Richard Rush was born August 29, 1780, the third child of prominent Philadelphia physician Dr. Benjamin Rush and his wife, Julia Stockton. A 1794 graduate of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University), he was admitted to the Philadelphia Bar in 1800 and practiced law there for 11 years. In 1809, he married Catherine Elizabeth Murray, with whom he had 11 children, including lawyer and writer Benjamin Rush (1811-1877), lawyer James Murray Rush (1813-1862), and Richard H. Rush (1825-1893).
Rush served briefly as attorney-general of Pennsylvania in 1811; the following year, he was chosen comptroller of the U.S. Treasury, and in 1814, he became U.S. attorney-general under Madison. He was acting secretary of state in 1817 and responsible for the Rush-Bagot Agreement with Great Britain, establishing limited naval armaments on the Great Lakes. James Monroe appointed Rush minister to Great Britain in 1817, in which capacity Rush distinguished himself by settling disputes arising from the War of 1812 over the Northwest boundary and fisheries. He also played an important role in preparing for the negotiations that resulted in the Monroe Doctrine.
Rush returned to the cabinet as secretary of the treasury, 1825-1829, and was John Quincy Adams' running mate in the presidential election of 1828. Following his defeat, Rush remained in private life for a number of years.. He resumed his public career in 1835 to act as co-commissioner in the Michigan-Ohio boundary dispute, and again in 1836-1838 as advocate for the United States in British courts regarding the Smithson bequest, which would establish the Smithsonian Institution. Rush accepted his last important office in the Polk administration, serving as United States minister to France, 1847-1851. He died July 13, 1859.