Richard Wigginton Thompson (American National Biography)

Tyler Anbinder, "Thompson, Richard Wigginton," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
…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.
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