John Henry Clifford
Painting: by Benoni Irwin, 19th century

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1853-1854

A professional lawyer and prosecutor, Governor John Clifford graduated from Brown University and began a law practice in New Bedford. He served briefly in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1835, before being appointed to aid Governor Edward Everett from 1836-1840. He then began a career as a prosecutor serving as District Attorney for Southern Massachusetts (1839-1849). He briefly served in the Senate (1845) before being appointed Attorney General in 1849. In this position, he attracted great attention as the prosecutor of the sensational Parkman murder case.

Clifford achieved a plurality in his gubernatorial run against the Free Soil party candidate Horace Mann and Democratic challenger Henry Bishop. Because state law required that one candidate win a majority of the votes, the election was decided by the State Senate, which selected Clifford.

As Governor, John Clifford promoted the manufacturing and the fishing industries. He served a single term, declining renomination. Mr. Clifford again became the Commonwealth's Attorney General from 1854-1858. He reentered the Senate as Senate President in 1862 and served there until 1867. He continued to advance Massachusetts' fishing industry as United States Commissioner on Fisheries in 1875. Clifford was an overseer of Harvard College for many years and served as President of the Board of Overseers from 1869-1874.