Caleb J. McNulty

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Caleb Jefferson McNulty (December, 1816—July 12, 1846) was an American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician. Active in the Democratic Party, he became Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives; while serving in this post he was alleged to have embezzled congressional funds; some charges were subsequently dismissed, and he was acquitted of the others. John Quincy Adams, then serving as a Whig member of the House, referred to the charges as a “… memorable development of Democratic defalcation[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in West Middletown, Washington County, Pennsylvania, McNulty graduated from Jefferson College, and moved to Zanesville, Ohio, and then to Mount Vernon. He practiced law, worked as editor of the Democratic Banner newspaper, and became active in politics as a Democrat. McNulty served as Clerk of the Ohio House of Representatives, and was subsequently elected to the House himself.

On December 6, 1843, McNulty was elected by the members of the U.S. House to serve as their Clerk, defeating incumbent Matthew St. Clair Clarke of Pennsylvania.[2][3]

In 1844, he ran for U.S. Congress, and lost to Whig candidate Columbus Delano by only 12 votes.

Embezzlement charge[edit]

On January 17, 1845, a shortage of $45,000 was reported from a U.S. House contingency fund.[4] McNulty was dismissed as Clerk, and the House recommended that the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury institute the necessary legal proceedings to recover the money from McNulty.

During the House investigation, Rep. John B. Weller produced a document ostensibly showing that McNulty had simply deposited $30,000 of House funds with a New York commercial house. McNulty’s accounting clerk produced documents, including a certificate ostensibly showing that the House had a credit for $29,000 dollars at the bank.[5] Edwin Stanton defended McNulty, and succeeded at obtaining dismissal of some charges, and acquittal on the others.[6][7]

Later life[edit]

McNulty's reputation in Ohio was largely undamaged. Though he had previously served in the militia and attained the rank of colonel, at the start of the Mexican-American War he joined the 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry as a private. He died on a steamship (some sources indicate the Alhambra, others the Jamestown) near Helena, Arkansas while the regiment was en route to New Orleans for transport to Mexico.


McNulty was survived by his wife, Caroline Abbott Converse McNulty, and a one-year-old son named Rob Roy MacGregor McNulty (later, also, Converse), who had been born in Cincinnati in 1844. Caroline McNulty died before Rob Roy McNulty's tenth birthday, leaving him an orphan.

Rob Roy MacGregor McNulty Converse become a nationally prominent Episcopal priest and U.S. scholar, and a chaplain with the Union Army during the American Civil War. He was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg and nursed back to health at the Mower U.S.A. General Hospital in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. Returned to the field for the Battle of the Wilderness, McNulty’s brigade was captured by Confederates, and he was held as a prisoner of war at Andersonville from May to December, 1864.

After the war Rob Roy McNulty was successively rector of St. John’s Church in Waterbury, Connecticut, Christ Church in Corning, New York, and St. Luke’s Church in Rochester, New York. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Iowa’s Griswold College, he was also a professor of mathematics and science and chaplain at Washington and Jefferson College and Hobart College. He was also president of the Archeological Institute of America and a fellow of the American Geographical Society.[8][9][10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, his diary from 1795 to 1848, Charles Francis Adams, ed., Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott & Co., © 1877, Vol. 12, p. 148 (entry for January 17, 1845)
  2. ^ History of Washington County, Pennsylvania with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men, Boyd Crumrine, ed., Philadelphia H.L. Everts & Co., 1882, p. 676
  3. ^ Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774-2005, Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, © 2005, p. 127
  4. ^ Again, Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, his diary from 1795 to 1848, Charles Francis Adams, ed., Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott & Co., © 1877, Vol. 12, p. 148 (entry for January 17, 1845)
  5. ^ Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, his diary from 1795 to 1848, Charles Francis Adams, ed., Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott & Co., © 1877, Vol. 12, p. 148-150 (entries for January 17 and 18, 1845)
  6. ^ “went to Washington and succeeded in having an indictment against Caleb McNulty, a defaulting clerk of the House of Representatives dismissed, thus saving”, p.27, Joseph Beatty Doyle, In memoriam, Edwin McMasters Stanton, his life and work, with an account of dedication of a bronze statue in his native city, E Book [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ Some of the Ancestors and Descendants of Samuel Converse, Jr. (Vol. II) (Ed. Charles Evans Converse). (1905). Boston: Eben Putnam, p. 443 (digitized by Google September 24, 2007)
  9. ^ Builders of Our Nation, published annually, “Men of 1913”. (1914). Chicago: American Publishers Association, p. 122 (digitized by Google June 6, 2013)
  10. ^ Thomas William Herringshaw, The American Blue Book of Biography. (1913). Chicago: American Publishers Association, p. 183 (digitized by Google April 11, 2011)
  11. ^ Niles National Register newspaper, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (founder Niles Hezekia, lived 1777-1839) edition archived as NNR 70.343, available digitized by subscription at, also, [3]
Government offices
Preceded by
Matthew St. Clair Clarke
Clerk of the United States House of Representatives
December 6, 1843 - January 18, 1845
Succeeded by
Benjamin B. French