Jacob Thompson
Jacob Thompson

5th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
March 10, 1857 – January 8, 1861
Preceded by Robert McClelland
Succeeded by Caleb B. Smith

Born May 15, 1810(1810-05-15)
Leasburg, North Carolina, U.S.
Died March 24, 1885 (aged 74)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Catherine Ann Jones Thompson
Alma mater University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Teacher

Jacob Thompson (May 15, 1810 – March 24, 1885) was a lawyer and politician who served as United States Secretary of the Interior from 1857 to 1861.

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Jacob Thompson


Born in Leasburg, North Carolina, in 1810, Thompson attended Bingham Academy in Orange County, North Carolina, and later went on to graduate from the University of North Carolina in 1831. Afterwards, he served on the university faculty for a short time until he left to study law in 1832. He was admitted to the bar in 1834 and commenced practice in Pontotoc, Mississippi.

Thompson got involved in politics and was elected to the 26th Congress, serving from 1839 to 1851. He was appointed to the United States Senate in 1845, but never received the commission and the seat went to Joseph W. Chalmers. Thompson was the chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs in the 29th Congress. He lost reelection to the 32nd Congress and went back to practicing law until 1857, when newly elected President James Buchanan appointed Thompson United States Secretary of the Interior.

In the later years of the Buchanan administration, the cabinet members argued with one another on issues of slavery and secession. Thompson sided with the Confederacy and resigned as Interior Secretary in January 1861. Thompson then became Inspector General of the Confederate States Army and later a confidential agent to Canada from 1864 to 1865 from where he directed a Confederate terrorist plot to burn down the City of New York on November 25, 1864 in retaliation for Union Generals Philip Sheridan and William Tecumseh Sherman's scorched earth tactics in the south. His manor called "Home Place" in Oxford, Mississippi, was burned down by Union troops in 1864.

After the Civil War, Thompson settled in Memphis, Tennessee to manage his extensive holdings. He died there and was interred in Elmwood Cemetery.

William Faulkner, who was also a resident of Oxford, loosely based several ancestral members of the Compson family, featured in The Sound and the Fury on Thompson[citation needed].

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President Buchanan and his Cabinet
From left to right: Jacob Thompson, Lewis Cass, John B. Floyd, James Buchanan, Howell Cobb, Isaac Toucey, Joseph Holt and Jeremiah S. Black, (c. 1859)

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