Crittenden, John Jordan

Life Span
    Full name
    John Jordan Crittenden
    Place of Birth
    Burial Place
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Slave State
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    John Crittenden (father), Judith Harris (mother), Sarah O. Lee (first wife), Maria K. Innes Todd (second wife), Elizabeth Moss Ashley (third wife), George Bibb Crittenden (son), Thomas Leonidas Crittenden (son)
    William & Mary
    Attorney or Judge
    Political Parties
    American Party (Know Nothings or Nativists)
    Constitutional Union (1860)
    Union (Unconditional Union, National Union)
    Other Affiliations
    Nativists (Know Nothings)
    Harrison/Tyler Administration (1841-45)
    Fillmore Administration (1850-53)
    US Senate
    US House of Representatives
    State legislature
    Other state government
    US military (Pre-Civil War)

    John Jordan Crittenden (American National Biography)

    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.
    Thomas E. Stephens, "Crittenden, John Jordan," American National Biography Online, February 2000,

    John Jordan Crittenden (Congressional Biographical Directory)

    CRITTENDEN, John Jordan,  (uncle of Thomas Theodore Crittenden), a Senator and a Representative from Kentucky; born near Versailles, Woodford County, Ky., September 10, 1786; completed preparatory studies; attended Pisgah Academy, Woodford County, Ky., Washington College (now Washington and Lee University), Lexington, Va., and graduated from William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Va., in 1806; studied law; admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Woodford County, Ky., in 1807; attorney general of Illinois Territory 1809-1810; served in the War of 1812 as aide to the Governor; resumed the practice of law in Russellville, Ky.; member, State house of representatives 1811-1817, and served as speaker the last term; elected as a Democratic Republican to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1817, to March 3, 1819, when he resigned; chairman, Committee on Judiciary (Fifteenth Congress); moved to Frankfort, Ky., in 1819; member, State house of representatives 1825, 1829-1832; appointed and was confirmed as United States district attorney in 1827, but was removed by President Andrew Jackson in 1829; nominated in 1828 by President John Quincy Adams as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, but was not confirmed by the Senate; again elected to the United States Senate as a Whig and served from March 4, 1835, to March 3, 1841; appointed Attorney General of the United States by President William Henry Harrison March to September 1841; appointed and subsequently elected as a Whig to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Henry Clay and served from March 31, 1842, to June 12, 1848, when he resigned; chairman, Committee on Military Affairs (Twenty-seventh and Twenty-eighth Congresses); Governor of Kentucky 1848-1850, when he resigned; again appointed Attorney General by President Millard Fillmore 1850-1853; again elected to the United States Senate as a Whig (later American/Know-Nothing) and served from March 4, 1855, to March 3, 1861; chairman, Committee on Revolutionary Claims (Thirty-sixth Congress); elected as a Unionist to the Thirty-seventh Congress (March 4, 1861-March 3, 1863); was a candidate for reelection at the time of his death; died in Frankfort, Ky., July 26, 1863; interment in State Cemetery, Frankfort, Ky.
    “Crittenden, John Jordan,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present,
    Date Title
    Debate Over Thanks to Gen. Taylor and Army Resolution, US Senate, February 3, 1847
    Salmon Portland Chase to James Shepard Pike, May 12, 1858
    Charleston (SC) Mercury, “Senator Crittenden,” July 8, 1858
    New York Times, "Presidential Candidates," July 14, 1858
    Owen Lovejoy to Abraham Lincoln, August 4, 1858
    Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “A Great Ado about Nothing,” October 19, 1858
    David Davis to Abraham Lincoln, November 7, 1858
    New York Times, “Reasons why all Parties should Nominate Southern Candidates for President in 1860,” December 27, 1858
    Memphis (TN) Appeal, “The Plans of the Opposition for 1860,” January 9, 1859
    Charleston (SC) Mercury, “Presidential Aspirants,” January 10, 1859
    New York Herald, “The Present Congress and the Next President,” January 17, 1859
    San Francisco (CA) Evening Bulletin, “How Old is President Buchanan?,” March 17, 1859
    New York Herald, “Does Mr. Crittenden Back Out?,” May 22, 1859
    Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “Crittenden,” December 24, 1859
    Charlestown (VA) Free Press, “The Clouds Lowering,” December 27, 1860
    Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Popular Sovereignty,” February 18, 1861
    Winfield Scott to William H. Seward, March 3, 1861
    New York Times, “Rushing to Ruin,” April 26, 1861
    Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Treason,” May 15, 1861
    Montgomery Blair to Abraham Lincoln, May 16, 1861
    Newark (OH) Advocate, “The Threats and Pressure Under which the President Acts,” July 12, 1861
    Chicago Style Entry Link
    Kelly, Jack. “John J. Crittenden and the Constitutional Union Party.” Filson Club History Quarterly 48 (July 1974): 265-276. view record
    Kirwan, Albert D. John J. Crittenden: The Struggle for the Union. 1962. Reprint. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1974. view record
    Kirwan, Albert Dennis. John J. Crittenden: The Struggle for the Union. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1962. view record
    Ledbetter, Patsy S. "John J. Crittenden and the Compromise Debacle." Filson Club History Quarterly 51 (April 1977): 125-142. view record
    Steiner, Bernard C. “John J. Crittenden’s Maryland Correspondents.” Maryland Historical Magazine 10 (June 1915): 160-176. view record
    Zacharias, Donald W. “John J. Crittenden Crusades for the Union and Neutrality in Kentucky.” Filson Club History Quarterly 38 (July 1964): 193-205. view record
    How to Cite This Page: "Crittenden, John Jordan," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,