39 Facts About Sidney Breese


Sidney Breese, a lawyer, soldier, author and jurist born in New York, became an early Illinois pioneer and represented the state in the United States Senate as well as served as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, and has been called "father of the Illinois Central Railroad".


Breese's mother died when Sidney was eight, and although his father remarried, Rev Jesse Townsend helped raise Breese.


Under Townsend's guidance Sidney Breese entered Hamilton College at just 14 years old, then transferred to Union College in 1816.


In Illinois, as discussed below, Sidney Breese read law under Kane in 1820.


In 1823, Sidney Breese married Eliza Morrison, daughter of wealth merchant William Morrison.


Kane had moved to Illinois following his graduation from Yale College in 1814, and suggested Sidney Breese join him after his graduation.


Sidney Breese was responsible for moving the State Department's records, which he did by wagon.

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Sidney Breese accepted and thereafter earned commissions on postage stamp sales.


In 1822, Sidney Breese was appointed as the Circuit-Attorney for the Third Judicial District in Illinois.


Sidney Breese served in that capacity until 1826, when he was removed by the new Governor, Ninian Edwards.


In 1827, US President John Quincy Adams, a Whig appointed Sidney Breese United States Attorney for the State of Illinois.


Sidney Breese remained in that capacity until newly inaugurated Democrat Andrew Jackson replaced him in 1829.


In retaliation, during the aftermath of the Panic of 1837, Democrats in the state legislature increased the number of judges on the court from four to nine, and Sidney Breese received one of the new positions.


In 1841, following the contested legal dispute, Sidney Breese assumed the duties as a Justice in the Illinois Supreme Court on February 22.


In December 1842, Sidney Breese was elected as a US Senator from Illinois as a Democrat.


Rumors circulated about his possible candidacy for the US Presidency, but Sidney Breese was more interested in working for his state.


Sidney Breese was an associate of future-President Abraham Lincoln during this time, as Lincoln served in the Illinois delegation of US House of Representatives.


Sidney Breese had several accomplishments as a Senator, including serving as Chairman of the Public Lands Committee and as a member of the District of Columbia Committee.


Sidney Breese was offered the more prestigious position as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, but turned it down for the Public Lands Committee, which was crucial for the state in which he advocated for a transcontinental railroad, eventually securing the Illinois Central Railroad for his state.


Sidney Breese served as regent of the Smithsonian Institution during the Polk administration.


One of his first speeches was in favor of Texas Annexation, and Sidney Breese introduced supporting legislation in 1845, which ultimately occurred later that year.


Sidney Breese was a Democrat expansionist who was vehemently opposed the Oregon Treaty of 1846 with Great Britain, insisting that Britain remain isolated from the Pacific Coast and calling for the current boundaries of Oregon Country to be extended to the 54th parallel, bordering Russian Alaska.


The treaty was ultimately signed, in which Sidney Breese proclaimed his country had been unjustly stolen by the British.


Sidney Breese cast the deciding the vote in favor of the Tariff Act of 1846.


In 1846, Sidney Breese offered another bill requesting the government grant Illinois land to construct the road, which as the Chairman of the Public Lands Committee, Sidney Breese made the first full report ever made to Congress on the subject.

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Sidney Breese offered two more extensive reports in 1848, including constitutional analysis of Senator Douglas's bill in support of the railroad.


In 1850, Sidney Breese was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, where he was immediately elevated to the position of speaker.


Sidney Breese left the assembly in 1852 and returned to private legal practice, as well as served as a director of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad Company.


Sidney Breese's name was offered as a nomination for Governor of Illinois at numerous conventions, while talk continued of his possible candidacy for the US Presidency, including in 1868, when some thought he could have won for the Democrats.


Sidney Breese rejected a nomination to the Illinois Supreme Court in 1853, and many speculated he wanted to return to the US Senate.


Sidney Breese accepted an appointment as a Judge on the Circuit Court in 1855, before being elected to the Illinois Supreme Court as an associate justice in 1857.


Sidney Breese would serve the rest of years on the bench of that court, including stints as the Chief Justice during multiple terms.


The transcontinental railroad that Sidney Breese had advocated as a Senator was completed.


In 1869, Sidney Breese published a volume on Illinois history, and another Origin and History of the Pacific Railroad.


Sidney Breese died in Pinckneyville, Perry County, Illinois, on June 27,1878, survived for more than a decade by his widow, as well as several children and grandchildren.


Sidney Breese's remains were returned for burial in the Carlyle Cemetery in Carlyle, Clinton County, Illinois.


Sidney Breese was later remembered for inflexible justice which prevented corruption from ever reaching the court he sat on.


Sidney Breese encouraged young people studying law, and was noted as being a man who has "a tear for pity, and a hand open as day to melting charity".


The town of Sidney Breese, Illinois, is named in his honor.