US Congressman and Senator, US Minister to Prussia. He was born in Hamilton County, Ohio and moved with his family to Bourbon County, Kentucky not long after his birth. After attending local public schools he studied law at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and was employed as a schoolteacher and farm hand. Around 1825 he moved to Fountain County, Indiana, where he worked as a farm hand and schoolteacher, and was admitted to the bar in 1828. The following year he moved to Williamsport, in Warren County, Indiana and was admitted to practice law. Shortly thereafter he moved to Covington, Indiana and continued to practice law. Moving back to Indiana he was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives, serving from 1832 to 1833 and again from 1841 to 1842. He was then elected as a Democrat to the 23rd and 24th US Congresses, serving from March 1833 to March 1837. He was not a candidate for re-nomination in 1836 and returned home to his law practice. In August 1838 he was commissioned as a colonel in the Indiana militia and was stationed at Fort Plymouth due to conflict with the local Native American Potawatomi tribe who were being forced to leave their lands for the Osawatomie Reservation in the Kansas Territory. In 1842 he was elected one term as a Democrat to the US Senate, serving from March 1843 to March 1849. While a member of the US Senate he was the chairman of the Committee on Private Land Claims and a member of the Committee on Roads and Grounds as well as the Committee on Foreign Relations. After losing his bid to be reelected to the US Senate in 1848, he was appointed by President James K. Polk as the US Minister to Prussia in March 1849 and served in that position until 1850 when he was asked to be recalled by King Frederick William IV after he broke protocol at a court function and kissed the hand of the Queen consort. Upon his return to the US he resumed his law practice. An alcoholic from an early age, he came into conflict on May 6, 1852 with his brother-in-law, Captain John R. Duncan, with whom he and his wife lived with, over his heavy drinking. A fight ensued and he stabbed Duncan in the neck with a dagger and he died the following day. He was arrested and charged with manslaughter but the grand jury refused to indict him because the prosecution presented a weak case and it was dismissed in September 1852. He continued to practice law in Covington until 1857 when he moved to Saint Louis, Missouri, and practiced law for another two years. By this time he had developed a morphine habit in addition to his chronic alcoholism. On February 24, 1859 he was a keynote speaker at a political rally in Saint Louis to promote the candidacy of Stephen A. Douglas for president. Intoxicated and under the influence of morphine when he delivered the address, it was poorly received and he was derided and ridiculed for his performance. Humiliated, he returned to his room where he died the following day from a morphine overdose at the age of 51.
Bio by: William Bjornstad