Home About Chat Users Issues Party Candidates Polling Firms Media News Polls Calendar Key Races United States President Senate House Governors International

New User Account
"A historical political resource." 
Email: Password:

  Crittenden, John J.
AffiliationConstitutional Union  
NameJohn J. Crittenden
Frankfort, Kentucky , United States
Born September 10, 1786
DiedJuly 26, 1863 (76 years)
Last ModifedRBH
Aug 19, 2015 08:24pm
InfoJohn Jordan Crittenden

John J. Crittenden was born in Kentucky in 1787, his father having emigrated there following the American Revolution. He was educated in Kentucky, as well as at William and Mary College in Virginia. Having studied law, he began his practice in 1807, an d quickly became the best known lawyer in western Kentucky. He also turned his attention to politics, and beginning in 1811, he was elected to the state legislature for six successive terms. He was chosen speaker of the House in 1815 a nd 1816. During these years, Crittenden also performed military service in the War of 1812, receiving a special governor's commendation for his actions during the battle of the Thames.

Following the war, Crittenden served for two years in the United States Senate, before returning to Kentucky in 1819 to practice law. The internal political strife in Kentucky between the Old Court and New Court factions, however, drew Crittenden back to politics. Siding with the conservatives, he reentered the legislature, where from 1829-32, he was again speaker of the House. In national politics, he aligned himself with Henry Clay and the administration of John Quincy Adams agai nst Andrew Jackson.

Beginning in 1835, with his election to the United States Senate, Crittenden's political career was generally connected with the federal government. He was a leading Whig opponent of the Jackson and Van Buren administrations, and after campaigning agg ressively for the Whig candidate, William Henry Harrison, in 1840, he was appointed Harrison's attorney general. Harrison's death, followed by President John Tyler's conflict with the Whig party, brought about Crittenden's resignation in September 1841. He reentered the Senate the following year, where he opposed the annexation of Texas. Following the Mexican W ar, he abandoned Clay to support the nomination of General Zachary Taylor in 1848, whom he considered more likely to win. Crittenden's action ended his long friendship with Clay. While Crittenden did not accept a cabinet post in the Taylor ad ministration, he agreed to serve Taylor's successor, Millard Fillmore, as attorney general, holding the post until the end of Fillmore's term. Two years later, in 1854, he was elected again to the Senate.

The reopening of the slavery question with the Kansas-Nebraska Act disappointed Crittenden, who regretted the abandonment of the Missouri Compromise. Reflecting his border-state and conservative character, he stood for any course that would restore se ctional peace. He considered the possible dissolution of the Union as "the greatest evil" that could befall the country. In the election of 1860, he supported the Constitutional Union party ticket.

Following Lincoln's election, Crittenden introduced in the Senate his propositions, the most important of which restored by constitutional amendment the Missouri Compromise line. But Critten den was unable to gain passage of his proposals or to get a popular referendum on them. He also failed in his efforts to secure adoption of the program of the Peace Convention which assembled in Washington in February 1861.

Compromise having failed, Crittenden returned to Kentucky, where he actively sought to keep the state from seceding. On April 17, just days after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Crittenden again urged his state to remain in the Union. Kentucky's divi ded loyalties were reflected in Crittenden's own family; two of his sons would lead opposing armies during the Civil War. Kentucky ultimately refused to join the Confederacy, and Crittenden was elected to the Congress, where he introduc ed resolutions to the effect that the war was to preserve the Union, not to interfere with slavery or to subjugate the South. As the war took a different course, he opposed the confiscation acts and the Emancipation Proclamation. He was preparing to run for reelection to Congress in 1863, when he died in Frankfort, Kentucky.



Title Purchase Contributor

Start Date End Date Type Title Contributor

Date Category Headline Article Contributor

Importance? 9.00000 Average


  07/04/1861 US House Speaker Lost 6.38% (-46.28%)
  06/20/1861 KY - District 08 Won 59.18% (+18.36%)
  05/10/1860 US President - CU Convention Lost 8.14% (-31.98%)
  11/03/1854 KY US Senate Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  06/20/1852 US Vice President - W Convention Lost 1.91% (-54.58%)
  06/20/1852 US President - W Convention Lost 0.30% (-48.02%)
  07/22/1850 US Attorney General Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  08/07/1848 KY Governor Won 53.38% (+6.76%)
  11/03/1842 KY US Senate Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  03/30/1842 KY US Senate - Appointment Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  03/00/1841 US Attorney General Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
  01/10/1835 KY US Senate Won 70.15% (+40.30%)
  02/12/1829 Supreme Court - Associate Justice Won 57.50% (+15.00%)
  11/03/1816 KY US Senate Won 100.00% (+100.00%)
IL US Senate - Nov 02, 1858 D Stephen A. Douglas
US Vice President - Senate Runoff - Feb 08, 1837 W Francis Granger