Schuyler Colfax was born in New York City, though as a child his family moved to New Castle, Indiana. As a young man, Colfax worked as a newspaper reporter and publisher, establishing important political contacts in the process. He joined the Whig party where he developed a reputation as a rising young politician and was selected for a number of party posts, including the party's nomination for Congress in 1850 (he lost).
With the Whig party collapsing, he joined the newly formed Republican Party where he ran again for Congress, winning a seat that he would hold from 1855-1869, and serving as Speaker of the House from 1863 to the end of his term. An opponent of slavery, Colfax joined the Radical Republicans and strongly supported the Freeman's Bureau, the Civil Rights Bill and the Reconstruction Acts.
After the Civil War, Colfax clashed with President Andrew Johnson over Reconstruction and voted for his impeachment in 1868. Ulysses S. Grant selected Colfax as his running mate during his bid for the presidency in 1868 and, upon Grant's election, Colfax served as vice president from 1869 to 1873. Unfortunately, Colfax was implicated in the Credit Mobilier scandal in 1872 which damaged his reputation and cost him the renomination for vice president that same year. After leaving office, Schuyler, Colfax embarked on a successful career as a lecturer until his death in 1885.