Charles Joseph Bonaparte

Charles Joseph Bonaparte (/ˈboʊnəpɑːrt/; June 9, 1851 – June 28, 1921) was a French-American lawyer and political activist for progressive and liberal causes. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, he served in the cabinet of the 26th U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt.

Bonaparte was the U.S. Secretary of the Navy and later the U.S. Attorney General.[1] During his tenure as the attorney general, he created the Bureau of Investigation which later grew and expanded by the 1920s under the director J. Edgar Hoover, (1895–1972), as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It was so renamed in 1935. He was a great-nephew of French Emperor Napoleon I.[2][3][4][5][6]

Bonaparte was one of the founders, and for a time the president, of the National Municipal League. He was also a long time activist for the rights of black residents of his city.[7]

Charles Bonaparte
46th United States Attorney General
In office
December 17, 1906 – March 4, 1909
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byWilliam Moody
Succeeded byGeorge W. Wickersham
37th United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
July 1, 1905 – December 16, 1906
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byPaul Morton
Succeeded byVictor H. Metcalf
Personal details
Charles Joseph Bonaparte

June 9, 1851
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
DiedJune 28, 1921 (aged 70)
Baltimore County, Maryland, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Ellen Channing Day (m. 1875)
EducationHarvard University (BA, LLB)

Early life and education

Coat of Arms of Charles Joseph Bonaparte
Coat of Arms of Charles Joseph Bonaparte

Bonaparte was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 9, 1851, the son of Jerôme ("Bo") Napoleon Bonaparte, (1805–1870) and Susan May Williams (1812–1881), from whom the American line of the Bonaparte family descended, and a grandson of Jérôme Bonaparte, the youngest brother of French Emperor Napoleon I and King of Westphalia, 1807–1813. However, the American Bonapartes were not considered part of the dynasty and never used any titles.

He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, across from Boston, where he later served as a university overseer. He practiced law in Baltimore and became prominent in municipal and national reform movements.


In 1899, Bonaparte was the keynote speaker for the first graduating class of the Roman Catholic women's institution run by the Order of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, (now Notre Dame of Maryland University). He spoke on "The Significance of the Bachelor's Degree":

Today, and here for the first time in America, a Catholic college for the education of young ladies bestows the bachelor's degree....

The Style of Scholarship... which benefits the recipient of the bachelor's degree has two distinctive and essential marks. It implies in the first place a broad, generous sympathy with every form of honest, rational and disinterested study or research.
A Scholar who is also, and first of all, a gentleman may be... specially interested is some particular field of knowledge, but he is indifferent to none. He knows how to value every successful effort to master truth; how to look beyond the little things of science... to the great things - God's handiwork as seen in nature, God's mind as shadowed in the workings of the minds of men.

Young ladies, if this degree has such meaning for your brothers, what meaning has it for you.[8]

Bella Vista in 1907
Bella Vista in 1907

Bonaparte lived in a townhouse in the north Baltimore neighborhood of Mount Vernon-Belvedere and had a country estate in suburban Baltimore County, Maryland, which surrounds the city on the west, north and east. His home, Bella Vista, was designed by the architects James Bosley Noel Wyatt, (1847-1926) and William G. Nolting, (1866–1940), in the prominent local architectural partnership firm of Wyatt & Nolting in 1896.[9] It lies east of the Harford Road (Maryland Route 147) in an area called Glen Arm. The house was not electrified since Bonaparte refused to have electricity or telegraph lines installed from a dislike of technology, verified by his use of horse-drawn coach until his death in the early 1920s.[10]


A founder of the Reform League of Baltimore, organized in 1885, which eventually led to a certain amount of efficient municipal government with a clean sweep of an election by 1895 in which long-time minority progressive liberal Republicans ousted the long-time Democratic machine politicians in heavily Democratic wards of Baltimore City and ruled with a clean hand for a brief time. He was a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners from 1902 to 1904, chairman of the National Civil Service Reform League in 1904 and appointed a trustee of The Catholic University of America in northeast Washington, D.C.. Maryland voters elected him to be one of their presidential electors in 1904.[11]

In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Bonaparte Secretary of the Navy. In 1906 Bonaparte moved to the office of Attorney General, which he held until the end of Roosevelt's term. He was active in suits brought against the trusts and was largely responsible for breaking up the tobacco monopoly. He became known as "Charlie, the Crook Chaser." In 1908, Bonaparte established a Bureau of Investigation (BOI) within the Department of Justice which had been earlier established in 1870 under the direction of the Attorney General himself. By the 1920s, under its long-time director, J. Edgar Hoover, the Bureau had again been cleaned up and streamlined and in 1935 was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).


