John J. Crittenden

John Crittenden
John Jordan Crittenden - Brady 1855.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 8th district
In office
March 4, 1861 – March 3, 1863
Preceded byWilliam Simms
Succeeded byWilliam Randall
United States Senator
from Kentucky
In office
March 4, 1855 – March 3, 1861
Preceded byArchibald Dixon
Succeeded byJohn Breckinridge
In office
March 31, 1842 – June 12, 1848
Preceded byHenry Clay
Succeeded byThomas Metcalfe
In office
March 4, 1835 – March 3, 1841
Preceded byGeorge Bibb
Succeeded byJames Morehead
In office
March 4, 1817 – March 3, 1819
Preceded byMartin Hardin
Succeeded byRichard Johnson
15th and 22nd
United States Attorney General
In office
July 22, 1850 – March 4, 1853
PresidentMillard Fillmore
Preceded byReverdy Johnson
Succeeded byCaleb Cushing
In office
March 5, 1841 – September 12, 1841
PresidentWilliam Henry Harrison
John Tyler
Preceded byHenry Gilpin
Succeeded byHugh Legaré
17th Governor of Kentucky
In office
September 6, 1848 – July 31, 1850
LieutenantJohn Helm
Preceded byWilliam Owsley
Succeeded byJohn Helm
Secretary of State of Kentucky
In office
April 1834 – February 4, 1835
GovernorJames Morehead
Preceded byLewis Sanders
Succeeded byJames Pickett
Personal details
John Jordan Crittenden

(1787-09-10)September 10, 1787
Versailles, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedJuly 26, 1863(1863-07-26) (aged 75)
Frankfort, Kentucky, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic-Republican (Before 1825)
National Republican (1825–1830)
Whig (1830–1856)
American (1856–1859)
Constitutional Union (1859–1861)
Unionist (1861–1863)
Spouse(s)Sarah Lee
Maria Knox Todd
Elizabeth Moss
EducationWashington and Lee University
College of William and Mary (BA)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceKentucky Militia
Battles/warsWar of 1812
Crittenden as he appears at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

John Jordan Crittenden (September 10, 1787  – July 26, 1863) was an American 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, John Tyler, 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.

Lame duck president John Quincy Adams nominated Crittenden to the U.S. Supreme Court on December 17, 1828, but senators who supported president-elect Jackson voted to postpone confirmation until Jackson could nominate his own man. After his brief service as Kentucky secretary of state, the state legislature elected Crittenden to the second 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 five months 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 would not approve them.

One of Crittenden's sons, George B. Crittenden, became a general in the Confederate Army. Another son, Thomas Leonidas Crittenden, became a general in the Union Army. The elder Crittenden was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1861, and supported the Union. However, he criticized many of the policies of President Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. Congress, including the Emancipation Proclamation and the admission of West Virginia to the Union. He continued to work for reconciliation of the states throughout his time in office. He declared his candidacy for re-election to the House in 1863, but died before the election took place.

Early and family life

John Jordan Crittenden was born September 10, 1787, near Versailles, Kentucky.[1] He was the second child and first son of Revolutionary War veteran Major John Crittenden and his wife Judith Harris.[2] John and Judith Crittenden had four sons and five daughters, all but one of whom survived infancy.[2] On his father's side, he was of Welsh ancestry, while his mother's family was French Huguenot.[3] His father had surveyed land in Kentucky with George Rogers Clark, and settled there just after the end of the American Revolution.[2] Two of Crittenden's brothers, Thomas and Robert, became lawyers, while the third, Henry, was a farmer.[4]

Crittenden began a college preparatory curriculum at Pisgah Academy in Woodford County.[5] He was then sent to a boarding school in Jessamine County.[5] Among his classmates were Thomas Alexander Marshall and Francis P. Blair.[3] Crittenden became especially close friends with Blair, and later political differences did little to diminish their friendship.[6] After a year at boarding school, Crittenden moved to the Lexington, Kentucky, home of Judge George M. Bibb to study law.[5] He began more advanced studies at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia.[7] During his brief tenure there, he studied mathematics and belles-lettres and became friends with Hugh Lawson White.[7] Dissatisfied with the curriculum at Washington College, Crittendon moved to Williamsburg and transferred to the College of William and Mary.[7] He studied law under St. George Tucker and became acquainted with future president John Tyler.[5][8]

On May 27, 1811, Crittenden married Sarah O. Lee at her home in Versailles.[9] Lee was a cousin of future U.S. President Zachary Taylor and aunt of U.S. Senator Wilkinson Call.[10] They had seven children before Sarah died in mid-September 1824.[11] Among their children were Confederate major general George Crittenden and Union general Thomas Leonidas Crittenden. Their daughter Sallie Lee "Maria" Crittenden was the mother of John C. Watson, a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy during the late 19th century.[12]