Henry Stanbury was born in New York City. He graduated from Washington College in 1819 and after studying law was admitted to the bar in 1824.
Stanbury worked as a lawyer in Ohio before being appointed as the state's attorney general (1846-51).
When impeachment proceedings began against Andrew Johnson in 1868, Stanbury resigned as Attorney General so he could concentrate on defending the president.
After Johnson was acquitted he renominated Stanbury as his Attorney General. Senate rejected the nomination and another member of the defence team, William M. Evarts, was accepted instead.