Bonaparte died in Bella Vista, and is interred at southwest Baltimore's landmark Loudon Park Cemetery. He died of "Saint Vitus Dance" (today called Sydenham's chorea). A nearby street in Baltimore County bears the name of Bonaparte Avenue.

After Bonaparte's death, the house was later owned by bootleggers Peter and Michael Kelly. After they left, it was destroyed in a fire caused by faulty wiring on January 20, 1933. The site was replaced by a poured concrete mansion, but a large carriage house, dating back to 1896, is still on the estate.[9]

Personal life

On September 1, 1875, Bonaparte married the former Ellen Channing Day (1852–1924), daughter of attorney Thomas Mills Day and Anna Jones Dunn. They had no children.


  • Bishop, Joseph Bucklin (1922), Charles Joseph Bonaparte: His Life and Public Services, New York: C. Scribner's Sons
  • Goldman, Eric F. (1943), Charles J. Bonaparte: Patrician Reformer, His Earlier Career, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press


  1. ^ Annual Report of the Maryland State Bar Association, vol. 26. Maryland State Bar Association. 1921. pp. 43–45.
  2. ^ McLynn, Frank (1998). Napoleon. Pimlico. p. 2. ISBN 0-7126-6247-2. ASIN 0712662472.
  3. ^ "FBI — 1935 Washington Star Article". Archived from the original on 2010-04-11. Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  4. ^ Shahab Keshavarz. "Charles J. Bonaparte". Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "National Italian American Foundation". Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  7. ^ "Baltimore's Civil Rights Heritage (1885-1929)". Retrieved 20 February 2019. White Republican party leaders, including prominent Baltimore lawyer Charles J. Bonaparte, also played a role in rallying opposition to these proposals. Historian Jane L. Phelps noted Bonaparte’s opposition to the Poe and Strauss Amendments in 1905 and 1908 (Phelps, “Charles J. Bonaparte and Negro Suffrage in Maryland.”) <56>.
  8. ^ Philbin, Anne Scarborough (1959). The past and the promised. Baltimore, Md.: Alumnae Association, College of Notre Dame of Maryland. p. 58.
  9. ^ a b Kelly, Jacques. "Houses – Bella Vista". Baltimore County Public Library Legacy Web. Archived from the original on 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
  10. ^ Don Bloch (August 18, 1935). "Bonaparte Founded G-Men". FBI. Archived from the original on 2012-06-06. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  11. ^ Too Close to Call: Presidential Electors and Elections in Maryland, featuring the Presidential Election of 1904. Archives of Maryland Documents for the Classroom.

External links

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Chairman of the National Civil Service Reform League
Succeeded by
Preceded by
James C. Carter
President of the National Municipal League
Succeeded by
William D. Foulke
Government offices
Preceded by
Paul Morton
37th United States Secretary of the Navy
July 1, 1905 – December 16, 1906
Succeeded by
Victor H. Metcalf
Legal offices
Preceded by
William H. Moody
U.S. Attorney General
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt

December 17, 1906–March 4, 1909
Succeeded by
George W. Wickersham
1908 in the United States

Events from the year 1908 in the United States.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy

Assistant Secretary of the Navy (ASN) is the title given to certain civilian senior officials in the United States Department of the Navy.

From 1861 to 1954, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy was the second highest civilian office in the Department of the Navy (reporting to the United States Secretary of the Navy). That role has since been supplanted by the office of Under Secretary of the Navy and the office of Assistant Secretary of the Navy has been abolished. There have, however, been a number of offices bearing the phrase "Assistant Secretary of the Navy" in their title (see below for details).

