Virtual Museum of Art | Virtual Museum of History | Virtual Public Library | Virtual Science Center | Virtual Museum of Natural History | Virtual War Museum
   You are in: Museum of History >> Hall of North and South Americans >> Thomas Hart Benton





American’s Four United Republics: Discovery-Based Curriculum

For more information go to Historic.us

 

Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





Virtual American Biographies

Over 30,000 personalities with thousands of 19th Century illustrations, signatures, and exceptional life stories. Virtualology.com welcomes editing and additions to the biographies. To become this site's editor or a contributor Click Here or e-mail Virtualology here.



A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 





Click on an image to view full-sized

Thomas Hart Benton

BENTON, Thomas Hart, statesman, born near Hillsborough, Orange County, North Carolina, 14 March 1782; died in Washington, 10 April 1858. He was the son of Colonel Jesse Benton, lawyer, of North Carolina, who was private secretary to Governor Tryon, the last of the royal governors of North Carolina. His mother was Ann Gooch, of the Gooch family of Virginia. He was a cousin of the wife of Henry Clay, and was consequently often quoted during his public life as a relative of the great statesman himself. He lost his father before he was eight years of age, and was left with a large family of brothers and sisters, all of tender age, to the care of his mother. As Thomas was the eldest, his opportunities for study were few. He was for some time at a grammar-school, and afterward at the University of North Carolina, but did not complete a course of study there, as his mother removed to Tennessee to occupy a tract of 40,000 acres that had been acquired by his father. The family settled twenty-five miles south of Nashville, where for several years the main work was the opening a farm in the wilderness. The place, a tract of 3,000 acres, was known as " The Widow Benton's Settlement," and was on the extreme verge of civilization. The great war-trail of the southern tribes led through the estate. Settlers gradually came, and with them a better assured protection. The place was called Bentontown, and the name is retained to this day. Thomas studied law with St. George Tucker, entered the United States army in 1810, and was admitted to the bar in Nashville in 1811 under the patronage of Andrew Jackson, at that time a judge of the Supreme Court, and one of his warmest friends. He was elected to the legislature, where he obtained the passage of a law for the reform of the judicial system of the state, and another by which the right of trial by jury was given to slaves. In the war of 1812 he was Jackson's aide-de-camp, and he also raised a regiment of volunteers. Owing to a quarrel in which his brother Jesse and William (afterward General) Carroll became involved, he and his long-time friend General Jackson became bitterly estranged for many years. A duel had been arranged between Jesse Benton and Carroll, and General Jackson was Carroll's second. Jesse sent an offensive account of the matter to Thomas, who was then serving under General Jackson in his military capacity. On 4 September 1813, Jackson with some friends happened to meet the Benton brothers in the streets of Nashville. Jackson advanced upon Colonel Benton and struck him with a horse-whip ; a melee followed, and pistols and knives were freely used, and Jackson received a ball in his left shoulder, while Jesse Benton received severe dirk-wounds and thrusts from a sword-cane. The president appointed Colonel Benton, in 1813, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the United States army, and he set out to serve in Canada, but peace having been declared, he returned and resigned his commission. In 1815 he took up his residence in St. Louis, and resumed the practice of law. He established a newspaper, the "Missouri Inquirer," by which he became involved in several duels, and in one of them killed his opponent, a Mr. Lucas. He deeply regretted the event, and carefully destroyed all the private papers connected with the matter. His journal took a vigorous stand in favor of the admission of Missouri to the union, notwithstanding her slavery constitution, and at the end of the controversy he was rewarded for his efforts by being chosen, in 1820, one of the senators from the new state. For a year he devoted himself to a close study of the Spanish language, in order to accomplish his work more thoroughly. Possessed of a commanding intellect and liberal culture, an assiduous student, resolute, temperate, industrious, and endowed with a memory whose tenacity was marvelous, he soon placed himself among the leaders in the national councils. One of his earliest efforts was to secure a reform in the disposition of the government lands to settlers. A pioneer himself, he sympathized with the demands of the pioneer, and in 1824, 1826, and 1828 advocated new land laws. The general distress that prevailed throughout the country, and bore with especial hardship on the land-put-chasers of the west, forced attention to this subject. Colonel Benton demanded: 1, a pre-emptive right to all actual settlers; 2, a periodic reduction according to the time the land had been in the market, so as to make the prices correspond to the quality; 3, the donation of homesteads to impoverished but industrious persons, who would cultivate the land for a given period of years. He presented a bill embracing these features, and renewed it every year until it took hold upon the public mind, and was at length substantially embodied in one of President Jackson's messages, which secured its final adoption. By his earnestness in advocating this bill and securing its final adoption, he gained the lasting friendship of every pioneer and settler in the great west. His position in the senate, and his firmness as a supporter of Jackson's administration, gave him great influence with the Democratic Party, and he impressed his views upon the president on every occasion.

