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Cushing, Caleb

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Significance: Cushing's changing political party affiliations, which he said were the result of his allegiance to the Union, probably cost him a position on the Supreme Court.


Cushing was an accomplished statesman, lawyer, and diplomat who nevertheless requested to have his nomination to the Supreme Court withdrawn when it became clear that the Senate would not confirm him. President Ulysses S. Grant nominated Cushing on January 9, 1874, but objections soon arose about Cushing's age he was soon to be seventy-four and political record, especially regarding his switch from the Whig to the Democratic to the Republican parties. Cushing defended his changing affiliations as being the result of his staunch devotion to the Union, rather than being for or against slavery, but his detractors accused him of being a political chameleon. Before being nominated by President Grant, Cushing served President John Tyler as a diplomat to China and served as attorney general under President Franklin Pierce, significantly expanding the role of the office during his tenure. After the failed nomination, Cushing served as ambassador to Spain from 1874 to 1877.