At present, there are four Assistant Secretaries of the Navy, each of whom reports to and assists the Secretary of the Navy and the Under Secretary of the Navy:

Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition)

Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs)

Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management and Comptroller)

Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Installations and Environment)

The General Counsel of the Navy is equivalent in rank to the four Assistant Secretaries.

Charles W. Lyons

Charles W. Lyons (January 31, 1868 – January 31, 1939) was an American Roman Catholic priest and member of the Society of Jesus. He served as the President of Gonzaga College (which became Gonzaga College High School), Saint Joseph's College, Boston College, and Georgetown University, making him the only Jesuit to have served as the president of five colleges.

Commencement at the University of Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame's annual commencement exercises are held each May, currently in the Notre Dame Stadium. The exercises award undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte

Elizabeth "Betsy" Patterson Bonaparte (February 6, 1785 – April 4, 1879) was an American socialite. She was the daughter of a Baltimore merchant, and the first wife of Jérôme Bonaparte, Napoleon's youngest brother.

Glen Arm, Maryland

Glen Arm is an unincorporated community in Baltimore County, Maryland, United States.Glen Arm lies along what is now Glen Arm Road, which was once part of Old Harford Road, one of the early routes used for conveying agricultural products from parts of Harford and Baltimore Counties and southern Pennsylvania to the port of Baltimore. Glen Arm was also served until 1958 by the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1921, at the railroad's crossing of Glen Arm Road, what generally is recognized as the nation's first train-actuated railroad crossing signal was installed by the railroad's Superintendent of Signals, Charles Adler, Jr. Adler later designed early traffic-actuated traffic lights for the City of Baltimore, and also invented the system of flashing warning lights used on aircraft.Glen Arm was once the home to a Grumman aircraft manufacturing plant. Today, the building serves as the American headquarters of and a warehouse for Ulla Popken women's clothing.Ravenshurst, a historic Carpenter Gothic-style home in Glen Arm, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It was destroyed by fire in 1985.In the 1990s Glen Arm was the center of the Towson Glen Arm music and art collective.A notable resident of Glen Arm was Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1851-1921), whose country estate Bella Vista was in the area. Bonaparte, a great nephew of the French emperor Napoleon, served as United States Secretary of War and United States Attorney General under President Theodore Roosevelt. As Attorney General, Bonaparte established the Bureau of Investigation, which later became the FBI.

Henry Waters Taft

Henry Waters Taft (May 27, 1859 – August 11, 1945) was an American lawyer and author. He was the son of Alphonso and brother of President William Howard Taft. A renowned antitrust lawyer, he was a name partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.

House of Bonaparte

The House of Bonaparte (originally Buonaparte) was an imperial and royal European dynasty of Italian origin. It was founded in 1804 by Napoleon I, the son of Genoese nobleman Carlo Buonaparte. Napoleon was a French military leader who had risen to power during the French Revolution and who in 1804 transformed the First French Republic into the First French Empire, five years after his coup d'état of November 1799. Napoleon turned the Grande Armée against every major European power and dominated continental Europe through a series of military victories during the Napoleonic Wars. He installed members of his family on the thrones of client states, extending the power of the dynasty.

The House of Bonaparte formed the Imperial House of France during the French Empire, together with some non-Bonaparte family members. In addition to holding the title of Emperor of the French, the Bonaparte dynasty held various other titles and territories during the Napoleonic Wars, including the Kingdom of Italy, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of Westphalia, the Kingdom of Holland, and the Kingdom of Naples. The dynasty held power for around a decade until the Napoleonic Wars began to take their toll. Making very powerful enemies, such as Austria, Britain, Russia, and Prussia, as well as royalist (particularly Bourbon) restorational movements in France, Spain, the Two Sicilies, and Sardinia, the dynasty eventually collapsed due to the final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo and the restoration of former dynasties by the Congress of Vienna.

During the reign of Napoleon I, the Imperial Family consisted of the Emperor's immediate relations – his wife, son, siblings, and some other close relatives, namely his brother-in-law Joachim Murat, his uncle Joseph Fesch, and Eugène de Beauharnais his stepson.

