John H. Clifford
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John Henry Clifford (January 16, 1809 – January 2, 1876) was an American lawyer and politician from New Bedford, Massachusetts. He served as the state's attorney general for much of the 1850s, retaining the office during administrations dominated by three different political parties. A Whig, he was elected the state's 21st governor, serving a single term from 1853 to 1854. He was the first governor of Massachusetts not born in the state.
As attorney general Clifford gained fame by leading the prosecution in one of the most sensational trials of the 19th century, the Parkman–Webster murder case. The case, where both victim and assailant were from the upper crust of Boston society, featured the first use of forensic dentistry to secure a conviction. During the American Civil War Clifford supported the Union cause, and was involved in unsuccessful maneuvers to prosecute Confederate President Jefferson Davis after the war. In his later years he served as president of the Boston and Providence Railroad.
John Clifford was born to Benjamin and Achsah (Wade) Clifford in Providence, Rhode Island on January 16, 1809. He was the sixth of thirteen children.〔Hurd, p. 12〕 He graduated from Brown University in 1827, read law with Timothy Coffin in New Bedford, Massachusetts and Theron Metcalf in Dedham, Massachusetts, and then opened a law practice in New Bedford. He maintained that practice, sometimes with partners, for the rest of his life.〔Reno, p. 118〕 Clifford married Sarah Parker Allen on January 16, 1832.〔 The couple had five children.〔
In 1835, Clifford was elected to the Massachusetts legislature,〔 where he sat on a committee that revised the state's statutes. In 1836 he served as an aide to Governor Edward Everett, a position he held until Everett lost the 1839 election. Everett rewarded Clifford for his service by naming him district attorney for the southern district of the state in 1839, a post he held for ten years. He was concurrently elected state senator representing Bristol County in 1845. In 1849 he was appointed state attorney general by Governor George N. Briggs.〔Reno, p. 119〕 He was the only major appointed Whig official retained by Democrat George S. Boutwell after he took office in 1851. Boutwell explained in his memoirs that Clifford "was a good officer and an upright man, but he lacked the quality which enables a man to reach conclusions. This peculiarity made him useful to me. He would investigate a subject, give me the authorities and precedents, and leave the conclusions to me. Next, there was no one in the administration party whom I wished to appoint. Mr. () Hallett was the candidate most generally supported. He was full of prejudices and he was not well instructed as a lawyer. In these respects Clifford was his opposite."〔Boutwell, p. 124〕
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