Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Richard Rush (1814–1817): Attorney General

Richard Rush was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 29, 1780, and graduated from Princeton University. Rush began his political career as attorney general for the state of Pennsylvania in 1811, a post earned largely through public recognition of his sustained excellence as a practicing lawyer (1800-1811).

He soon moved into the employ of President James Madison, becoming comptroller of the treasury in 1811, and, with the onset of the War of 1812, the administration's speaker on war policy. By 1814, he had become attorney general of the United States, serving in that capacity until 1817. With the arrival of James Monroe's presidential administration in 1817, Rush accepted the position of interim secretary of state. He gained additional cabinet experience from 1825 to 1829 as secretary of the treasury during the presidency of John Quincy Adams.

Rush served abroad for several years as well, acting as U.S. minister to Great Britain (1817-1825), and President James K. Polk's minister to France (1847-1849). Beyond his political involvement, Rush was also largely responsible for the construction of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He died in Philadelphia on July 30, 1859.