Richard M. Blatchford (attorney)

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Richard Milford Blatchford
Richard M. Blatchford (1798-1875), US Minister to the Vatican.jpg
Blatchford in New York, July 1859
U.S. Minister to the State of the Church
In office
August 9, 1862[1] – October 7, 1863[1]
President Abraham Lincoln
Preceded by Alexander Randall
Succeeded by Rufus King
Member of the New York State Assembly from New York County's 13th District
In office
January 2, 1855 – December 31, 1855
Preceded by William Taylor
Succeeded by William A. Guest
Personal details
Born (1798-04-23)April 23, 1798
Stratford, Connecticut, U.S.
Died September 4, 1875(1875-09-04) (aged 77)
Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.
Resting place Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Political party Whig (before 1855)
Julia Ann Mumford
(m. 1819; died 1857)

Angelica Hamilton
(m. 1860; died 1868)

Katherine Hone
(m. 1870; his death 1875)
Relations Richard M. Blatchford (grandnephew)
Children 5, including Samuel Blatchford
Parents Samuel Blatchford
Alicia Windeatt Blatchford
Education Union College (BA)
Profession Attorney

Richard Milford Blatchford (April 23, 1798 – September 4, 1875) was an attorney and political figure in New York City. A longtime political and legal associate of college classmate William H. Seward, Blatchford is most notable for his service in the New York State Assembly and as U.S. Minister to the State of the Church. He was also the father of Samuel Blatchford, who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Early life

Blatchford was born in Stratford, Connecticut on April 23, 1798. He was the ninth of seventeen children born to Reverend Samuel Blatchford and Alicia (née Windeatt) Blatchford.[2]

Blatchford's grandnephew, also named Richard M. Blatchford,[3] was a career officer in the United States Army.[4] He attained the rank of major general, and was a veteran of the Spanish–American War and World War I.[4]

He was educated in Connecticut and Lansingburgh, New York, and graduated from Union College in 1815.[2][5] Blatchford maintained his association with Union College for the rest of his life. He was a member of the college's board of trustees,[6] and received the honorary degree of LL.D. in 1864.[7] He also served as a member of the board of visitors that oversaw management of the Knott Trust Fund, which college president Eliphalet Nott left for the school's benefit.[8] In addition, Blatchford endowed Union College's Blatchford Oratorical Prizes, medals which were presented by faculty judges to the top student competitors at an annual speech making competition.[9]


He taught school in Jamaica, Queens while studying law, and attained admission to the bar in 1820.[2]

Pencil sketch of Blatchford c. 1820

Blatchford practiced law in Manhattan and Auburn, New York with fellow Union College student William H. Seward and other partners, and became a highly skilled corporation and banking attorney as one of the founders of the firm now known as Cravath, Swaine & Moore.[2][5] In 1826 he was appointed U.S. counsel and agent for the Bank of England, and he served in the same capacity for the Second Bank of the United States.[2] When the charter for the Bank of the United States expired in 1836, Blatchford was responsible for concluding all pending business and resolving all remaining obligations between the two institutions.[2]

Blatchford was also a successful investor and businessman, and his holdings included New York City real estate, as well as land development ventures as far away as Florida.[10] He also owned shares of stock in several companies, and by 1845, his net worth was over $200,000 (equivalent to $5.3 million in 2018).[10][11] He was a longtime friend of Daniel Webster, and was one of the executors of Webster's will.[12]

Blatchford served on the boards of directors of several New York railroads that were subsequently consolidated to form the New York Central, including the Saratoga and Whitehall.[13] After the mergers, he was appointed as a vice president and director of the consolidated company.[14] In addition, he was a director of other corporations, including the North American Fire Insurance Company.[15]

A Whig Party activist, Blatchford was affiliated with Seward in politics, and was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1855.[2] He served one term (the 78th session), and was chosen to act as Speaker pro tempore during the absence of Speaker DeWitt Clinton Littlejohn.[2][16] Blatchford was also a trustee of Bellevue Hospital Medical College.[17]

Public service

In 1859, Blatchford was appointed to the commission which oversaw creation and operations of New York City's Central Park, and he served until the implementation of a new city charter reorganized the municipal government in 1870; from 1860 to 1863 he was the commission's president.[2][18] In 1872, he was appointed to the city parks commission, and he served until failing health caused him to resign in 1873.[2][18]

Blatchford became a Republican when the party was founded in the mid-1850s.[2] Because Congress was not in session at the start of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln named Blatchford, John Adams Dix, and George Opdyke as commissioners of the Union Defense Committee, responsible to expend federal funds on presidential authority for the initial raising and equipping of troops that were mustered into the Union Army.[2][12]

In August 1862, during the Lincoln Administration, Blatchford was appointed U.S. Minister to the State of the Church in Rome, succeeding Alexander Randall.[1][2] He served until October 1863, and was succeeded by Rufus King.[1][2]

Blatchford continued to practice law until ill health caused him to retire in the early 1870s.[2]

