Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

John W. Griggs (1898–1901): Attorney General

John William Griggs exemplified a politician who built his political career one step at a time. Born in Newton, New Jersey, in 1849, Griggs graduated from Lafayette College in 1868. He soon established a law practice with Socrates Tuttle, father-in-law of Garret A. Hobart (who would later serve as vice president from 1897-1900).

Griggs ran for and won a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly, serving for two terms beginning in 1876. He next won election to the New Jersey Senate and remained in that body from 1883 to 1888, serving as its president in the process. Griggs refused an appointment by Benjamin Harrison to the U.S. Supreme Court; he also turned down a seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court. Nevertheless, Griggs furthered his political stature in New Jersey by winning the governorship in 1895 and enacting a constitutional amendment against gambling.

Griggs entered the national political arena on January 25, 1898, becoming attorney general in the McKinley administration. In that capacity, Griggs argued the first of the insular cases before the Supreme Court. He resigned his post, however, on March 29, 1901, to return to his private law practice. Still, from 1901 to 1912, Griggs would be first member of the American Entourage to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague. He died on November 28, 1927.