John Jordan Crittenden (American National Biography)

Thomas E. Stephens, "Crittenden, John Jordan," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
Elected to the Senate again in 1854, Crittenden strove against the resurgence of the slavery issue brought about by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Assuming the role of the deceased Clay, Crittenden attempted to alleviate sectional tension with conciliation. He spoke thoughtfully and eloquently on the need for compromise and an end to the growing stridency of his fellow senators. He helped found the Constitutional Union party that nominated John Bell for president in 1860.

In December 1860, one month after Abraham Lincoln's election, Crittenden introduced his "Crittenden Compromise" proposal to restore and extend the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific Ocean. Its terms included that slavery would be protected south, and prohibited north of the 36° 30' line; new states could exercise popular sovereignty; and Congress would be prohibited from either abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia or regulating the interstate transport of slaves. The proposal was rejected, seven to six, by a special "Committee of Thirteen," a group of senators appointed to consider it. Ironically, its defeat was secured by a coalition of southerners and antislavery Republicans.

Crittenden left the Senate and returned to Kentucky in 1861, arguing successfully for his state not to join the secessionist movement and participating in a border-state convention seeking compromise. Reflective of the times, of Crittenden's sons who joined the war, two attained the rank of major general: George Bibb Crittenden for the Confederacy, Thomas Leonidas Crittenden for the Union.
    How to Cite This Page: "John Jordan Crittenden (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,