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John Griffin Carlisle

For other people named John Carlisle, see John Carlisle (disambiguation).
John Griffin Carlisle
35th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
December 3, 1883 – March 4, 1889
President Chester A. Arthur
Grover Cleveland
Preceded by J. Warren Keifer
Succeeded by Thomas B. Reed
Member of U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 6th district
In office
March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1889
Preceded by Thomas L. Jones
Succeeded by William W. Dickerson
20th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
In office
Preceded by Preston H. Leslie
Succeeded by John C. Underwood
United States Senator
from Kentucky
In office
May 26, 1890 – February 4, 1893
Preceded by James B. Beck
Succeeded by William Lindsay
41st United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
March 7, 1893 – March 5, 1897
President Grover Cleveland
Preceded by Charles Foster
Succeeded by Lyman J. Gage
Personal details
Born September 5, 1834
Kenton County, Kentucky
Died July 31, 1910 (aged 75)
New York City, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Jane Carlisle
Profession Law

John Griffin Carlisle (September 5, 1834 – July 31, 1910) was a prominent American politician in the Democratic Party during the last quarter of the 19th century. He served as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1883 to 1889 and as United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1893 to 1897 during the Panic of 1893. As a Bourbon Democrat he was a leader of the conservative, pro-business wing of the party, along with President Grover Cleveland.

Carlisle was born in what is now Kenton County, Kentucky, and began his public life as a lawyer in Covington, Kentucky, under John W. Stevenson. Despite the political difficulties that taking a neutral position during the American Civil War caused him, Carlisle spent most of the 1860s in the Kentucky General Assembly, serving in the Kentucky House of Representatives and two terms in the Kentucky State Senate, and was elected Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky in 1871, succeeding his former law mentor Stevenson.

After Carlisle's term as Lieutenant Governor ended in 1875, he ran for and won a seat in the United States House of Representatives for Kentucky's 6th district. On the main issues of the day, Carlisle was in favor of coining silver, but not for free coinage, and favored lower tariffs. He became a leader of the low-tariff wing of the Democratic Party, and was chosen by House Democrats to become Speaker in 1883 over Samuel J. Randall, a leader of the party's protectionist wing.

Carlisle became a leader of the conservative Bourbon Democrats and was mentioned as a presidential candidate but the Democrats passed him over at their conventions for Winfield S. Hancock in 1880 and Grover Cleveland in 1884. Discomfort with nominating a southerner after the Civil War played a role in Carlisle's failure to win either nomination. In 1892 Carlisle was again proposed as a candidate for president at the Democratic convention, but this time Carlisle asked that he not be considered. It was reported at the time that Carlisle dropped out with the understanding that Cleveland, once nominated, would appoint him to his Cabinet.

In 1890, Carlisle was appointed to the United States Senate to fill the unexpired term of James B. Beck. When Cleveland was again elected to the Presidency in 1892, he chose Carlisle as his Secretary of the Treasury.

Carlisle's tenure as Secretary was marred by the Panic of 1893, a financial and economic disaster so severe that it ended Carlisle's political career. In response to a run on the American gold supply, Carlisle felt forced to end silver coinage. He also felt compelled to oppose the 1894 Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act bill. These two stands were widely unpopular among agrarian Democrats. In 1896 Carlisle strenuously opposed 1896 Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan, supporting a third National Democratic Party (United States) ("Gold Democrat") candidate instead.[1]

By 1896 the once remarkably popular Carlisle was so disliked due to his stewardship of the currency that he was forced to leave the stage in the middle of a speech in his home town of Covington due to a barrage of rotten eggs.

He moved to Linden Grove Cemetery in Covington, KY.


  • Barnes, James A. John G. Carlisle: Financial Statesman. New York : Dodd, Mead, 1931.
  • Beito, David T., and Linda Royster Beito. Independent Review 4 (Spring 2000), 555-75.
  • Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes. American National Biography, vol. 4, "Carlisle, John G.". New York : Oxford University Press, 1999. (ISBN 0-19-512783-8)
  • Williams, R. Hal. Years of Decision: American Politics in the 1890s. New York : Wiley, 1978.

External links

  • John G. Carlisle at Linden Grove Cemetery
  • -logo.svg 
Political offices
Preceded by
Preston H. Leslie
Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
1871 – 1875
Succeeded by
John C. Underwood
Preceded by
J. Warren Keifer
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
December 3, 1883 – March 4, 1885;
December 7, 1885 – March 4, 1887;
December 5, 1887 – March 4, 1889
Succeeded by
Thomas B. Reed
Preceded by
Charles W. Foster
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: Grover Cleveland

March 7, 1893 – March 5, 1897
Succeeded by
Lyman J. Gage
Preceded by
Thomas Laurens Jones
United States Representative (District 6) from Kentucky
1877 – 1889
Succeeded by
William Worth Dickerson
Preceded by
James B. Beck
United States Senator (Class 2) from Kentucky
1890 – 1893
Served alongside: Joseph C. S. Blackburn
Succeeded by
William Lindsay

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