Our Georgia History

John MacPherson Berrien (John Berrien)
August 23, 1781 John MacPherson Berrien is born, Rocky Hill, N. J.
  John MacPherson Berrien (John Berrien)
January 13, 1815 John McPherson Berrien, Robert Walker, Young Gresham and Stephen W. Harris rule a law passed by the general assembly was illegal. The assembly reprimands them for over-stepping their authority.
  John MacPherson Berrien (John Berrien)
October 29, 1829 Michigan's Berrien County is created to honor Georgian John McPherson Berrien
  John MacPherson Berrien (John Berrien)
July 27, 1848 The U. S. Senate passes the Clayton Compromise, a solution to the issue of slavery in the territories. It essentially let the courts decide the issue. Among those voting for the bill, which passed 33-22 were John C. Calhoun, John Berrien, Lewis Cass, and Jefferson Davis.
  Lewis Cass
  Henry Clay
  Slavery in Georgia
  John MacPherson Berrien (John Berrien)
  John C. Calhoun
January 1, 1856 John MacPherson Berrien dies, Savannah
  Savannah, Georgia births and deaths
  John MacPherson Berrien (John Berrien)
February 25, 1856 Berrien County created
  John MacPherson Berrien (John Berrien)
  Creation of Georgia Counties
  Berrien County, Georgia

U. S. Senator from Georgia and Attorney General under Andrew Jackson, John Berrien's father served George Washington during the Revolution. He graduated from Princeton College, studying law in Savannah before being admitted to the bar in Louisville, Georgia, then the capital of the state.

He served a single term in the Georgia Senate before being appointed by the legislature to the U. S. Senate. His abilities were recognized by Chief Justice John Marshall, who dubbed Berrien the "Honey-tongued orator from Georgia."

As Attorney-General, Berrien was part of the (Peggy) Eaton Affair. He refused to speak to Jackson's Secretary of War John Henry Eaton, who had married a woman after having her husband assigned to dangerous duty. In 1831 Eaton resigned his post and Jackson demanded the resignation of the rest of his cabinet (except for the Postmaster General).

Berrien was a strong advocate of states rights, which made him popular with the wealthy coastal planters and others who made money on international trade. During the Nullification Crisis, he was one of the leaders of a convention brought together to determine Georgia's reaction to the events occurring in South Carolina. Not all counties sent representatives and after a few days a group of those attending left. The breakdown of the convention forced South Carolina politicians to reappraise the support for secession. This did not seem all that bad to Berrien, a moderate states-rightist who did not want to react strongly against the pro-Union stance of Andrew Jackson. It was Jackson, after all, who was helping Georgia resolve its "Indian problem."

By 1840 it was Berrien that was deeply involved in the growing rift between Georgia politicians. Georgia's States Rights party was aligning with the Whigs and under Berrien's direction the party had become an important element in national politics. He led the fight to elect William Henry Harrison President of the United States, aided by the great dislike in the state for Martin Van Buren, who had brought the economy to its knees and kept a black mistress.

Following the election of Zachary Taylor, John Berrien declined to join John Calhoun's Southern Unity movement. This is not surprising, since Calhoun was a Democrat and Berrien a Whig. Following the disastrous election of 1852, when Franklin Pierce defeated Winfield Scott, Berrien and his fellow Georgia Whigs joined the American Party, sometimes called the "Know Nothings." The anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic stance alienated the aging Berrien, but it was the strongest party other than the Democrats in Georgia.

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