Between 1852 and 1870, there was a Second French Empire, when a member of the Bonaparte dynasty again ruled France: Napoleon III, the youngest son of Louis Bonaparte. However, during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871, the dynasty was again ousted from the Imperial Throne. Since that time, there has been a series of pretenders. Supporters of the Bonaparte family's claim to the throne of France are known as Bonapartists. Current head Jean-Christophe, Prince Napoléon, has a Bourbon mother.

July 26

July 26 is the 207th day of the year (208th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 158 days remaining until the end of the year.

June 9

June 9 is the 160th day of the year (161st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 205 days remaining until the end of the year.

Jérôme Bonaparte

Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte (born Girolamo Buonaparte; 15 November 1784 – 24 June 1860) was the youngest brother of Napoleon I and reigned as Jerome I (formally Hieronymus Napoleon in German), King of Westphalia, between 1807 and 1813. From 1816 onward, he bore the title of Prince of Montfort. After 1848, when his nephew, Louis Napoleon, became President of the French Second Republic, he served in several official roles, including Marshal of France from 1850 onward, and President of the Senate in 1852.

Jérôme Napoléon Bonaparte

Jérôme Napoléon "Bo" Bonaparte (5 July 1805 – 17 June 1870) was a French-American farmer, chairman of the Maryland Agricultural Society, first president of the Maryland Club, and the son of Elizabeth Patterson and Jérôme Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon I.He was born in 95 Camberwell Grove, Camberwell, London, but lived in the United States with his wealthy American mother. Jérôme's mother's marriage had been annulled by order of Jérôme's uncle, French Emperor Napoleon I. The annulment caused the rescission of his right to carry the Bonaparte name; though the ruling was later reversed by his cousin, Napoleon III.

It is speculated that Jérôme's prospective title is a reason the 11th Congress of the United States in 1810 proposed the Titles of Nobility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would strip an American of his citizenship if he accepted a title of nobility from a foreign nation. The amendment has never been approved, lacking the approval of only two state legislatures at that time.He graduated from Mount St. Mary's College (now Mount St. Mary's University) in 1817 and later received a law degree from Harvard but did not practice the law. He was a founding member of the Maryland Club, serving as its first presidentIn November 1829, Jérôme Napoleon married Susan May Williams, an heiress from Baltimore, and it is from them that the American line of the Bonaparte family descended. They had two sons:

Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte II (1830-1893), officer in the armies of both the United States and France, had issue;

Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1851-1921), United States Attorney General and Secretary of the Navy, no issue.Jérôme Napoleon had refused to wait for an arranged marriage to a European princess, instead opting for the $200,000 fortune that Susan brought to the marriage. In an attempt to match the railroad heiress's dowry, the groom's maternal grandfather, William Patterson — one of the wealthiest men in Maryland — gave the couple Montrose Mansion as a wedding gift.Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte died in Baltimore, Maryland, and is buried in the Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore.

Kingsville, Maryland

Kingsville is a semi-rural, unincorporated community and census-designated place in Baltimore County, Maryland, United States. It is a close-knit and rustic community bounded by the Little Gunpowder Falls river (to the northeast) and the Big Gunpowder Falls river (to the southwest) which join to form the Gunpowder River. The population of Kingsville was 4,318 at the 2010 census.

Laetare Medal

The Laetare Medal is an annual award given by the University of Notre Dame in recognition of outstanding service to the Catholic Church and society. The award is given to an American Catholic or group of Catholics "whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity." First awarded in 1883, it is the oldest and most prestigious award for American Catholics.

Loudon Park Cemetery

Loudon Park Cemetery and Loudon Park Funeral Home, Inc. in Baltimore, Maryland, are locally owned and operated. Both the Cemetery and the Funeral Home became privately owned in 2014 when they were acquired from SCI (Service Corporation International.) Loudon Park Funeral Home, Inc. was built on the grounds of the historic cemetery by Stewart Enterprises in 1995. SCI (Service Corporation International) acquired Stewart Enterprises in 2013. The expanded cemetery was incorporated on January 27, 1853 on 100 acres of the site of the "Loudon" estate, previously owned by James Carey, a local merchant and politician. The entrance to the cemetery is located at 3620 Wilkens Avenue.

