The Robinson Library

The Robinson Library >> United States >> 1865-1900 >> Biography, A-Z
John J. Ingalls

U. S. Senator

John J Ingalls

John James Ingalls was born in Middleton, Massachusetts, on December 29, 1833, to Elias T. and Eliza (Chase) Ingalls. He was educated in Haverhill, Massachusetts, public schools until age 16, after which he was privately tutored. He graduated from Williams College (Williamstown, Massachusetts) in 1855, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1857, and established a practice in Sumner, Atchison County, Kansas, in 1858.

Despite being an anti-slavery Republican in a heavily pro-slavery Democratic district, Ingalls was elected a delegate to the 1859 Wyandotte Constitutional Convention, which was "charged with drafting a constitution that would be favorable to the U. S. Congress and get Kansas admitted to the Union. As chairman of the Phraseology Committe, he greatly influenced the wording of the final document.

The Wyandotte Constitution stirred great debate in the U. S. Congress, and Kansas did not gain statehood until 1861. In the interim, Ingalls served as Secretary of the Territorial Council of Kansas. In 1860 he relocated his residence and law practice to Atchison.

After Kansas was admitted, Ingalls served as secretary of the Kansas State Senate (1861) and as a State Senator (1862). He was also an unsuccessful candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 1862 and 1864. As the designer of the Kansas State Seal, Ingalls coined the phrase Ad astra per aspera, which became the state motto. Between 1863 and 1865 he edited the Atchison Champion, and he also helped found Kansas Magazine. During General Sterling Price's September-October1864 raid through Missouri and into eastern Kansas he served as Judge Advocate of Kansas Volunteers. He married Anna Louisa Cheeseborough in 1865.

First elected to the U. S. Senate in 1872, Ingalls ultimately served from March 4, 1873 to March 3, 1891. During his tenure he supported labor and agriculture against monpolies, the Interstate Commerce Act, and the Pendleton Civil Service Act. He served as President Pro Tempore (49th, 50th, and 51st sessions), as chairman of the Committee on Pensions (44th and 45th), and on the Committee on the District of Columbia (47th-51st). He lost his 1890 bid for re-election to W. A. Peffer, a Populist who had the farm vote.

When not in public service, Ingalls was a vocal advocate and spokesman for Kansas, writing magazine and newspaper articles extolling the virtues of the state, and gained national renown for his essays on "Blue Grass" and the "Cat Fish Aristocracy." He also dabbled in and often succeeded in many things besides politics, including the military, law, literature, banking, real estate, the newspaper business, prospecting, public speaking, speculating, and town booming.

John James Ingalls died in East Las Vegas, New Mexico, on August 16, 1900, and is buried at Mount Vernon Cemetery in Atchison. In 1905 the State of Kansas honored him with a marble statue in National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.


Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
Territorial Kansas Online

See Also

Wyandotte Constitutional Convention
Sterling Price

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> United States >> 1865-1900 >> Biography, A-Z

This page was last updated on December 23, 2018.