Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Nathan Clifford (1846–1848): Attorney General

Nathan Clifford was born in 1803 in Rumney, New Hampshire. He studied the law, was admitted to the state bar in 1827, and then established a law practice in Maine. Clifford was elected as a Democrat to the Maine state legislature in 1830, where he served four one-year terms before being elected state attorney general. He remained in that post until 1838, when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives.

Clifford served two terms in Congress before being defeated in 1843. He then returned to Maine and to his law practice, but came back to Washington, D.C., in 1846 to serve as President James K. Polk’s attorney general. Clifford held that position until 1848, when Polk appointed Clifford to a special commission to establish a peace treaty between Mexico and the United States following war between the two nations. Clifford remained in Mexico as the United States minister until the end of the Polk administration in 1849.

In 1857, President James Buchanan nominated Clifford to fill a vacancy on the United States Supreme Court, and Clifford assumed his seat there in 1858. Nathan Clifford died in 1881.

For further reading:

Clifford, Philip G. Nathan Clifford, Democrat (1803-1881). New York: George Putman's Sons, 1922.