Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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ARNOLD, Thomas Dickens, lawyer, born in Spottsylvania County, Virginia, 3 May 1798; died in Jonesboro, Tennessee, 26 May 1870. He was a farmer boy, and his education was obtained almost entirely by his own efforts, and, to stimulate himself, he taught the farmer's children. When war was declared in 1812, his strong physique and sturdy appearance permitted his enlistment, although he was but fourteen years of age. During the march to Mobile a young soldier, the only son of a poor widow. was tried by court-martial and shot by order of General Jackson for the offence of straggling, and the circumstances of the execution made a deep impression on the mind of young Arnold, who denounced the act as unwarranted tyranny, and in after years remembered and acted upon his convictions in his hostility to President Jackson. He was admitted to the bar in Knoxville, Tennessee, in March 1822, and, quickly attaining distinction in his profession, was elected to congress in 1831 on the Whig ticket after he had been twice defeated. Taking a prominent stand on the political issues of the day, he was fearless in his criticism, and generally opposed the administration. On 14 May 1832, he made a speech against Senator Houston and a certain Major Morgan A. Heard, who had had some connection with the western army. In this speech he used the expression "capable of any crime," and indulged in severe personalities. On leaving the capitol, and while yet in the midst of more than 200 senators and members, he was assaulted by Heard, who fired upon him with a horse pistol, wounding him in the arm, and then struck him with a cane. Arnold knocked his assailant down, wrenched away the pistol, and carried it off as a trophy, while Heard was left for several hours where he fell. The admirers of Mr. Arnold presented him the next day with a highly wrought sword-cane with the inscription, "Presented to Thomas died Arnold for his brave defense against the attack of Morgan A. Heard." In 1836 he was elected Brigadier-General of Tennessee militia, and in 1841 was returned to congress, serving from 31 May 1841, till 3 March 1843, when he retired from political life and devoted himself to the practice of law. He had a notable controversy with William G. Brownlow.
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