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JOHN YOUNG MASON (1799-1859)

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 840 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHN YOUNG MASON (1799-1859), American political leader and diplomatist, was born in Greenesville county, Virginia, on the 18th of April 1799. Graduating at the university of North Carolina in 1816, he studied law in the famous Litchfield (Connecticut) law school, and in r829 was admitted to practice in Southampton county, Virginia. He served in the Virginia house of delegates in 1823—1827, in the state constitutional convention of 1829—1830, and from 1831 to 1837 in the National House of Representatives, being chairman of the committee on foreign affairs in 1835—1836. He was secretary of the navy in President Tyler's cabinet (1844—1845), and was attorney-general (1845—1846) and secretary of the navy (1846—1849), succeeding George Bancroft, under President Polk. He was president of the Virginia constitutional convention of 1851, and from 1853 until his death at Paris on the 3rd of October 1859, was United States minister to France. In this capacity he attracted attention by wearing at the court of Napoleon III. a simple diplomatic uniform (for this he was rebuked by Secretary of State W. L. Marcy, who had ordered American ministers to wear a plain civilian costume), and by joining with James Buchanan and Pierre Soule, ministers to Great Britain and Spain respectively, in drawing up (Oct. 1854) the famous Ostend Manifesto. Hawthorne called him a " fat-brained, good-hearted, sensible old man "; and in politics he was a typical Virginian of the old school, a state's rights Democrat, upholding slavery and hating abolitionism.
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