Duff Green was born August 15, 1791 in Woodford County, Kentucky. He was a school teacher in his native state of Kentucky. He served under General William Harrison and the Kentucky militia in the War of 1812 and led the Missouri Brigade in the Indian Campaign, earning the rank brigadier general. Thereafter he was known by many as General Duff Green. He then settled in Missouri, where he worked as a schoolmaster and practiced law. He was a member of the Missouri Constitutional Convention of 1820, and was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1820 and to the state Senate in 1822, serving one term in each house. Becoming interested in journalism, he purchased and for two years edited the St Louis Enquirer.
In 1826, in Washington, D.C., he bought and later edited, The United States Telegraph, which became the principal organ of Andrew Jackson's backers, helping him defeat John Quincy Adams in the presidential election of 1828. Upon Jackson's election to the presidency, the Telegraph became the principal mouthpiece of the administration, receiving printing patronage estimated at $50,000 a year. Green became one of the côterie of unofficial advisers of Jackson known as the Kitchen Cabinet on which Jackson depended heavily following the Petticoat affair. In the quarrel between Jackson and his vice president John C. Calhoun, who had also been Adams' vice president, Green supported Calhoun, and through the Telegraph, violently attacked the Jackson administration.
In consequence, the Jackson administration revoked its patronage for the Telegraph in the spring of 1831. Under the date of December 24, 1833, Adams records in his diary that James Blair "had knocked down and very severely beaten Duff Green, editor of the Telegraph..." Blair paid "three hundred dollars fine for beating and breaking the bones" of Green. Green, however, continued to edit The United States Telegraph in the Calhoun interest until 1835, and gave vigorous support to that Calhoun's nullification views. Duff's daughter Margaret Maria was the mother of Calhoun's grandson, also named John Caldwell Calhoun. In his second term, Jackson replaced Calhoun with Martin Van Buren as his vice president.
In 1840 Green established the Pilot in Baltimore to support the Harrison-Tyler ticket. Although initially endorsed by the Whig party, Green's controversial editorials regarding Catholic influence in American politics alienated his readers. Subscriptions declined, and publication suspended in 1841.
In 1841-1843 he was in Europe on behalf of the Tyler administration, and he is said to have been instrumental in causing the appointment of Lord Ashburton to negotiate in Washington concerning the boundary dispute between Maine and Canada.
In January 1843 Green established in New York City a short-lived journal, The Republic, to combat the spoils system and to advocate free trade. In September 1844 Calhoun, then secretary of state, sent Green to Texas ostensibly as consul at Galveston, but actually, it appears, to report to the administration, then considering the question of the annexation of Texas, concerning the political situation in Texas and Mexico.
After the close of the war with Mexico, Green was sent to that country in 1849 by President Taylor to negotiate concerning the moneys which, by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States had agreed to pay; and he saved his country a considerable sum by arranging for payment in exchange instead of in specie.
Subsequently Green was engaged in railway building in Georgia and Alabama. He was also one of the founding associates in the incorporation of the New Mexican Railway Company. Duff was attracted to Dalton, Georgia in 1851 by the construction of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad from Knoxville, Tennessee to connect with the Western and Atlantic Railroad. He profited by making strategic land purchases. As his wealth grew, he donated land for many public projects in Dalton. During the Civil War Green organized three iron manufacturing plants for production of iron, nails, horseshoes, and rails in support of the Confederacy. He and his son Ben also established the Dalton Arms Company in 1862. After the war he was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson for his support of the Confederacy and paid a $20,000 fine.
Duff Green was one of the founding members of the Pennsylvania Fiscal Agency, incorporated Nov 1, 1859 in Pennsylvania. At that time he gained 42,000 shares but paid with a bad check the 5% payment on only 5,000 shares. On March 26, 1864 Thomas C. Durant, vice president of the Union Pacific Railroad Company purchased the corporation as a front construction company, whereby the directors and principal stock holders of the Union Pacific retained all construction profits. They then used these funds to purchase Union Pacific stock at par value and resell it on the open market for even greater profits. Durant changed the company name to the Crédit Mobilier of America. The scandal involving the sale of discounted Credit Mobilier stock to Congressional members voting for payment of exorbitant transcontinental railroad construction costs took place during the Johnson administration but was uncovered during the Grant administration.
Green died in Dalton, a city that he had helped to build.
Works by Duff Green
- Facts and Suggestions, Biographical, Historical, Financial and Political: addressed to the people of the United States. C. S. Westcott & Co.'s Union Printing Office, 1866
- Facts and Suggestions Relative to Finance & Currency, addressed to the President of the Confederate States. J. T. Paterson & Co., 1864
- How to Pay off the National Debt: regulate the value of money, and maintain stability in the values of property and labor. Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger, 1872
- Dalton, Anita Thornton. "Civil War anniversary: General Duff Green". The Daily Citizen (Dalton, GA). William Bronson, Nov 13, 2010. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- Diary (New York, Longmans, Green, 1929) p. 434, 450.
- Cornish, Louis Henry; Alonzo Howard Clark. "Captain John Caldwell Calhoun". A national register of the society, Sons of the American Revolution. Press of A. H. Kellogg, 1902. p. 804. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- Green, Fletcher (January 1947). "Duff Green, Militant Journalist of the Old School". The American Historical Review 52 (2): 258–9. doi:10.2307/1841273. Retrieved 18 August 2014.
- Crawford, Jay Boyd. "II THE ACT OF INCORPORATION An Act to incorporate the Pennsylvania Fiscal Agency". The Credit Mobilier of America: its origin and history, its work of constructing the Union Pacific railroad and the relation of members of Congress therewith. C. W. Calkins & Co., 1880. p. 17. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- Report of the Select Committee of the House of Representatives, Appointed Under the Resolution of January 6, 1873: To Make Inquiry in Relation to the Affairs of the Union Pacific Railroad Company, the Credit Mobilier of America, and Other Matters... (1873) pp.140-145
- Thomas Hart Benton, Thirty Years View: A History of the Working of The American Government For Thirty Years from 1820 to 1850 (two volumes, New York, 1854–56)
- W. Stephen Belko, The Invincible Duff Green: Whig of the West (University of Missouri Press, 2006).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Green, Duff". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.