George P. Fisher

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George P. Fisher
Hon. George P. Fisher, Del - NARA - 526255.jpg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia
In office
March 11, 1863 – May 1, 1870
Appointed byAbraham Lincoln
Preceded bySeat established by 12 Stat. 762
Succeeded byDavid Campbell Humphreys
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's at-large district
In office
March 4, 1861 – March 3, 1863
Preceded byWilliam G. Whiteley
Succeeded byWilliam Temple
Attorney General of Delaware
In office
GovernorPeter F. Causey
William Burton
Preceded byWillard Saulsbury Sr.
Succeeded byAlfred Wooten
Personal details
George Purnell Fisher

(1817-10-13)October 13, 1817
Milford, Delaware
DiedFebruary 10, 1899(1899-02-10) (aged 81)
Washington, D.C.
Resting placeMethodist Cemetery
Dover, Delaware
Political partyUnionist
EducationDickinson College
read law

George Purnell Fisher (October 13, 1817 – February 10, 1899) was Attorney General of Delaware, Secretary of State of Delaware, a United States Representative from Delaware and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.

Education and career[edit]

Born on October 13, 1817, in Milford, Sussex County, Delaware,[1][2][3] Fisher attended the public schools of Kent County, Delaware, Mount St. Mary's College (now Mount St. Mary's University) in Emmitsburg, Maryland,[4] then graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in July 1838.[3] He read law with John M. Clayton, then the Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court,[1] and was admitted to the bar in 1841.[4] He entered private practice in Dover, Delaware starting in 1841.[3] He was clerk for the Delaware Senate in 1843.[3] He was a member of the Delaware House of Representatives in 1844.[3] He was appointed Secretary of State of Delaware by Governor of Delaware Joseph Maull,[2] serving from 1846 to 1847.[3] He was Aide-de-camp to Major General Nathaniel Young, Commander of the Delaware Militia starting in 1846.[3] He was confidential clerk to United States Secretary of State John M. Clayton from 1849 to 1850.[3] Fisher assisted in negotiating the Clayton–Bulwer Treaty with Great Britain.[1] He was a Commissioner to settle claims of United States Citizens against Brazil from 1850 to 1852.[3] He was private secretary for President Millard Fillmore starting in 1852.[3] He was Attorney General of Delaware from 1855 to 1860.[3]

Congressional service[edit]

Fisher was elected as a Unionist from Delaware's at-large congressional district to the United States House of Representatives of the 37th United States Congress, serving from March 4, 1861, to March 3, 1863.[4] He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1862 to the 38th United States Congress.[4] Following his departure from Congress, he was a Colonel in the First Delaware Cavalry in 1863.[3]

Compensated emancipation proposal[edit]

In Congress, Fisher supported Abraham Lincoln's compensated emancipation proposal, but failed to find someone in the Delaware General Assembly willing to introduce it.[5]

Federal judicial service[edit]

Fisher was nominated by President Abraham Lincoln on March 10, 1863, to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia (now the United States District Court for the District of Columbia), to a new Associate Justice seat authorized by 12 Stat. 762.[3] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 11, 1863, and received his commission the same day.[3] His service terminated on May 1, 1870, due to his resignation.[3]

Notable case[edit]

In 1867, Fisher presided over the trial of John Surratt, one of the Lincoln assassination conspirators.[citation needed]

Later career[edit]

Following his resignation from the federal bench, Fisher served as United States Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1870 to 1875.[3] After leaving this position (according to his biography by Charles B. Lore), he had "no intention of again entering public life."[2] However, he was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison on May 31, 1889, to serve as first auditor for the United States Department of the Treasury until March 23, 1893.[3]

Later years and death[edit]

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] He died after a short illness on February 10, 1899, in Washington, D.C.[2][3] He was interred in Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C. and re-interred in the Methodist Cemetery in Dover.[4]

Election results[edit]

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 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 Lore, Charles Brown (1902). "The Life and Character of George P. Fisher". Historical Society of Delaware. p. 13. Retrieved May 16, 2019 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r George Purnell Fisher at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  4. ^ a b c d e United States Congress. "George P. Fisher (id: F000147)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  5. ^ Russell Frank Weigley, A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865 (Indiana University Press, 2000), p. 170.


U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
William G. Whiteley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
William Temple
Legal offices
Preceded by
Willard Saulsbury Sr.
Attorney General of Delaware
Succeeded by
Alfred Wooten
Preceded by
Seat established by 12 Stat. 762
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia
Succeeded by
David Campbell Humphreys