John C. Frémont

Frémont c. 1856 John Charles Frémont or Fremont (January 21, 1813July 13, 1890) was an American explorer, military officer, and politician. He was a United States senator from California and was the first Republican nominee for president of the U.S. in 1856 and founder of the California Republican Party when he was nominated. He lost the election to Democrat James Buchanan when the vote was split by Know Nothings.

Frémont was a native of Georgia and attended the College of Charleston for two years until he was expelled after irregular attendance. He opposed slavery. In the 1840s, he led five expeditions into the western states. During the Mexican–American War, he was a major in the U.S. Army and took control of California from the California Republic in 1846. During this time, he led the Sacramento River massacre, Klamath Lake massacre, and Sutter Buttes massacre against indigenous peoples. Frémont was court-martialed and convicted of mutiny and insubordination after a conflict over who was the rightful military governor of California. His sentence was commuted and he was reinstated by President James K. Polk, but Frémont resigned from the Army. Afterwards, he settled in California at Monterey while buying cheap land in the Sierra foothills. Gold was found on his Mariposa ranch, and Frémont became a wealthy man during the California Gold Rush. He became one of the first two U.S. senators elected from the new state of California in 1850.

At the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, he was given command of the Department of the West by President Abraham Lincoln. Frémont had successes during his brief tenure there, though he ran his department autocratically and made hasty decisions without consulting President Lincoln or Army headquarters. He issued an unauthorized emancipation edict and was relieved of his command for insubordination by Lincoln. After a brief service tenure in the Mountain Department in 1862, Frémont resided in New York, retiring from the army in 1864. He was nominated for president in 1864 by the Radical Democracy Party, a breakaway faction of abolitionist Republicans, but he withdrew before the election. After the Civil War, he lost much of his wealth in the unsuccessful Pacific Railroad in 1866, and he lost more in the Panic of 1873. Frémont served as Governor of the Arizona Territory from 1878 to 1881. After his resignation as governor, he retired from politics and died destitute in New York City in 1890.

Historians portray Frémont as controversial, impetuous, and contradictory. Some scholars regard him as a military hero of significant accomplishment, while others view him as a failure who repeatedly defeated his own best interests. The keys to Frémont's character and personality, several historians argue, lie in his having been born "illegitimate" (to unwed parents) and in his drive for success, need for self-justification, and passive-aggressive behavior. His biographer Allan Nevins wrote that Frémont lived a dramatic life of remarkable successes and dismal failures.

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Published 1781
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