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Robert McClelland (American politician)
He was born in Greencastle, Pennsylvania, the son of a prominent Franklin County doctor. He entered Dickinson College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania and graduated among the top of his class in 1829. He studied law and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1831 and practiced law in Pittsburgh for a short time before moving in 1833 to Monroe in what was then the Territory of Michigan. He became a member of the Michigan bar and established a successful law law practive there. In 1835, he was a member of the constitutional convention. After Michigan became a state, Governor Stevens T. Mason offered McClelland the positions of state Bank Commissioner and state Attorney General, both of which he declined in order to develop he private practice, although he maintained an active role in the new state's Democratic Party.
McClelland served on the board of regeants of the University of Michigan in 1837 and again in 1850. He represented Monroe County in the Michigan House of Representatives in 1838, 1840 and was speaker of the house in 1843. He served as the mayor of Monroe in 1841. He was elected in 1842 as U.S. Representative, serving from 1843 to 1849 in the 28th, 29th, and 30th Congresses. Going against the general opinion of the Democratic Party, he was a strong advocate of the Wilmot Proviso, which would have restricted the spread of slavery to new states. He was active in supporting his friend Lewis Cass's unsuccessful run for President in 1848 and did not seek reelection in that year. He played a promnent role in the Michigan's constitutional convention of 1850.
He served as governor of Michigan from 1851 to 1853. During his tenure, he softened his support of the Wilmot Proviso and instead urged support for the Compromise of 1850. He played a prominent role at the national Democratic convention of 1852. He resigned as governor in March 1853 to become the Secretary of the Interior under Franklin Pierce. Following the inauguration of James Buchanan in 1857, McClelland retired from public office and began a private law practice in Detroit. In 1867, he briefly returned to public service as a member of the Michigan constitutional convention.
McClelland married Sarah Elizabeth Sabine in 1836, with whom he had six children. He died in Detroit and is interred at Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.
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