Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Augustus H. Garland (1889–1885): Attorney General

Born in Covington, Tennessee, Augustus Garland was raised in Arkansas. He graduated from St. Joseph’s College in Kentucky in 1849 and returned to Arkansas to study law.

Although he initially resisted secession, Garland joined the Confederate Provisional Congress after the outbreak of the Civil War and served in the Confederate legislature throughout the conflict. In 1866, Garland successfully challenged a federal law forbidding former Confederates from arguing before the United States Supreme Court. As a result of this case, the Senate refused to seat him in 1867 after his election to the body. It was not until 1877 that he joined the Senate.

Democrat Grover Cleveland selected Garland as his attorney general in 1885. While in office, Garland supported pension fraud prosecutions, urged Cleveland to adopt interstate commerce regulation, and expanded the federal prison system. After Cleveland’s defeat in his reelection bid of 1888, Garland entered private practice in Washington, D.C. He died of a stroke while arguing in front of the Supreme Court on January 26, 1899.