John Mclean, an American jurist, born in Morris co., N. J., March 11, 1785, died in Cincinnati, April 4, 1861. In 1789 his father, a poor man with a large family, removed to Morganstown, Va., thence to a place near Nicholasville, Ky., and finally in 1799 to what is now Warren co., Ohio. Here the son labored on the farm until 16 years of age. In 1803 he went to Cincinnati to study law, and in 1807 was admitted to the bar and commenced practice at Lebanon, Warren co., O. He represented his district, which then included Cincinnati, in congress from 1813 to 1816, being unanimously reelected in 1814. He supported the Madison administration, originated the law to indemnify individuals for property lost in the public service, and introduced an inquiry as to pensioning the widows of fallen officers and soldiers. He was a judge of the supreme court of Ohio from 1816 to 1822, when he was appointed by President Monroe commissioner of the general land office. In July, 1823, he was appointed postmaster general. The post office department was then in a very disordered and inefficient condition, but it was restored to order and efficiency under his administration. By a nearly unanimous vote of the senate and house the postmaster general's salary was raised from $4,000 to $6,000 a year.
In 1829, having declined the war and navy departments, which were offered to him by President Jackson, he resigned the office of postmaster general and was appointed associate justice of the supreme court of the United States. In this capacity his charges to grand juries while on circuit are distinguished for ability and eloquence. One of the most noted of these was delivered in December, 1838, in regard to aiding or favoring unlawful military combinations by our citizens against any foreign government or people with whom we are at peace, with special reference to the Canadian insurrection and its American abettors. In the Dred Scott case (1857) he dissented from the decision of the court as given by Chief Justice Taney, and expressed the opinion that slavery had its origin merely in power, and was against right, and in this country sustained only by local law. His name was before the free-soil convention at Buffalo in 1848 as a candidate for nomination as president, and in the republican national convention at Philadelphia in 1856 he received 196 votes for the same office to 359 for Col. Fremont. In the republican convention at Chicago in 1860 he also received a number of votes.
He was the author of several volumes of " Reports of the United States Circuit Court," and several published addresses.