The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
ĽName: William Maxwell Evarts

back to Who Was Who

William Evarts was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of a clergyman. In 1837, he graduated from Yale, then studied law at Harvard before being admitted to the New York bar in 1840. He became one of nation’ s leading lawyers, and served as U. S. Attorney for the District of New York, 1847-1853. During the Civil War, President Lincoln sent him twice to Great Britain in order to convince the British not to construct ships for use by the Confederate navy.

In 1868, President Johnson chose Evarts as a member of his defense team during the President’s removal trial in the Senate. The lawyer had been suggested by Secretary of State William Seward, a fellow-Republican and friend from New York. In mid-April, the President privately expressed his dissatisfaction with Evarts, whom he thought had let House prosecutor Benjamin Butler get away with character assassination. By early May, however, an emotionally rejuvenated Johnson concluded that he was "greatly pleased with Evarts’ efforts." A talented orator, he gave a four-day summation at the trial. Following the President’s acquittal, Johnson named Evarts Attorney General, again at Seward’s suggestion, after the Senate had rejected the reappointment of Stanbery. This time, the Senate approved the President’s choice.

In 1871-1872, Evarts was appointed by President Grant as the United States counsel at the Geneva Arbitration of the Alabama Claims. In 1875, he was the principal lawyer in the sensational Tilton-Beecher adultery trial. During the electoral college controversy of 1877, Evarts served as counsel for the Republicans. After President Rutherford B. Hayes took office in March 1877, he appointed Evarts Secretary of State. In 1885-1891, Evarts represented New York in the U. S. Senate. He died in New York City.

Robert C. Kennedy, HarpWeek

ource consulted:  Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History; William Degregorio, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents; Albert Castel, The Presidency of Andrew Johnson; and "William M. Evarts" on the cyberschool website.

William Maxwell Evarts
(6 February 1818 - 28 February 1901)
Source:  Harper's Weekly

Website design © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to