Napoleon II

Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte (20 March 1811 – 22 July 1832), Prince Imperial, King of Rome, known in the Austrian court as Franz from 1814 onward, Duke of Reichstadt from 1818, was the son of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, and his second wife, Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria.

By Title III, article 9 of the French Constitution of the time, he was Prince Imperial, but he was also known from birth as the King of Rome, which Napoleon I declared was the courtesy title of the heir apparent. His nickname of L'Aiglon ("the Eaglet") was awarded posthumously and was popularized by the Edmond Rostand play, L'Aiglon.

When Napoleon I tried to abdicate on 4 April 1814, he said that his son would rule as Emperor. However, the coalition victors refused to acknowledge his son as successor, and Napoleon I was forced to abdicate unconditionally some days later. Although Napoleon II never actually ruled France, he was briefly the titular Emperor of the French in 1815 after the second fall of his father. When his cousin Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte became the next emperor by founding the Second French Empire in 1852, he called himself Napoleon III to acknowledge Napoleon II and his brief reign.

Signet society

The Signet Society of Harvard University was founded in 1870 by members of the class of 1871. The first president was Charles Joseph Bonaparte. It was, at first, dedicated to the production of literary work only, going so far as to exclude debate and even theatrical productions. According to The Harvard book It seemed to the founders that there was room in the College world for another association that should devote itself more exclusively to literary work than is possible with large numbers. Accordingly, they confined the membership to a few, and required that new members shall be, so far as possible, "representative men," and that at least five should be in the first half of their class.

After a few years in quarters on university property, the Signet moved to an off-campus location at 46 Dunster Street.

Stanley Finch

Stanley Wellington Finch (July 20, 1872 – 22 November 1951) was the first director of the Bureau of Investigation (1908–1912), which would eventually become the FBI. He would soon retire from office.

Finch was born in Monticello, New York, in 1872. He became a clerk in the United States Department of Justice, where he worked off and on for almost 40 years. Finch rose from the position of clerk to that of chief examiner between 1893 and 1908. It was only while working in the Justice Department that Finch earned his LL.B degree (1908), followed by an LL.M degree (1909) from what is now The George Washington University Law School. The Washington, DC bar association admitted him to practice in 1911.

Previously when the Justice Department needed to investigate a crime it would borrow Secret Service personnel from the Treasury Department. As chief examiner, Finch advocated setting up a squad of detectives within the Justice Department.

Attorney General Charles Joseph Bonaparte created a Special Agent force, and gave oversight of the force, later named the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), to Finch. Thus he created what would become the FBI.

From 1913 to the 1930s, Finch alternated between private employment—primarily in the novelty manufacturing business—and positions in the Department of Justice. He finally retired from the Department of Justice in 1940.

Susan May Williams

Susan May Williams Bonaparte (April 2, 1812 – September 15, 1881) was an American heiress and the wife of Jérôme Napoléon Bonaparte, a French-American nephew of Napoléon I, Emperor of France, who lived as a farmer in Baltimore. Although nominally a princess, by virtue of her father-in-law being first King of Westphalia then Prince of Montfort, she and her descendants are not normally considered part of the Bonaparte dynasty.Susan was the daughter of Benjamin Williams, a native of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who became a prominent Baltimore merchant; and his wife, Sarah Copeland, widow of Nathaniel Morton. In 1827, Williams helped found the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the first railroad company in the United States, in response to the opening of the Erie Canal and its competition with the port of Baltimore.

In November 1829, Susan married Jérôme Napoleon Bonaparte-Patterson, the son of Elizabeth Patterson, an American heiress, and Jérôme Bonaparte; their marriage had been annulled after three years on the orders of Napoléon himself, so that his brother could make a more advantageous marriage. Jérôme Napoleon too had been offered an arranged marriage, but rejected the idea in favour of the $200,000 fortune that Susan had inherited. In the following year, the groom's maternal grandfather, William Patterson, one of the wealthiest men in Maryland, gave the couple Montrose Mansion as a wedding gift.Their sons were the soldier Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte II (1830-1893) and the lawyer and government official Charles Joseph Bonaparte (1851-1921).

General Lew Wallace described Susan as:...staunchly Union, a tall, handsome, black-eyed, Franco-American woman, decidedly masculine in mind, but true to her woman's place

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