Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Do you live in a cabinet county?

Take a look at the question I've just posed. You might not know the answer now, but you will after you read this post.

If you do, in fact, live in one of Michigan's ten cabinet counties, the place you call "home" received its name sometime between 1829 and 1833 as part of an attempt to "sweet talk" the federal government into siding with the Michigan territory in its border conflict with Ohio. Each of these counties takes it name from a member of then-President Andrew Jackson's cabinet (and one is named after Jackson himself...I'll let you guess which one).

The flattery didn't work, as the federal government eventually gave the disputed land--a 468-square-mile area known as the "Toledo Strip"--to Ohio. Michigan did receive a good chunk of the Upper Peninsula as a consolation prize, though, so I think our state came out ahead in the end. (Sorry, Toledo.)

Here's a huge map showing the cabinet counties:

And here's information about their namesakes:

1. Barry County -- named after William T. Barry, the U.S. Postmaster General. Barry was appointed Ambassador to Spain after his tenure on the cabinet ended, but he died while traveling there, so he never assumed his post.
William T. Barry

2. Berrien County -- named after John M. Berrien, the U.S. Attorney General. He was a political party "flip flopper," calling himself, at various times, a Jacksonian Democrat, a Whig, a member of the Southern Rights Party, and a member of the American Party.

John M. Berrien

3. Branch County -- named after John Branch, U.S. Secretary of the Navy. Before serving in Jackson's cabinet, Branch had been governor of North Carolina. After his cabinet service, he became territorial governor of Florida.

John Branch

4. Calhoun County -- named after Vice President John C. Calhoun. This cheerful gentleman wasn't the greatest guy in the world. After his tenure as vice president ended, he served in the United States Senate, where he led a pro-slavery faction that opposed abolitionism.
John C. Calhoun

5. Cass County -- this isn't one of the original cabinet counties, as it was named for Lewis Cass, who at the time was serving as Michigan's territorial governor. However, Cass later served as Secretary of War for Jackson, so his namesake county subsequently became one of the cabinet counties.

Lewis Cass

6. Eaton County -- named after John Eaton, U.S. Secretary of War. (Eaton served in this position before Cass did.) Eaton resigned in response to the "Petticoat Affair," a scandal that brewed in D.C. after critics whispered that Eaton had married his wife, Peggy, too soon after her first husband's death, and that the two of them (Eaton and Peggy) had been having an affair while her husband was still alive.

John Eaton

7. Ingham County -- named after Samuel D. Ingham, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Before turning to politics, Ingham had managed a paper mill. He served in several political posts in Pennsylvania and was elected to Congress before he became a cabinet member.

Samuel D. Ingham

8. Jackson County -- this one's the "biggie." It's named after Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, who served from 1829 to 1837. On his deathbed, Jackson said he had two regrets: that he had been unable to shoot Henry Clay (his opponent in the 1832 presidential election) or to hang John C. Calhoun.

Andrew Jackson

9. Livingston County -- named after Edward Livingston, U.S. Secretary of State. Before joining the cabinet, Livingston had been active in politics in Louisiana, where he helped draft the "Livingston Code," a criminal code that advocated the reform, rather than the punishment, of prisoners.

Edward Livingston

10. Van Buren County -- this county was named after another president, Martin Van Buren, who succeeded Jackson. However, Van Buren County received its moniker when its namesake served as Jackson's Secretary of State. (Edward Livingston succeeded Van Buren in this position.) Van Buren eventually became vice president under Jackson, then became president in 1837.

Martin Van Buren

1 comment:

  1. Kent County was named for New York jurist and legal scholar James Kent, who represented the Michigan Territory during the Toledo War.