Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Henry D. Gilpin (1840–1841): Attorney General

Henry Dilworth Gilpin was born April 14, 1801, in Lancaster, England. Gilpin graduated from the University of Pennsylvania (1819) and studied law with Joseph R. Ingersoll, gaining admission to the bar in 1822. He practiced law, became secretary of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company, editor of the Atlantic Souvenir, and the author of numerous publications.

In 1831, Gilpin was appointed attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Thereafter, he became government director of the Bank of the United States (1833) and solicitor of the U.S. Treasury (1837). President Martin Van Buren appointed Gilpin attorney general in 1840. Gilpin would later argue the Amistad case in Hartford, Connecticut.

Following his tenure in Van Buren's cabinet, Gilpin became president of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and vice president of the Pennsylvania Historical Society (1852-1858), director of Girard College, and a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. Henry Gilpin died in Philadelphia on January 29, 1860.