Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

George M. Dallas (1845–1849)

George Mifflin Dallas was born on July 10, 1792, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were affluent members of the community, and his father served for as secretary of the Treasury and interim secretary of War for President James Madison. Dallas attended Princeton University and graduated in 1810. He then studied law and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar three years later.

Albert Gallatin, an old family friend and former secretary of the Treasury, hired Dallas as his private secretary. In that position, Dallas traveled with Gallatin from 1813 to 1814, spending time in Russia and Britain. After he returned home, he became legal counsel for the Bank of the United States, which was based in Philadelphia. Dallas married Sophia Chew Nicklin in 1816, and they eventually had eight children. He also opened his own legal practice, which he maintained throughout much of his lifetime.

In 1817, Dallas left the bank to become deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania. He also served as mayor of Philadelphia and as a state district attorney. In 1831, the state legislature appointed him to complete an unexpired term in the U.S. Senate. Although Dallas was a member of the Democratic Party and supported President Andrew Jackson, he was disappointed when the President vetoed a bill to recharter the Second Bank of the United States. Dallas lacked a strong political ambition, and he chose not to run for reelection when his term in the Senate ended in 1833. Still he stayed involved in state politics and served as a state attorney general.

In 1837, President Martin Van Buren appointed Dallas to serve as minister to Russia. Dallas and his family enjoyed their time in Russia although he did not feel his work was very important. They returned home after two years.

During the 1844 election, the Democratic Party turned to Dallas as the vice presidential candidate. He had cordial relations with President James K. Polk although he was never part of the President’s inner circle. As vice president, he felt he should support the President’s positions, and he put the administration ahead of his own political future. When he cast the deciding vote in the Senate for the Walker Tariff, which reduced tariffs and was highly unpopular in Pennsylvania, Dallas essentially ended his future political career. Without home state support, the vice president gave up any hope for a presidential nomination in the 1848 election.

Dallas returned to private life and his legal practice after leaving the vice presidency. President Franklin Pierce appointed him minister of Great Britain, and he served from 1856 to 1861. He died on December 31, 1864. The city and county of Dallas, Texas, were named after him.