Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

oil on canvas
Overall: 57 in x 53 in; 144.78 cm x 134.62 cm
The artist who painted the Department's portrait of Lewis Cass has not been identified, and no record of the date or manner of acquisition of the portrait by the Department of State has been found. Evidently it was not in the Department in 1900, for it is not mentioned in the Catalogue of that year; but it is listed in memorandum dated July 1, 1931
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


Lewis Cass (1782–1866) was born to a farming family in Exeter, New Hampshire. After serving in the War of 1812 and attaining the rank of general, he was appointed governor of the Michigan Territory. In 1831 President Andrew Jackson appointed Cass secretary of war and later as minister to France, a position he held for six years. Cass represented Michigan in the U.S. Senate for 12 years, twice running unsuccessfully for president. In 1857 President Buchanan appointed him secretary of state.

President Buchanan was himself an experienced diplomat who had also served as secretary of state, and during his administration he largely directed Cass in matters of foreign policy, especially related to Latin America. Seeking to limit British influence in Latin America, Cass negotiated the final settlement of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, which pledged cooperation in the building of a future canal through Central America, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. 

Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, Cass, though a Democrat, began to voice his long-held disagreements with the Buchanan administration over slavery and sectionalism, and he resigned in the last days of 1860.

Cass supported the Union during the Civil War and lived to see Union victory.