Colonel Benton also caused the adoption of a bill throwing the saline and mineral lands of Missouri, which belonged to the United States, open for occupancy. There was at this time a certain tribute levied on the people of the Mississippi valley, which proved in many cases a most unequal burden and was frequently oppressive. One part, which met with more hostility than any other, was known as the salt-tax. Benton took up the matter, and in the session of 1829-'30 delivered such elaborate arguments against the tax, and followed them up with such success, that it was repealed. He was one of the earliest advocates of a railroad to the Pacific, and was prominent in directing adventure to explorations in the far west, in encouraging overland transit to the Pacific, and in working for the occupancy of the mouth of the Columbia. As early as 1819 he had written largely on these subjects, and on his entry into congress renewed his efforts to engage the nation in these great enterprises, tie first elaborated the project of overland connection, listened to the reports of trappers and voyageurs, and as science expanded, and knowledge of the great wilderness toward the mountains became more definite, his views took form in the proposals that culminated in the opening of the great central Pacific railway. He also favored the opening up and protection of the trade with New Mexico; encouraged the establishment of military stations on the Missouri, and throughout the interior; and urged the cultivation of amicable relations with the Indian tribes, and the fostering of the commerce of our inland seas. He turned his attention to the marking out of the great system of post-roads, and providing for their permanent maintenance. In the first annual message of President Jackson strong ground was taken against the United States bank, then the depository of the national moneys, and subsequently, when he directed the withdrawal of the deposits and their removal to certain state banks, the result was disastrous to the business of the country. Benton took up the matter, addressed himself to a consideration of the whole question of finance, circulating medium, and exchange, and urged the adoption of a gold and silver currency as the true remedy for the existing embarrassments. He made on this subject some of the most elaborate speeches of his life, which attracted attention throughout the United States and Europe, and the name of " Old Bullion" was given to him. His style of oratory at this period was unimpassioned and very deliberate, but overflowing with facts, figures, logical deduction, and historical illustration. In later life he was characterized by a peculiar exuberance of wit and raciness that increased with his years. The elaboration of his views on the national finances paved the way for subsequent legislation, and did much to bring about the present sub-treasury system of the United States.

