George P. Fisher

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George P. Fisher
Hon. George P. Fisher, Del - NARA - 526255.jpg
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia
In office
March 11, 1863 – May 1, 1870
Appointed by Abraham Lincoln
Preceded by new seat
Succeeded by David Campbell Humphreys
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's At-large district
In office
March 4, 1861 – March 4, 1863
Preceded by William G. Whiteley
Succeeded by William Temple
Attorney General of Delaware
In office
Preceded by Willard Saulsbury Sr.
Succeeded by Alfred Wooten
Member of the Delaware House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born (1817-10-13)October 13, 1817
Milford, Delaware
Died February 10, 1899(1899-02-10) (aged 81)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Whig
Residence Dover, Delaware
Alma mater Dickinson College
Profession lawyer

George Purnell Fisher (October 13, 1817 – February 10, 1899) was an American lawyer and politician from Wilmington, in New Castle County, Delaware. He was a member of the Whig Party and later the Republican Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly, as Attorney General of Delaware, as Secretary of State of Delaware, as U.S. Representative from Delaware, and as a judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Early life and education[edit]

Fisher was born in Milford, Delaware, on October 13, 1817.[1][2]

He attended local public schools and at the age of 17 entered Mount St. Mary's College in Maryland.[1][2] One year later, he entered the sophomore class at Dickinson College, where he graduated in July 1838.[1][2] He then read law with John M. Clayton, then the chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court.[1]


Fisher was admitted to the bar in April 1841 and began practicing in Dover, soon developing a thriving practice.[1][2]

He served two terms in the Delaware House of Representatives, in 1843 and 1844.[1] Governor Joseph Maull, who had recently taken office, appointed Fisher as Secretary of State of Delaware in March 1846.[1][2] In 1847, Fisher also became an aide-de-camp to Major General Nathaniel Young, commander of the Delaware militia.[1] In 1849, Fisher worked in Washington with William Hunter, as a confidential clerk to Secretary of State John M. Clayton.[1] Fisher assisted in negotiating the Clayton–Bulwer Treaty with Great Britain.[1]

In 1850, Fisher was appointed by President Zachary Taylor to be a commissioner to adjudicate claims against Brazil; Fisher served in this role until 1852.[1] In 1855, Fisher was appointed Delaware Attorney General; he served until 1860, when he was elected to the 37th Congresss, serving from March 4, 1861 to March 3, 1863.[1] Fisher was elected on a People's Party ticket, which stood in for the Republicans in Delaware.[1] In Congress, Fisher supported Abraham Lincoln's compensated emancipation proposal, but failed to find someone in the Delaware General Assembly willing to introduce it.[1][3] Fisher ran for re-election in 1862, but lost.[1]

On October 13, 1862, Fisher was commissioned as a colonel of the First Delaware Cavalry.[1] His service was brief, however, because he was nominated by President Lincoln on March 10, 1863, to a seat on the newly created Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate and received his commission the next day. In 1867, Fisher presided over the trial of John Surratt, one of the Lincoln assassination conspirators.[1] In May 1, 1870, Fisher resigned as judge to accept an appointment as United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, serving until 1875.[1]

Finally, Fisher returned to Dover, where (according to his biography by Charles B. Lore) he had "no intention of again entering public life."[1][2] However, he was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison in mid-1889 to be the First Auditor of the Treasury Department, in which capacity he served until the end of the Harrison administration, on March 23, 1893.[1][2]

Fisher "then returned to the home of his childhood, lived quietly in his extensive library, and devoted the last years of his life to reading and literary pursuits."[2] Fisher died in Washington on February 10, 1899, after a short illness, at the age of eighty-one.[2]


Elections are held the first Tuesday after November 1. Members of the General Assembly took office the first Tuesday of January. State Senators have a four-year term and State Representatives have a two-year term. U.S. Representatives took office March 4 and also have a two-year term.

Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
State Senate Legislature Dover January 6, 1843 January 6, 1845
State Senate Legislature Dover January 6, 1845 January 5, 1847
Secretary of State Executive Dover 1846 1849 Delaware
Attorney General Executive Dover 1855 1860 Delaware
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington March 4, 1861 March 3, 1863
Supreme Court Judiciary Washington March 11, 1863 1870 District of Columbia
District Attorney Judiciary Washington 1870 1875 District of Columbia
Delaware General Assembly service
Dates Assembly Chamber Majority Governor Committees District
1843 62nd State Senate Whig William B. Cooper Sussex at-large
1845 63rd State Senate Whig Thomas Stockton
Joseph Maull
William Temple
Sussex at-large
United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1861-1862 37th U.S. House Republican Abraham Lincoln at-large
Election results
Year Office Subject Party votes % Opponent Party votes %
1860 U.S. Representative George P. Fisher Republican 7,732 48% Benjamin T. Biggs Democratic 7,485 47%
1862 U.S. Representative George P. Fisher Republican 8,014 50% William Temple Democratic 8,051 50%


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Richard F. Miller, States at War, Volume 4: A Reference Guide for Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey in the Civil War (University Press of New England, 2015), p. 196.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Charles Brown Lore, The Life and Character of George P. Fisher (1902), p. 13.
  3. ^ Russell Frank Weigley, A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865 (Indiana University Press, 2000), p. 170.
  • Martin, Roger A.. (2003). Delawareans in Congress, the House of Representatives 1789-1900. ISBN 0-924117-26-5. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Willard Saulsbury Sr.
Attorney General of Delaware
Succeeded by
Alfred Wooten
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William G. Whiteley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's at-large congressional district

1861 – 1863
Succeeded by
William Temple