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Aaron A. Sargent

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Aaron Augustus Sargent
United States Senator
from California
In office
March 4, 1873 – March 4, 1879
Preceded byCornelius Cole
Succeeded byJames T. Farley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California
In office
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1873
Preceded byWilliam Higby
Succeeded byHorace F. Page
Constituency2nd district
In office
March 4, 1861 – March 4, 1863
Preceded byCharles L. Scott
Succeeded byWilliam Higby
ConstituencyAt-large district
Member of the California Senate
In office
Personal details
Born(1827-09-28)September 28, 1827
Newburyport, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedAugust 14, 1887(1887-08-14) (aged 59)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
ProfessionPolitician, Lawyer

Aaron Augustus Sargent (September 28, 1827 – August 14, 1887) was an American journalist, lawyer, politician and diplomat. In 1878, Sargent historically introduced what would later become the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote. He was sometimes called the "Senator for the Southern Pacific Railroad".

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, he attended the common schools and then was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker.[1] In his youth, he worked as a printer in Philadelphia and then, in 1847, moved to Washington, D.C., where he was a secretary to a Congressman.


He moved to California in 1849 and settled in Nevada City in 1850. There he was on the staff of the Nevada Daily Journal, eventually becoming that newspaper's owner. He was admitted to the California bar in 1854 and began practicing in Nevada City, becoming district attorney for Nevada County in 1856. He served in the California Senate in 1856.


Sargent was elected as a Republican to the 37th Congress; skipped several terms and was reelected to the 41st and 42nd Congresses. In 1861 he was the author of the first Pacific Railroad Act that was passed in Congress.

He was elected to the United States Senate and served from 1873 to 1879. During his time in the Senate, he was chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Mines and Mining during the 44th Congress and chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Naval Affairs during the 45th Congress.

Women's rights[edit]

In January 1878, Senator Sargent introduced the 29 words that would later become the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, allowing women the right to vote. Sargent's wife, Ellen Clark Sargent, was a leading voting rights advocate and a friend of such suffrage leaders as Susan B. Anthony. The bill calling for the amendment would be introduced unsuccessfully each year for the next forty years.

Ambassador to Germany[edit]

Sargent returned to California in 1880. After leaving the Senate he practiced law in San Francisco for three years, leaving to become United States Ambassador to Germany for two years, and held office until German authorities excluded American pork from the German Empire which made his position personally distasteful. He turned down the appointment of Ambassador to Russia after William H. Hunt's death and made an unsuccessful attempt for the Republican nomination for the Senate in 1885.

Death and legacy[edit]

He died in San Francisco in 1887.[2] His original interment at Laurel Hill Cemetery in San Francisco, which closed by 1941.[3] According to Sargent's descendants, A.A. Sargent's ashes were spread over the placer mine he had in Nevada City and a monument to him may be found in the old Pioneer Cemetery in Nevada City.

Sargent was a noted proponent of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, arguing in Overland Monthly in support of exclusion and for the renewal of the 1882 Exclusion Act after its expiration in 1892. The Chinese Exclusion Act was eventually renewed in 1892, and again—indefinitely—in 1902, staying in effect until 1943.


  1. ^ "Sargent, Aaron Augustus". Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
  2. ^ "Ex-Senator Sargent". The New York Times. August 15, 1887. Archived from the original on October 26, 2012. Retrieved March 31, 2010. Aaron A. Sargent, ex-United States Senator for California, died here this morning. He had been ... for some time, but was ... to his house only for the last two weeks. His disease was enlargement of the spleen, resulting in blood-poisoning. After his last return here he engaged in law practice, establishing...
  3. ^ "Index to Politicians: Sargent". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved October 21, 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 3) from California
Served alongside: Eugene Casserly, John S. Hager and Newton Booth
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Germany
Succeeded by