To Colonel Benton is to be given the credit of moving the famous "expunging resolutions." A formidable combination had been effected in the senate, headed by Calhoun, Clay, and Webster, and a resolution condemning the president's course had been adopted. Benton took it upon himself to have the resolution expunged from the records. From 1841 till 1851, under Presidents Tyler, Polk, and Taylor, he participated in the discussions that arose in regard to the Oregon boundary, the annexation of Texas, and other important subjects. The democratic administration of Mr. Polk was nominally in favor of lat. 54° 40' N. as the boundary of Oregon, and his party had promised this in its platform, but was opposed with so much force by Mr. Benton, that Mr. Polk acquiesced in his views and accepted lat. 49° N. as the line. By this the United States relinquished a piece of territory that would now make its possessions continuous to Alaska and give it every harbor on the Pacific coast. During the Mexican war Colonel Benton's services, and intimate acquaintance with the Spanish provinces of the south, proved most useful to the government. On his suggestion the policy of a "masterly inactivity," at first determined upon by the president, was abandoned, and that of a vigorous prosecution of the war adopted in its stead. At one time it was proposed by President Polk to confer upon him the title of lieutenant-general with full command of the war, in order that he might carry out his conceptions in person. Questions in regard to slavery were brought on by the acquisition of Mexican territory. These were adjusted by the compromise acts of 1850, which were introduced by Mr. Clay, were opposed by Colonel Benton, and defeated as a whole, but passed separately. In the nullification struggle, Benton became Calhoun's leading democratic opponent, and their opposition to each other increased into a life-long animosity. The compromise of 1833 brought a lull in the storm; but the same views soon reappeared in connection with the far more complicated question of slavery. The Calhoun doctrine was introduced into the discussion of the abolition petitions in the House of Representatives in 1835, and was definitely presented in the session of 1846-'7. On 19 February 1847, Mr. Calhoun, in answer to the " Wilmot proviso," which excluded slavery from all territory subsequently to be acquired, introduced resolutions that embodied his doctrine as to state rights. Colonel Benton, although representing a slave state, would not deviate from the positions he had maintained on former occasions. He denounced Calhoun's resolution as a "fire-brand." Calhoun expressed his surprise, saying he expected Benton's support because he represented a slave state. Benton replied that he had no right to expect any such thing, and from this moment the two intellectual giants were matched in a ferocious warfare against each other's ideas and interests. The resolutions never came to a vote, but they were sent to the legislature of every slave state, were adopted by several of them, and were made the basis of after-conflict and party organization. It was Calhoun's determination to make them a basis of instruction to senators in congress, and in his hostility to Benton he con-tided them to certain democrats in the Missouri legislature whom he knew to be unfriendly to his re-election. By skilful management the resolutions were passed in both branches without Colonel Benton's knowledge, and a copy was sent to Washington. He promptly denounced them as not expressing the sense of the people, and containing disunion doctrines designed to produce separation and disaster, and declared that he would appeal from the legislature to the people. On the adjournment of congress he returned to Missouri and canvassed every section of the state in a series of speeches famed for their bitterness of denunciation, strength of exposition, and caustic wit. The result was the return of a legislature in 1849-'50 with Benton men in the plurality, but composed of opposite wings, and he was defeated by a coalition between his democratic opponents (known as "antics) and the Whig s. At the close of his term he therefore retired from the senate, after six successive elections and thirty years' continuous service. In 1852 he announced himself a candidate for congress, made a direct appeal to the people in his congressional district, and was elected over all opposition. He gave his warm support to the administration of Franklin Pierce; but when the Calhoun party obtained the ascendancy he withdrew. The administration then turned on him, and displaced from office all his friends throughout Missouri. Soon afterward the Kansas-Nebraska bill was brought up, and he exerted himself with all his strength against it, delivering a memorable speech, which did much to excite the country against the act, but failed to defeat its passage. At the next election he was not returned to congress. Retiring from active politics, he devoted two years to literary pursuits, when he became a candidate for governor in 1856, his old friends rallied to his political standard, and his course became a triumphal procession; but a third ticket was in the field, and by the dividing of forces his election was lost. In the presidential election of the same year Colonel Benton supported Mr. Buchanan in opposition to his own son-in-law, Colonel Fremont, giving as a reason that Mr. Buchanan, if elected, would restore the principles of the Jackson administration, while he feared that the success of Fremont would engender sectional parties fatal to the permanence of the union. Afterward, during the Buchanan administration, he modified many of his opinions, and in several instances took a decided stand in opposition.

The first volume of his " Thirty Years' View" of the workings of the government (New York, 1854) presented a connected narrative of the time from Adams to Pierce, and dealt particularly with the secret political history of that period. The second and last volume appeared in 1856. He then undertook the task of abridging the debates of congress from the foundation of the government. Although at the advanced age of seventy-six, he labored at this task daily, and brought the work down to the conclusion of the great compromise debate of 1850, in which, with Clay, Calhoun, Webster, and Seward, he had himself borne a conspicuous part. The last pages were dictated in whispers after he had lost the power of speaking aloud. The work was published under the title of "An Abridgment of the Debates of Congress" (15 vols., New York). Having completed this work, Mr. Benton sent for several old friends to bid them farewell. Among them was the president, whom he thanked for taking an interest in his child, and to whom he said: "Buchanan, we are friends. I supported you in preference to Fremont, because he headed a sectional party, whose success would have been the signal for disunion. I have known you long, and I knew you would honestly endeavor to do right." A week before his death he wrote to friends in congress requesting that neither house should take notice of his death; but congress, nevertheless, adjourned for his funeral.

After becoming senator Colonel Benton married Elizabeth, daughter of Colonel James McDowell, of Virginia. In 1844 she suffered a stroke of paralysis, and from that time he was never known to go to any place of festivity or amusement. She died in 1854, leaving four daughters, the second Of whom married General John C. Fremont. Notwithstanding the temptations to which his public life subjected him, he abstained wholly from the use of tobacco, gaming, and liquors, saying that his mother had wished it, and he should adhere to her wishes through life. Besides his works already mentioned, he published "An Examination of the Dred-Scott Case." A fine bronze statue of him has been erected in the park in St. Louis. The steel portrait represents him in early life; that in the text, as he appeared in later years.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

Start your search on Thomas Hart Benton.


