Simon Cameron was born in Maytown, Pennsylvania on 8th March, 1799. After a brief schooling Cameron became a newspaper editor and a successful businessman. This included investments in canals, railroads and the iron industry.
Cameron was active in politics, being a member of the Whig Party before joining the Democratic Party. He was elected to the Senate in 1845. Later he joined the Know Nothing Party in 1855 before finally entering the Republican Party. This constant switching of parties gave Cameron a reputation as a political opportunist.
In 1860 Cameron was one of those nominated to become the presidential candidate of the Republican Party. However, at the National Convention, when it was clear that Cameron could not win, he gave his full support to Abraham Lincoln. He was rewarded by being appointed as Secretary of War. This job became more important on the outbreak of the American Civil War.
In January, 1862, Edwin M. Stanton, his legal adviser, helped Cameron write his yearly report. He personally wrote the section that called for freed slaves to be armed and used against the Confederate Army. President Abraham Lincoln was opposed to this policy and ordered Cameron to remove the offending passage. When he refused he was removed from office. Lincoln, who was unaware of Stanton's role in the report, appointed him as his new Secretary of War.
Cameron now became America's representative in Russia. Cameron returned to the Senate in 1867 and in 1872 served as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Simon Cameron, who resigned his seat in the Senate in 1877 in order to help his son replace him, died in Donegal Springs, 26th June, 1889.