John J. Crittenden

John J. Crittenden

John Jordan Crittenden (September 10, 1787 – July 26, 1863) was a politician from the U.S. state of Kentucky. He represented the state in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and twice served as United States Attorney General in the administrations of William Henry Harrison and Millard Fillmore. He was also the 17th governor of Kentucky and served in the state legislature. Although frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for the U.S. presidency, he never consented to run for the office.

During his early political career, Crittenden served in the Kentucky House of Representatives and was chosen as speaker on several occasions. With the advent of the Second Party System, he allied with the National Republican (later Whig) Party and was a fervent supporter of Henry Clay and opponent of Democrats Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. Jackson supporters in the Senate refused to confirm Crittenden's nomination by John Quincy Adams to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1828, but after his brief service as Kentucky Secretary of State, the state legislature elected him to the first of his four non-consecutive stints in the U.S. Senate. Upon his election as president, William Henry Harrison appointed Crittenden as Attorney General, but after Harrison's death, political differences prompted him to resign rather than continue his service under Harrison's successor, John Tyler. He was returned to the Senate in 1842, serving until 1848, when he resigned to run for governor, hoping his election would help Zachary Taylor win Kentucky's vote in the 1848 presidential election. Taylor was elected, but Crittenden refused a post in his cabinet, fearing he would be charged with making a "corrupt bargain", as Clay had been in 1825. Following Taylor's death in 1850, Crittenden resigned the governorship and accepted Millard Fillmore's appointment as attorney general.

As the Whig Party crumbled in the mid-1850s, Crittenden joined the Know Nothing (or American) Party. After the expiration of his term as attorney general, he was again elected to the U.S. Senate, where he urged compromise on the issue of slavery to prevent the breakup of the United States. As bitter partisanship increased the threat of secession, Crittenden sought out moderates from all parties and formed the Constitutional Union Party, though he refused the party's nomination for president in the 1860 election. In December 1860, he authored the Crittenden Compromise, a series of resolutions and constitutional amendments he hoped would avert the Civil War, but Congress did not approve them. Crittenden was elected to the House of Representatives in 1861 and continued to seek reconciliation between the states throughout his term. He declared his candidacy for re-election to the House in 1863, but died before the election took place.

Read more about John J. CrittendenEarly Life, Early Political Career, Association With The National Republicans, Association With The Whigs, Civil War

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