Jacob M. Howard

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Jacob M. Howard
Jacob M. Howard - Brady-Handy.jpg
United States Senator
from Michigan
In office
January 17, 1862 – March 4, 1871
Preceded by Kinsley S. Bingham
Succeeded by Thomas W. Ferry
Attorney General of Michigan
In office
Governor Kinsley S. Bingham
Moses Wisner
Preceded by William Hale
Succeeded by Charles Upson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1841 – March 4, 1843
Preceded by Isaac E. Crary
Succeeded by Robert McClelland
Member of the Michigan House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born Jacob Merritt Howard
(1805-07-10)July 10, 1805
Shaftsbury, Vermont
Died April 2, 1871(1871-04-02) (aged 65)
Detroit, Michigan
Political party Republican
Other political
Mr. Howard

Jacob Merritt Howard (July 10, 1805 – April 2, 1871) was a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from the state of Michigan during and after the American Civil War.

Early life[edit]

Howard was born in Shaftsbury, Vermont, and attended the district schools and the academies of Bennington and Brattleboro. He graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1830 and then studied law. He moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1832 and was admitted to the bar in 1833 and commenced practice in Detroit. He was city attorney of Detroit in 1834 and a member of the Michigan State House of Representatives in 1838.

Congressional service[edit]

Howard was elected as a Whig to the US House of Representatives for the Twenty-seventh Congress, serving from March 4, 1841 to March 4, 1843. He was not a candidate for renomination in 1842. He helped draw up the platform of the first Republican Party convention, held in Jackson, Michigan, in 1854. He was the Michigan Attorney General from 1855 to 1861.

Howard was elected as a Republican to the US Senate in 1861 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Kinsley S. Bingham. He was re-elected in 1865 and so served from January 1862 to March 1871. He was chairman of the Committee on Pacific Railroads in the Thirty-eighth through Forty-first Congresses.

As a Senator, he was the chief sponsor of the False Claims Act, the "Lincoln Law", which permitted whistleblowers to file qui tam lawsuits against government contractors for fraud, with the incentive of receiving a monetary reward based on the recovery made by the federal government. Howard justified giving rewards to whistleblowers, many of whom had engaged in unethical activities themselves:

I have based the [qui tam provision] upon the old-fashioned idea of holding out a temptation, and 'setting a rogue to catch a rogue,' which is the safest and most expeditious way I have ever discovered of bringing rogues to justice.[1]

Howard is credited with working closely with Abraham Lincoln in drafting and passing the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. In the Senate, he also served on the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, which drafted the Fourteenth Amendment.

During the debate over the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, he argued for including the phrase "and subject to the jurisdiction thereof:"

[The 14th amendment] will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the government of the United States, but will include every other class of person.[2]

Howard died in Detroit and is interred in Elmwood Cemetery.


  • Maltz, Earl M., "Radical Politics and Constitutional Theory: Senator Jacob M. Howard of Michigan and the Problem of Reconstruction," Michigan Historical Review, 32 (Spring 2006), 19–32.
  • American National Biography
  • Dictionary of American Biography


External links[edit]

Speech introducing the Fourteenth Amendment in the U.S. Senate[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Isaac E. Crary
United States Representative for the 1st Congressional District of Michigan
Succeeded by
Robert McClelland
Legal offices
Preceded by
William Hale
Michigan Attorney General
Succeeded by
Charles Upson
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Kinsley S. Bingham
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Michigan
Served alongside: Zachariah Chandler
Succeeded by
Thomas W. Ferry