Gilpin, Henry Dilworth

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 87

Henry Dilworth Gilpin served as attorney general of the United States from 1840 to 1841 under President MARTIN VAN BUREN. He was born April 14, 1801, in Lancaster, England. He and his parents, Joshua Gilpin and Mary Dil-worth Gilpin, boarded a ship for the United States in 1802. The Gilpins were aristocratic and socially prominent, not a struggling immigrant family. Gilpin's grandfather Thomas Gilpin was a manufacturer and businessman who had been shipping goods to U.S. harbors since colonial days. He was among those who helped to plan and execute the construction of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (which connects the head of Chesapeake Bay with the Delaware River estuary and thereby shortens sea routes to Baltimore from the north and from Europe). Gilpin's father, an author and poet with published works in both England and the United States, dabbled in a number of artistic and business ventures in the United States. He eventually settled in Pennsylvania, where he ran a successful papermaking business.

Gilpin was brought up near Philadelphia and was educated at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Henry D. Gilpin.


He graduated, as valedictorian of his class, in 1819 and began to study law with a local attorney. In 1822, he was admitted to the bar but he did not establish a practice. Instead, he went to work as an agent for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company. The position allowed him to travel and to pursue the literary interests encouraged by his father. From 1826 to 1832, he wrote detailed accounts of his visits to Harper's Ferry, the Shenandoah Valley, Weyer's Cave, Natural Bridge, Lexington, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Washington, D.C., and other locations in the Atlantic and southern states. His writings were collected by his father and later published in a seven-volume work called Atlantic Souvenirs (1826?1832).

Gilpin's pedigree and business interests permitted him to mix with prominent citizens wherever he traveled. During this early period of travel, he met and married Eliza Johnson, of New Orleans. In 1826, he attended?and wrote a famous account of?President John Quincy Adams's inaugural ball and public reception. On subsequent trips to the nation's capital, he developed an interest in politics by writing profiles of men like HENRY CLAY, DANIEL WEBSTER, and ANDREW JACKSON.

Gilpin was a great admirer of Jackson and was active in Jackson's successful...

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