Charles Joseph Bonaparte

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Charles Joseph Bonaparte (June 9, 1851 – June 28, 1921) was an French-American member of the United States Cabinet, serving appointments by President Theodore Roosevelt as Secretary of the Navy, then as Attorney General of the United States. He created the Bureau of Investigation, which would later become known as the FBI. He was a great-nephew of Emperor Napoleon I of France.


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, he was the son of Prince Jérôme 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, who was briefly King of Westphalia and the youngest brother of the French emperor Napoleon I.

After graduating from Harvard University and Harvard Law School, where he would later be appointed a university overseer, he practiced law in Baltimore and became prominent in municipal and national reform movements.

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

In 1899 Bonaparte was the keynote speaker for the 1st graduating class of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. In his speech he addressed "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 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, of this degree has such meaning for your brothers, what meaning has it for you?...


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 1905, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Bonaparte to his cabinet as United States Secretary of the Navy. From 1906 until the end of President Roosevelt's administration he served as United States Attorney General. He was active in suits brought against the trusts and was largely responsible for breaking up the tobacco monopoly. In 1908, Joseph founded the Bureau of Investigation (BOI).

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