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James T. Farley

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James Thompson Farley
United States Senator
from California
In office
March 4, 1879 – March 3, 1885
Preceded byAaron A. Sargent
Succeeded byLeland Stanford
18th President pro tempore of the California State Senate
In office
1871 - 1872
Preceded byEdward J. Lewis
Succeeded byWilliam Irwin
Member of the California Senate from the 14th and 16th districts
In office
7th Speaker of the California State Assembly
In office
January 1856–April 1856
Preceded byWilliam W. Stow
Succeeded byElwood T. Beatty
Member of the California State Assembly from 19th district
In office
Personal details
Born(1829-08-06)August 6, 1829
Albemarle County, Virginia
DiedJanuary 22, 1886(1886-01-22) (aged 56)
Jackson, California
Political partyDemocratic
Know Nothing (formerly)
Whig (formerly)

James Thompson Farley (August 6, 1829 – January 22, 1886) was a United States Senator from California.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, and moved to Missouri at an early age.[1] Drawn by the discovery of gold and hastened by a duel in which he nearly killed a man who had been his rival for a woman's affections, Farley moved to California in 1849.[1][2] He tried mining for gold in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties but had little success.[1] As an alternative to the mining work, he studied law. Farley was admitted to the bar in 1854, commencing his law practice in Amador County.[3]

Political career[edit]

He was elected to the California State Assembly from Amador County at the age of 25 as a member of the Whig Party. At the time, only five years after California had become a state and in accordance with the original Constitution of California, members of the assembly were chosen annually. Farley ran for re-election in 1855, this time as a member of the Know Nothing Party, which was in the majority of the legislature at the time.[2] He again shifted allegiances to the Democratic Party following the collapse of the Know Nothing Party, remaining with the strong political contingent in the assembly and was elected to be Speaker of the Assembly in 1856.[1]

In 1860, he moved from the state assembly to the California State Senate where he served for eight years as a Democrat. He served as president pro tempore for one session, from 1871 to 1872. He was a friend and spokesperson for the administration of Governor Haight.[2]

He was for several years the recognized leader of the Democratic Party in California, and in 1874 received the caucus nomination of his party for the U.S. Senate, to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of John S. Hager. However, his nomination was defeated by Governor Newton Booth, an independent. Fortuitously, Senator Aaron A. Sargent retired three years later and Farley was again nominated, and this time elected to the U.S. Senate from California in 1878. He served there from 1879 until 1885. He was not a candidate for renomination in 1884.[3]

He resumed the practice of law after leaving Washington, D.C., and died in Jackson, California in 1886 after three years of struggling with illness. He is buried in City Cemetery in Jackson.[4][5]

Personal life[edit]

Farley was described as having a "fine appearance, warmth and congeniality of feelings."[4] His law practice in Jackson served as a launching pad for other California politicians such as Judge Henry L. Waldo who became the district attorney of Amador County from 1867 until 1870, as well as Anthony Caminetti, who also became the district attorney of Amador County but later became a United States representative from California from 1891 to 1895.[6][7]

He was married in 1876 to Flora Forester Phelps of Amador County. They were the parents of a son and a daughter.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Death of James T. Farley". Napa County Reporter. Jackson. January 29, 1886. p. 1. Retrieved August 1, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ a b c "Death of Ex-Senator Farley". The Sacramento Bee. Jackson. January 23, 1886. p. 4. Retrieved August 1, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  3. ^ a b "Ex-United States Senator James T. Farley of California Dies After a Lingering Illness". Chicago Tribune. January 23, 1886. p. 2. Retrieved August 1, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ a b "A Worthy Leader". The Modesto Bee. January 26, 1886. p. 2. Retrieved August 1, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ "New Senators". The Daily Milwaukee News. March 9, 1879. p. 2. Retrieved August 1, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ Cook, Deborah Colleen (2007). Jackson. Arcadia Publishing. p. 71. ISBN 9780738547244. Anthony Caminetti is probably the most well-known of Jackson's Italian sons...As a young man, Anthony attended law school and set up practice in Jackson with Senator Farley
  7. ^ Keleher, William A. (2007). Violence in Lincoln County, 1869-1881. Sunstone Press. p. 244. ISBN 9781611391947. Waldo went to California in 1863, where he taught school and studied law in the office of James T. Farley

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Five members
California State Assemblyman, 19th District
(Amador County seat)

(with J. W. D. Palmer, then George W. Wagner)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Speaker of the California State Assembly
January 1856 – April 1856
Succeeded by
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 3) from California
Served alongside: Newton Booth, John F. Miller
Succeeded by