Ladies of the Cabinet: Mrs. Lamont, Mrs. Olney, Mrs. Bissell, Mrs. Gresham, Mrs. Cleveland, Mrs. Carlisle, Mrs. Herbert, Mrs. Smith, Miss Morton
John G. Carlisle's grandchildren (Jane middle, Laura right)
Carlisle was born in what is now Kenton County, Kentucky, and began his public life as a lawyer in Covington, Kentucky, under John W. Stevenson. Carlisle married Mary Jane Goodson on January 15, 1857, and they had two sons: William Kinkead Carlisle and Logan Griffin Carlisle.
Mary Jane Goodson was born in Covington, Kentucky, August 2, 1835. Her father, Major John Adam Goodson, served in the war of 1812, and for several terms represented his district in the House of Representatives. Both William Kinkead Carlisle and Logan Griffin Carlisle were lawyers by profession. William Carlisle was married and had three children.
Despite the political difficulties that taking a neutral position during the American Civil War caused him, Carlisle spent most of the 1860s in the Kentucky General Assembly, serving in the Kentucky House of Representatives and two terms in the Kentucky State Senate, and was elected Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky in 1871, succeeding his former law mentor Stevenson.
After Carlisle's term as Lieutenant Governor ended in 1875, he ran for and won a seat in the United States House of Representatives for Kentucky's 6th district. On the main issues of the day, Carlisle was in favor of coining silver, but not for free coinage, and favored lower tariffs. He became a leader of the low-tariff wing of the Democratic Party, and was chosen by House Democrats to become Speaker in 1883 over Samuel J. Randall, a leader of the party's protectionist wing.
Carlisle became a leader of the conservative Bourbon Democrats and was mentioned as a presidential candidate but the Democrats passed him over at their conventions for Winfield S. Hancock in 1880 and Grover Cleveland in 1884. Discomfort with nominating a southerner after the Civil War played a role in Carlisle's failure to win either nomination. In 1892 Carlisle was again proposed as a candidate for president at the Democratic convention, but this time Carlisle asked that he not be considered. It was reported at the time that Carlisle dropped out with the understanding that Cleveland, once nominated, would appoint him to his Cabinet.
In 1890, Carlisle was appointed to the United States Senate to fill the unexpired term of James B. Beck. When Cleveland was again elected to the Presidency in 1892, he chose Carlisle as his Secretary of the Treasury.
Carlisle's tenure as Secretary was marred by the Panic of 1893, a financial and economic disaster so severe that it ended Carlisle's political career. In response to a run on the American gold supply, Carlisle felt forced to end silver coinage. He also felt compelled to oppose the 1894 Wilson-Gorman Tariff bill. These two stands were widely unpopular among agrarian Democrats. In 1896 Carlisle strenuously opposed Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan, supporting a splinter Gold Democrat candidate, once-Illinois Governor Palmer, instead.
By 1896, the once remarkably popular Carlisle was so disliked due to his stewardship of the currency that he was forced to leave the stage in the middle of a speech in his home town of Covington due to a barrage of rotten eggs.
By May 1899, the North American Trust Company had directors such as John G. Carlisle, Adlai E. Stevenson, and Wager Swayne.
He moved to New York City, where he practiced law, and died on July 31, 1910, at age 75, and is buried in Linden Grove Cemetery in Covington, Kentucky.