Personal life

In 1819, Blatchford married Julia Ann Mumford (1798–1857) of Schenectady, New York and New York City.[2][5] Before his wife's death in 1857, Blatchford was the father of five children:[19]

After the death of his first wife, he was remarried to Angelica Hamilton (1819–1868) in 1860. Angelica was the daughter of James Alexander Hamilton and granddaughter of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton and Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury Secretary.[2] Angelica Hamilton died in 1868, and Blatchford married for the third time, on January 18, 1870, to Katherine Hone, the daughter of Philip Hone, a former New York City mayor.[2]

Blatchford was robbed in an 1871 incident that made national headlines and was covered in the news again following his death.[20][21] According to published accounts, he stopped at a fruit stand and set down a package so he could reach into his pocket for money to complete a purchase.[20] As he did so, a thief tapped him on the shoulder; when Blatchford turned around, the thief or a confederate picked up the package and made an unnoticed getaway.[20] The package contained $50,000 in negotiable securities (equivalent to $962,000 in 2018).[11][20] The thief or thieves were never caught, and the securities were never recovered.[21]

Blatchford died at his summer home in Newport, Rhode Island on September 4, 1875, and was buried at in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, Section 100, Lot 5643.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d U.S. Department of State 1935, p. 330.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Hannan 2008, pp. 124–125.
  3. ^ Blatchford 1912, pp. 67–68.
  4. ^ a b Davis 1998, pp. 41–42.
  5. ^ a b c d Denny, p. 1.
  6. ^ University of the State of New York 1872, pp. 26–27.
  7. ^ Raymond 1907, p. 189.
  8. ^ Union University 1895, p. ix.
  9. ^ Union University 1915, p. 133.
  10. ^ a b Denny, p. 2.
  11. ^ a b Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2019). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved April 6, 2019. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  12. ^ a b McAdam 1897, p. 262.
  13. ^ New York State Board of Railroad Commissioners 1860, pp. 280–281.
  14. ^ New York State Board of Railroad Commissioners 1867, p. 327.
  15. ^ "Insurance: North American Fire Insurance Company". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, NY. May 14, 1845. p. 1 – via
  16. ^ New York State Assembly 1855, p. 496.
  17. ^ Castle 1884, p. 24.
  18. ^ a b Denny, p. 3.
  19. ^ a b c d e f Blatchford 1912, pp. 68–69.
  20. ^ a b c d "New York: A Most Daring Robbery", p. 2.
  21. ^ a b "Local Affairs: New York; Richard M. Blatchford", p. 2.
  22. ^ Green-Wood Cemetery (2017). "Burial Search". Green-Wood. Brooklyn, NY: The Green-Wood Historic Fund. Retrieved January 31, 2018.


  • Blatchford, Eliphalet Wickes (1912). Blatchford Memorial II: A Genealogical Record of the Family of Rev. Samuel Blatchford, D.D. Chicago, IL: E.W. Blatchford.
  • Castle, Frederick A. (1884). Second Decennial Catalogue of the Trustees, Faculty, Officers and of the Alumni of the Bellevue Hospital Medical College. New York, NY: Alumni Association of Bellevue Hospital Medical College.
  • Davis, Henry Blaine Jr. (1998). Generals in Khaki. Raleigh, NC: Pentland Press. ISBN 1571970886. OCLC 231779136.
  • Denny, R. Breck (April 2, 2017). "Richard M. Blatchford" (PDF). New York Marble Cemetery – Interesting Ancestors. New York, NY: New York Marble Cemetery. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-02-01.
  • Hannan, Caryn (2008). Connecticut Biographical Dictionary. 1, A–G. Hamburg, MI: State History Publications, LLC. ISBN 978-1-878592-72-9.
  • McAdam, David; et al. (1897). History of the Bench and Bar of New York. I. New York, NY: New York History Company.
  • New York State Assembly (1855). Journal of the Assembly of the State of New York at their Seventy-Eighth Session. Albany, NY: Charles Van Benthuysen.
  • New York State Board of Railroad Commissioners (1860). Annual Report of the State Engineer and Surveyor (1860). Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons & Company.
  • New York State Board of Railroad Commissioners (1867). Annual Report of the State Engineer and Surveyor (1867). Albany, NY: Weed, Parsons & Company.
  • Raymond, Andrew Van Vranken (1907). Union University: Its History, Influence, Characteristics and Equipment, Volume III. New York, NY: Lewis Publishing Company.
  • Union University (1895). Union University: Centennial Catalog 1795–1895. Troy, NY: Troy Times Printing House.
  • Union University (1915). Annual Catalogue of Union University 1915–1916. Albany, NY: Frank H. Evory & Co.
  • United States Department of State (1935). Register of the Department of State. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  • University of the State of New York (1872). Eighty-Fifth Annual Report of the Regents of the University. Albany, NY: The Argus Company.
  • "New York: A Most Daring Robbery". The Public Ledger. Memphis, TN. December 18, 1871 – via maint: extra punctuation (link)
  • "Local Affairs: New York; Richard M. Blatchford". The Newport Daily News. Newport, RI. September 23, 1875 – via maint: extra punctuation (link)

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