Appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant
Hamilton Fish, a New York political leader and secretary of state during the two terms of President Ulysses S. Grant, maintained a conservative, steady course in United States foreign policies in an administration preoccupied with the problems of Reconstruction, partisan politics, and scandals involving government officials. Although differing in background and personality, Fish and Grant developed a strong personal relationship and generally worked together effectively to implement a credible foreign policy. Fish served Grant out of a sense of nobles oblige, and because he brought no personal political ambitions, he could concentrate on affairs of state in a loyal manner, detached from the unethical shenanigans that characterized others in Grant's “kitchen cabinet” and circle of political hacks. Also, possibly because of his own great wealth, Fish was never tempted to join in the corruption that involved other cabinet members.
Fish was born into wealth and influence in New York, the son of Nicholas Fish, a Revolutionary War officer, and Elizabeth Stuyvesant, the daughter of a prominent family with roots in the city's Dutch colonial period. Named after Alexander Hamilton, a close friend of the family, Fish was educated in a private school supplemented by a French tutor. Fish continued his education at Columbia College and graduated with the highest honors in 1827. Following the study of law for three years in the office of Peter A. Jay, Fish was admitted to the New York bar and established a practice with William B. Lawrence. His marriage in 1836 to Julia Kean brought connections to one of New Jersey's most prominent families. Of Fish's social and financial stature, one journalist wrote: “Few men have been more the favorites of the blind goddess than Hamilton Fish.”
In 1834, Fish made his first attempt to win an election, running unsuccessfully in a Democratic district as a Whig candidate for the state assembly. Fish tried again in 1842 and won because of a split among his Democratic opponents. However, he was not returned to office when he sought reelection. He was also unsuccessful four years later in a bid for the office of lieutenant governor. With the Democrats again