Edward Bates was born in Belmont, Virginia, on September 4, 1793. He received his education at Charlotte Hall Academy, in St. Mary’s, Maryland, and from a private tutor. From February until October 1813 he served in the Virginia Militia at Norfolk. Bates emigrated to the Territory of Missouri in 1814 and soon entered the practice of law. In 1818 he was prosecuting attorney for the St. Louis circuit and in 1820 was elected delegate to the State constitutional convention. Towards the close of the same year he was appointed State's attorney of the State of Missouri and held the office for two years. In 1822 he was elected to the State legislature, and in 1824 became State's attorney for the Missouri District. In 1826 he was elected Representative in Congress and served one term. Bates was in the state senate of Missouri in 1830 and 1834. In 1850 President Fillmore offered him the post of Secretary of War, which he declined. In 1853 he became judge of the St. Louis land court, presided over the Whig Convention in Baltimore in 1856, became prominent as an anti-slavery man, and in 1859 was considered for the Presidency. On March 5, 1861, Bates was appointed Attorney General of the United States by President Lincoln. He resigned in 1864, and returned to St. Louis, Missouri, where he died on March 25, 1869.
Conant painted the portrait of Attorney General Bates in 1861. Conant was born in Chelsea, Vermont, in 1821 and died in 1915. He became well known for his portraits of leading statesmen while visiting in Washington, D. C., in the 1880's. He painted, among others, Lincoln, Sherman, Sumpter and John Breckinridge , the fifth Attorney General.
Conant was also an archeologist, an author, and founder of the Western Academy of Art in St. Louis, Missouri.