Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

Walter Manton (American, 19th century; active Washington, D.C. 1881-1895)
North American
oil on canvas
Overall: 29 1/4 in x 24 1/4 in; 74.295 cm x 61.595 cm
This portrait of Jeremiah S. Black, which is a copy, was purchased by the Department of State from Mr. Manton on November 18, 1891.
Signed "W. Manton."
Credit Line
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number


Jeremiah Sullivan Black (1810–1883) was born in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. He studied law under a famous lawyer in the state and took over the practice, and went on to serve for many years on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. President James Buchanan appointed him attorney general, and in the final months of his term, secretary of state. Black served for three months. 

The nation was in crisis. Following Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency, southern states began to secede from the Union. President Buchanan declared the act of secession unconstitutional, based partly on former Attorney General Black’s legal arguments. Black’s role as trusted adviser to the president changed little with his new appointment. As secretary of state he instructed U.S. diplomatic representatives abroad to caution their respective governments against recognizing the Confederacy.

Before he left office, President Buchanan nominated Black to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the nomination lapsed and Black was named reporter of decisions, a position he held for two years before returning to his private law practice in his home state of Pennsylvania.