Stephen Henry Phillips

Stephen Henry Phillips (August 16, 1823 – April 9, 1897) was an American lawyer who served as the Attorney General of Massachusetts and the Kingdom of Hawaii[1] and as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and on King Kamehameha V's Privy Council.

Stephen Henry Phillips
Stephen Henry Phillips, engraving by Alexander Hay Ritchie, 1887
12th Massachusetts Attorney General
In office
GovernorNathaniel Prentice Banks
Preceded byJohn H. Clifford
Succeeded byDwight Foster
Attorney General of
The Kingdom of Hawai'i
In office
September 12, 1866[1]  January 10, 1873
Succeeded byAlbert Francis Judd
Minister of Foreign Affairs of
The Kingdom of Hawaii
In office
July 18, 1868  December 31, 1869
Preceded byCharles de Varigny
Succeeded byCharles Coffin Harris
Personal details
Born(1823-08-16)August 16, 1823
Salem, Massachusetts
DiedApril 8, 1897(1897-04-08) (aged 73) [2]
Salem, Massachusetts
Political partyRepublican

Early life

Phillips was born August 16, 1823 in Salem, Massachusetts. He was the eldest son of Jane Appleton (Peele) Phillips and politician Stephen C. Phillips (1801–1857). Phillips was a descendant of Rev. George Phillips of Watertown, the progenitor of the New England Phillips family in America.[3]

Phillips studied at various private schools in Salem, New York, and Washington, DC. He entered Harvard University in 1838 wen only 15 years old, graduating in 1842, as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Phillips then studied law at the Harvard Law School. One of his teachers there was Joseph Story, who was on the Supreme Court of the United States at the time.[4]

Massachusetts politics

Phillips was a delegate to the 1856 Republican National Convention (its first) in Philadelphia. Phillips was Attorney-General of the state of Massachusetts from 1858 to 1861. Phillips was also a delegate to the 1864 Republican National Convention which re-nominated Abraham Lincoln for president.[4]

Hawaiian Islands

A fellow student at Harvard was William Little Lee (1821–1857) who had helped draft the 1852 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii and served as chief justice of the supreme court until his early death. In 1866 Phillips was invited by King Kamehameha V to come to Honolulu, where he became an officer of the government of the Kingdom of Hawaii. He was appointed as Hawaii's attorney general and as a member of the king's Privy Council . He was appointed to the House of Nobles in the legislature of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1867, and attended sessions in 1868, 1870, and 1872.[5]

Phillips temporarily acted as minister of foreign affairs in the cabinet from July 18, 1868 to while Charles de Varigny was in France trying to negotiate a treaty. On December 31, 1869 Charles Coffin Harris became minister of foreign affairs.[6] Phillips returned to marry Margaret Duncan on October 3, 1871 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. She was daughter of another politician, James H. Duncan (1793–1869).[4]

Back to the mainland

After the death of Kamehameha V, the new king Lunalilo chose a new council and cabinet, and in January 1873 resigned his posts and moved to San Francisco. He was replaced by Albert Francis Judd as attorney general.[7] In San Francisco he practiced law for the Equitable Life Insurance company and the California state board of railroad commissioners. In 1881 he moved back to his home state in Danvers, Massachusetts.[4] He died on April 8, 1897.


  1. "The Hawaiian Islands and their New Attorney-General" (PDF). The New York Times. New York. November 16, 1866. p. 2. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
  2. Chicago Daily Tribune (April 9, 1897), obit, Chicago, Ill.: The Chicago Daily Tribune, p. 4
  3. Bond, Henry and Jones, Horatio. Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts, Including Waltham and Weston: To which is Appended the Early History of the Town. New England Historical and Genealogical Society, 1860, pgs. 872-882
  4. Robert S. Rantoul (1888). Duane Hamilton Hurd (ed.). History of Essex County, Massachusetts: with Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men. 1. Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis & Company. pp. xlviii–li.
  5. "Phillips, Stephen H. office record". state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
  6. "Foreign affairs, Minister of, office record" (PDF). state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 20, 2012. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
  7. "Attorney General, office record" (PDF). state archives digital collections. state of Hawaii. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 30, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
"A List of All the Cabinet Ministers Who Have Held Office in the Hawaiian Kingdom"
Includes a list of Attorneys General for the Kingdom of Hawaii, their salaries and budgets
Legal offices
Preceded by
John H. Clifford
Attorney General of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Dwight Foster
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