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John Milton Niles

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Title: John Milton Niles  
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Subject: Perry Smith (politician), Thaddeus Betts, Nathan Smith (senator), Amos Kendall, Jabez W. Huntington
Collection: 1787 Births, 1856 Deaths, American Newspaper Editors, Connecticut Democratic-Republicans, Connecticut Democrats, Connecticut Free Soilers, Connecticut Jacksonians, Connecticut Lawyers, Connecticut Republicans, Democratic Party United States Senators, Democratic-Republican Party United States Senators, Members of the Connecticut House of Representatives, United States Postmasters General, United States Senators from Connecticut, Van Buren Administration Cabinet Members, Writers from Hartford, Connecticut
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John Milton Niles

John Milton Niles
United States Senator
In office
March 4, 1843 – March 4, 1849
Preceded by Perry Smith
Succeeded by Truman Smith
In office
December 14, 1835 – March 4, 1839
Preceded by Nathan Smith
Succeeded by Thaddeus Betts
9th United States Postmaster General
In office
May 19, 1840 – March 4, 1841
Preceded by Amos Kendall
Succeeded by Francis Granger
Personal details
Born (1787-08-20)August 20, 1787
Windsor, Connecticut, U.S.
Died May 31, 1856(1856-05-31) (aged 68)
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
Political party Democratic-Republican
Free Soil
Spouse(s) Sarah Robinson Niles (1824, her death)
Jane Pratt Niles
Profession Lawyer, editor, writer, politician

John Milton Niles (August 20, 1787 – May 31, 1856) was a lawyer, editor, author and politician from Connecticut, serving in the United States Senate and as United States Postmaster General 1840 to 1841.


  • Biography 1
  • Career 2
  • Death 3
  • Published works 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Born in Windsor, Connecticut, Niles received a common school education and studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1817 and practiced in Hartford, Connecticut. There, he also established a newspaper, the "Hartford Weekly Times", in 1817, where he worked as an editor as well as a contributor for over thirty years. He published two other papers, the Gazatteer of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and The Independent Whig.[1] He married Sarah Robinson on June 17, 1824. After her death on November 23, 1824, he married Jane Pratt on November 26, 1845.


Niles became active in Democratic Party politics and a supporter of states-rights doctrines. In 1820 he was appointed an associate judge in the Hartford County Court, but didn't start until 1821. He served until 1826 when he was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives. Unsuccessful for reelection, he continued practing law. In 1829 he was appointed Postmaster of Hartford, serving this position until 1836. He failed to be elected to an at-large Connecticut Representative seat.

After the demise of Whig senator Nathan Smith, Niles was elected as a class one senator to fill his seat, serving from 1835 to 1839.[2] There, he served as chairman of the Committee on Manufactures in the 24th and 25th congresses. He was not a candidate for reelection. In 1839 and in 1840 he was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Governor of Connecticut, losing to William W. Ellsworth.

Appointed United States Postmaster General by President Martin Van Buren in 1840, Niles served until the end of the administration in 1841. As Postmaster General he ended delivery of mail on Sunday. He returned to the Senate as a class three senator in 1844. He was actually elected in 1842 and was to start in 1843, but ill health and a credentials challenge kept him out until the next year. When he was a US Senator, in 1845, he cast the deciding vote admitting Texas to the Union as a slave state, though he was against slavery.[3] He served from March 4, 1843, to March 3, 1849, and declined for reelection.[4] Associating with the Free Soil Party campaign of his friend Van Buren in 1848, he became their candidate for governor in 1849. He spent some time in Europe from 1851 to 1852.


In his latter years, Niles pursued horticulture. He had no children and bequeathed his library to the Connecticut Historical Society and left $70,000 in trust to the city of Hartford as a charity fund, the income of which he directed to be annually distributed to the poor. He was Connecticut's member on the original Republican National Committee in February 1856.

Niles died in Hartford on May 30, 1856, (age 68 years, 285 days). He is interned at town at Old North Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut.[5]

Published works

  • The Life of Oliver Hazard Perry (1820)
  • The Connecticut Civil Officer (1823)
  • A View of South America and Mexico, Comprising Their History, the Political Condition, Geography, Agriculture, Commerce, & c. of the Republics of Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, the United Provinces of South America and Chile, with a Complete History of the Revolution, in Each of These Independent States (two volumes, 1826)
  • History of South America and Mexico: Comprising Their Discovery, Geography, Politics, Commerce and Revolutions (two volumes, 1838)


  1. ^ "John Milton Niles". Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. Retrieved January 12, 2013. 
  2. ^ "John Milton Niles". Govtrack US Congress. Retrieved January 12, 2013. 
  3. ^ "John Milton Niles". Retrieved January 12, 2013. 
  4. ^ "John Milton Niles". Govtrack US Congress. Retrieved January 12, 2013. 
  5. ^ "John Milton Niles". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved January 12, 2013. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Amos Kendall
United States Postmaster General
Served under: Martin Van Buren

May 19, 1840 – March 4, 1841
Succeeded by
Francis Granger
United States Senate
Preceded by
Nathan Smith
Senator from Connecticut (Class 1)
December 14, 1835 – March 4, 1839
Served alongside: Gideon Tomlinson and Perry Smith
Succeeded by
Thaddeus Betts
Preceded by
Perry Smith
Senator from Connecticut (Class 3)
March 4, 1843 – March 4, 1849
Served alongside: Jabez W. Huntington and Roger S. Baldwin
Succeeded by
Truman Smith
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