Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Charles A. Wickliffe (1841–1845): Postmaster General

Charles Anderson Wickliffe was born in 1788 near Springfield, Kentucky. He studied the law, was admitted to the Kentucky state bar in 1809, and then established a practice. Though he was elected to the Kentucky state House of Representatives in 1812, he soon left his seat for service in the War of 1812.

Wickliffe was serving as commonwealth attorney for Nelson County in 1816, but by 1820, he was back in the state legislature. In 1822, he moved his seat from the state house to the United States House of Representatives, where he remained from 1823 to 1833. After a failed bid for the United States Senate in 1831, Wickliffe declined to run for reelection to the House of Representatives and returned to Kentucky, where he was elected once again to the state legislature.

By 1836, Wickliffe had been elected lieutenant governor on the Whig ticket, a post he held until 1839, when he became governor following his running mate’s death. Wickliffe served until 1840 and was not nominated by his party to run for the gubernatorial election.

In 1841, President John Tyler tapped Wickliffe to become his postmaster general. Following his four-year tenure, which lasted until the end of the Tyler administration, Wickliffe served as President James K. Polk’s agent in Texas and successfully persuaded the Republic’s leaders to join the union. He then returned to Kentucky, where he was a delegate to the state’s constitutional convention in 1849; he was also a delegate to the 1861 peace convention.

Wickliffe remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1860, and made an unsuccessful bid to become governor of Kentucky in 1863 as a “Peace Democrat.” Charles Anderson Wickliffe died in 1869.