Thompson, Richard Wigginton

Richard W. Thompson was an Indiana Whig politician who served in Congress with Abraham Lincoln. Thompson later won an appointment as Secretary of Navy in the Hayes cabinet along with Dickinson law department graduate and Secretary of War, Alexander Ramsey.
Life Span
    Full name
    Richard Wigginton Thompson
    Place of Birth
    Burial Place
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Slave State
    William M. Thompson (father), Katherine Broadus (mother)
    Attorney or Judge
    Relation to Slavery
    White non-slaveholder

    Richard Thompson (Congressional Biographical Directory)

    THOMPSON, Richard Wigginton, a Representative from Indiana; born near Culpeper Court House, Culpeper County, Va., June 9, 1809; pursued classical studies; moved to Louisville, Ky., in 1831; clerked in a store; moved to Lawrence County, Ind., in 1831; taught school; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1834 and began practice in Bedford, Lawrence County, Ind.; member of the State house of representatives 1834-1836; served in the State senate 1836-1838 and for a short time as president pro tempore; elected as a Whig to the Twenty-seventh Congress (March 4, 1841-March 3, 1843); was not a candidate for renomination in 1842; moved to Terre Haute, Ind., in 1843; city attorney in 1846 and 1847; elected as a Whig to the Thirtieth Congress (March 4, 1847-March 3, 1849); chairman, Committee on Elections (Thirtieth Congress); declined a renomination; commander of Camp Thompson, Ind., and provost marshal 1861-1865; appointed by President Lincoln collector of internal revenue for the seventh district of Indiana and served one term; delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1868 and 1876; judge of the fifth Indiana circuit court 1867-1869; appointed Secretary of the Navy in the Cabinet of President Hayes and served from March 12, 1877, until his resignation December 21, 1880; chairman of the American Committee of the Panama Canal Co. in 1881; director of the Panama Railroad Co. 1881-1888; died in Terre Haute, Ind., February 9, 1900; interment in High Lawn Cemetery.
    “Thompson, Richard Wigginton,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present,

    Richard Wigginton Thompson (American National Biography)

    …Washington had made him a much-sought-after attorney for those with cases pending before the government. He argued many times before the Supreme Court and in his most celebrated trial won an award of $242,000 for the Menominee Indians of Wisconsin. Thompson by this point had also become one of the most influential Whigs in the Northwest, and party leaders considered his support vital to winning over conservative Whig voters in the lower portion of that region.

    When the Whig party collapsed, Thompson, like many other Indiana Methodists, turned to the Know Nothing movement. Thompson, who represented Indiana at the organization's November 1854 convention, heartily endorsed the group's anti-Catholic, antiliquor agenda. Although most Know Nothings became Republicans by 1856, Thompson refused to associate with such a "radical" organization, and his opposition alone prevented Indiana Republicans and Know Nothings from fielding a fusion electoral ticket in that year's presidential election. Believing that sectional conciliation should be stressed above all other issues, Thompson helped create the Constitutional Union party in 1860. Although he publicly endorsed its presidential candidate, John Bell, Thompson corresponded with Abraham Lincoln throughout the campaign and worked closely with the Republicans to ensure that Bell's candidacy did not bring about a Democratic victory. During the Civil War (in which he served as a provost marshal) Thompson finally joined the Republican ranks, and he soon became as active as a Republican as he had been as a Whig.
    Tyler Anbinder, "Thompson, Richard Wigginton," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
    How to Cite This Page: "Thompson, Richard Wigginton," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,