Thomas Hart Benton


Thomas Hart Benton Famous memorial

Orange County, North Carolina, USA
Death 10 Apr 1858 (aged 76)
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA
Burial Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA
Plot Block 40, Lot 173
Memorial ID 3101 View Source

US Senator, US Congressman. A member of the Democratic-Republican and later the Democratic Parties, he served in the US Senate from Missouri for five consecutive terms from August 1821 until March 1851 and in the US House of Representatives from Missouri's 1st district for one term from March 1853 until March 1855. Born in Harts Mill, North Carolina, the son of a wealthy lawyer and landowner, he studied law at the University of North Carolina but was expelled for stealing. After returning home, he moved his family to Tennessee where he acquired a 40,000 acre tract of land near Nashville and continued his pursuit of a law degree. In 1805 he was admitted to the Tennessee bar and four years later he was elected to the Tennessee state senate. When the War of 1812 broke out, he served as a lieutenant colonel in the US Army and became General Andrew Jackson's aide-de-camp but was never engaged in combat. In 1815 he left the Army and moved to St. Louis in the Missouri Territory, continued to practice law as well as becoming the editor of the Missouri Enquirer newspaper, and once killed a man in a duel. When the Missouri Compromise of 1820 created the state of Missouri, he was elected as one of its two first US Senators. Nicknamed "Old Bullion" for his support of "hard" currency, he championed US expansion to the West, a cause that would become known as Manifest Destiny. He was instrumental in settling the border between the Oregon Territory and Canada, which he chose as the 49th parallel set by the Oregon Treaty in 1846. He authored the first Homestead Acts, pushed for public support of the intercontinental railroad, and advocated greater use of the telegraph to communicate over long distances. Additionally, he pushed for exploration of the West, to include his son-in-law John C. Frémont's numerous treks. While he was a strong advocate of the annexation of the Republic of Texas, he was opposed to the events that led to its annexation in 1845 as well as the Mexican-American War. In 1849 he parted ways with many of his fellow pro-Southern Democratic politicians over the issue of slavery, declaring himself against the institution of slavery, even though he was a slave owner. In April 1850 he was nearly shot by Mississippi Senator Henry S. Foote during a heated debate on the Senate floor over the Compromise of 1850. In 1851 the Missouri legislature denied him a 6th US Senate term but he won a seat in the US House of Representatives the following year. Two years later he was defeated for a second term and in 1856 he ran for Governor of Missouri but lost. In 1854 he published his autobiography, "Thirty Years' View." He died in Washington DC at the age of 76. In 1868 a statue in his honor was erected in St. Louis, Missouri's Washington Park.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 23 Jun 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 3101
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Hart Benton (14 Mar 1782–10 Apr 1858), Find a Grave Memorial ID 3101, citing Bellefontaine Cemetery, Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .