to the bar in 1832 and commenced practice in Kaskaskia, Randolph County, Ill.; member, State house of representatives 1836; auditor of the State 1839; judge of the supreme court of Illinois 1843; Commissioner of the General Land Office 1845-1847; during the Mexican War was commissioned brigadier general of Volunteers in 1846, brevetted major general in 1847, and honorably discharged in 1848; appointed Governor of Oregon Territory by President James Polk in 1848 and resigned in 1849; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate from Illinois for the term commencing March 4, 1849; upon his appearance to take his seat on March 5, 1849, a resolution was presented raising the question of his eligibility; took his seat on March 6, 1849, but on March 15, 1849, the Senate declared his election void on the ground that he had not been a citizen of the United States the number of years required by the Constitution; immediately elected for the same term and served from October 27, 1849, to March 3, 1855, taking oath of office on December 3, 1849; unsuccessful candidate for reelection; chairman, Committee on the District of Columbia (Thirty-second and Thirty-third Congresses), Committee on Military Affairs (Thirty-second and Thirty-third Congresses); moved to Minnesota in 1855; upon the admission of Minnesota as a State into the Union was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate and served from May 11, 1858, to March 3, 1859; unsuccessful candidate for reelection; chairman, Committee on Revolutionary Claims (Thirty-fifth Congress); moved to California; during the Civil War served in the Union Army as brigadier general of volunteers from 1861 to 1863, when he resigned and returned to California; moved to Carrollton, Mo., and resumed the practice of law; member, State house of representatives 1874, 1879; served as railroad commissioner; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate from Missouri on January 22, 1879, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Lewis V. Bogy and served from January 27, 1879, to March 3, 1879; declined to be a candidate for renomination; died in Ottumwa, Wapello County, Iowa, June 1, 1879; interment in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Carrollton, Carroll County, Mo.

Bibliography

Dictionary of American Biography; Condon, William. Life of Major General James Shields. Chicago: Press of Blakely Printing Co., 1900; Curran, Judith. “The Career of James Shields, an Immigrant Irishman in Nineteenth Century America.” Ed.D. dissertation, Columbia University Teachers College, 1980.

Source: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1771-Present

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