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Hannibal Hamlin (Notable Americans)

Reference

Rossiter Johnson, ed., "Hamlin, Hannibal," The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, vol. 7 (Boston: The Biographical Society, 1904).

HAMLIN, Hannibal, vice president of the United States, was born on Paris Hill, Maine, Aug. 27, 1809; son of Dr. Cyrus and Anna (Liver- more) Hamlin; grandson of Capt. Eleazer Hamlin of Pembroke, Mass., who commanded a body of Continental minuteman, which included his sons, Africa, America, Europe and Asia, in the war of the Revolution; and a descendant of James Hamlin, who settled on Cape Cod in 1639. He was prepared for college at Hebron academy, but after 1829 when his father died he was obliged to devote his time to the care of the farm, teaching school in the winter seasons to provide for his mother and sisters. He had made some progress in the study of law, but found little time to prosecute it. He joined with Horatio King in the publication of The Jeffersonian, a local newspaper, which he sold to his partner at the end of a year and again took up the study of law in the office of Gen. Samuel Fessenden in Portland, and was admitted to the bar in 1833, settling at Hampden, Penobscot county. In 1835 he was elected by the Democrats a representative in the state legislature and served, 1835-40. He was speaker of the house for three terms, the youngest man to fill that position in Maine. He was defeated for representative in the 27th congress in the election of 1840, but was a representative in the 28th and 29th congresses, 1843-47. He signaled [signaled] his maiden Democratic speech in congress by announcing that he was an uncompromising foe to the extension of slavery, and after the speech he was congratulated by John Quincy Adams, former President of the United States, who greeted him with: "Light breaketh in the east! sir, light breaketh in the east!" His second notable speech was in opposition to the annexation of Texas, and during his second term he denounced the practice of dueling [dueling], offered and secured the passage of the celebrated "Wilmot proviso" through the house, and was named by the anti- slavery Democrats as speaker. He was thecandidate of the anti-slavery Democrats before the state legislature as U.S. senator in 1846, but was defeated by one vote after the legislature had balloted six weeks. He was elected a representative in the state legislature in 1847 and in May, 1848, was elected by a majority of one vote U.S. senator to till a vacancy caused by the death of Senator John Fairfield and which was at the time of his election held temporarily by W. B. S. Moor,appointed to the vacancy by Governor Dana. He was re-elected in 1850 for a full senatorial term after a dead-lock in the legislature for three months. He renounced his allegiance to the Democratic party on the nomination of Buchanan in 1856, became the Republican candidate for governor of Maine, and was elected by 25,000 plurality. He resigned from the senate on Feb. 6, 1857, to assume the governorship and was succeeded in the U.S. senate by Amos Nourse. He was again elected to the U.S. senate in 1857 and resigned the governorship Feb. 20, 1857, to take his seat in the senate, March 4,1857. He resigned the senatorship, Jan. 1, 1861, having been elected Vice-President on the ticket with Abraham Lincoln for President and was succeeded in the senate by Lot M. Morrill. He presided over the senate throughout the first term of Mr. Lincoln's administration. In 1864 his party gave the vice-presidential nomination to the south, the administration fearing the recognition of the independence of the southern Confederacy by Great Britain and France unless the Republican party took its vice-presidential candidate from a central southern state. He declined the secretaryship of the treasury offered him by President Lincoln; was appointed collector of the port of Boston by President Johnson in 1865 and resigned the lucrative office in 1866 as he disapproved of the policy of the President. He was again elected U.S. senator in 1869 and for the fifth time in 1875. He declined reelection in 1881, after a service of twenty-five years as U.S. senator, during which time he had held the chairmanship of the committees on commerce, post-offices and post-roads, and of foreign affairs. In 1881 President Garfield offered him the position of U.S. minister to Germany, Italy or Spain, and he accepted the mission to Spain, but resigned the post in 188.3. He was regent of the Smithsonian institution, ex officio, 1861-65, and by appointment, 1870-82, and was for a time dean of the board. He received the degree of LL.D. from Colby in 1859, and was trustee of the institution, 1857-91. He was the third citizen of the United States who had been elected and served as Vice-President to die on the nation's birthday. He was twice married, both of his wives being daughters of Judge Stephen Emery of Paris Hill, Maine. He died at the Tanatine Club rooms, Bangor, Maine, July 4, 1891.
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