He attended the schools and academies of his native city.
He moved to Canton, Ohio, in 1856, where he studied law.
He was admitted to the bar in 1859 and commenced practice in Canton.
He served as a city solicitor of Canton in 1860.
During the Civil War he entered the Army as a first lieutenant, rose through the grades of captain, major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel, and resigned in 1865. He brevetted brigadier general of Volunteers, United States Army, in 1865.
He resumed the practice of law in Canton, Ohio.
Twice he was elected attorney of Stark County.
In 1869 he moved to Omaha, Nebraska, and continued the practice of law.
He served as a city attorney of Omaha for six years.
In 1871 and 1875 he was a member of the State constitutional conventions.
In 1883 he was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate. In 1888 he was reelected in 1888 and served from March 4, 1883, to March 3, 1895.
He served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the Fifty-first, Fifty-second and Fifty-third Congresses. He also was a chairman for the Committee on Printing (Forty-eighth through Fifty-second Congresses).
He was appointed general solicitor of the Burlington system of railroads west of the Missouri River.
He served as vice president of the American Bar Association in 1899 and president in 1900.
Clubs: Metropolitan, Army and Navy, Washington, D.C.; Omaha, Commercial, Field, Country and Happy Hollow, Nebraska.