 

 


 


Unauthorized Site: This site and its contents are not affiliated, connected, associated with or authorized by the individual, family, friends, or trademarked entities utilizing any part or the subject's entire name. Any official or affiliated sites that are related to this subject will be hyper linked below upon submission and Evisum, Inc. review.

Copyright© 2000 by Evisum Inc.TM. All rights reserved.
Evisum Inc.TM Privacy Policy

Search:

About Us

 

 

Image Use

Please join us in our mission to incorporate America's Four United Republics discovery-based curriculum into the classroom of every primary and secondary school in the United States of America by July 2, 2026, the nation’s 250th birthday. , the United States of America: We The People Click Here

 

Childhood & Family

Click Here

 

Historic Documents

Articles of Association

Articles of Confederation 1775

Articles of Confederation

Article the First

Coin Act

Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence

Emancipation Proclamation

Gettysburg Address

Monroe Doctrine

Northwest Ordinance

No Taxation Without Representation

Thanksgiving Proclamations

Mayflower Compact

Treaty of Paris 1763

Treaty of Paris 1783

Treaty of Versailles

United Nations Charter

United States In Congress Assembled

US Bill of Rights

United States Constitution

US Continental Congress

US Constitution of 1777

US Constitution of 1787

Virginia Declaration of Rights

 

Historic Events

Battle of New Orleans

Battle of Yorktown

Cabinet Room

Civil Rights Movement

Federalist Papers

Fort Duquesne

Fort Necessity

Fort Pitt

French and Indian War

Jumonville Glen

Manhattan Project

Stamp Act Congress

Underground Railroad

US Hospitality

US Presidency

Vietnam War

War of 1812

West Virginia Statehood

Woman Suffrage

World War I

World War II

 

Is it Real?



Declaration of
Independence

Digital Authentication
Click Here

 

America’s Four Republics
The More or Less United States

 
Continental Congress
U.C. Presidents

Peyton Randolph

Henry Middleton

Peyton Randolph

John Hancock

  

Continental Congress
U.S. Presidents

John Hancock

Henry Laurens

John Jay

Samuel Huntington

  

Constitution of 1777
U.S. Presidents

Samuel Huntington

Samuel Johnston
Elected but declined the office

Thomas McKean

John Hanson

Elias Boudinot

Thomas Mifflin

Richard Henry Lee

John Hancock
[
Chairman David Ramsay]

Nathaniel Gorham

Arthur St. Clair

Cyrus Griffin

  

Constitution of 1787
U.S. Presidents

George Washington 

John Adams
Federalist Party


Thomas Jefferson
Republican* Party

James Madison 
Republican* Party

James Monroe
Republican* Party

John Quincy Adams
Republican* Party
Whig Party

Andrew Jackson
Republican* Party
Democratic Party


Martin Van Buren
Democratic Party

William H. Harrison
Whig Party

John Tyler
Whig Party

James K. Polk
Democratic Party

David Atchison**
Democratic Party

Zachary Taylor
Whig Party

Millard Fillmore
Whig Party

Franklin Pierce
Democratic Party

James Buchanan
Democratic Party


Abraham Lincoln 
Republican Party

Jefferson Davis***
Democratic Party

Andrew Johnson
Republican Party

Ulysses S. Grant 
Republican Party

Rutherford B. Hayes
Republican Party

James A. Garfield
Republican Party

Chester Arthur 
Republican Party

Grover Cleveland
Democratic Party

Benjamin Harrison
Republican Party

Grover Cleveland 
Democratic Party

William McKinley
Republican Party

Theodore Roosevelt
Republican Party

William H. Taft 
Republican Party

Woodrow Wilson
Democratic Party

Warren G. Harding 
Republican Party

Calvin Coolidge
Republican Party

Herbert C. Hoover
Republican Party

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Democratic Party

Harry S. Truman
Democratic Party

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Republican Party

John F. Kennedy
Democratic Party

Lyndon B. Johnson 
Democratic Party 

Richard M. Nixon 
Republican Party

Gerald R. Ford 
Republican Party

James Earl Carter, Jr. 
Democratic Party

Ronald Wilson Reagan 
Republican Party

George H. W. Bush
Republican Party 

William Jefferson Clinton
Democratic Party

George W. Bush 
Republican Party

Barack H. Obama
Democratic Party

Please Visit

Forgotten Founders
Norwich, CT

Annapolis Continental
Congress Society


U.S. Presidency
& Hospitality

© Stan Klos

 

 

 

 


Virtual Museum of Art | Virtual Museum of History | Virtual Public Library | Virtual Science Center | Virtual Museum of Natural History | Virtual War Museum