Benton, Thomas Hart


Missouri statesman, shot Andrew Jackson, opposed slavery, promoted westward expansion



Autograph ID: 5192
Condition: Very good, light wear
Description: “(1782-1858), “Old Bullion”, Missouri US Senator 1821-51 (1st Senator to serve 5 consecutive terms), staunch advocate of westward expansion. Tennessee state senator 1809, at outbreak of War of 1812, Andrew Jackson made Benton his aide-de-camp, as lieutenant colonel. In 1813, when he heard that Jackson had insulted his brother, Benton shot Jackson in the left arm and shoulder. In 1815, he settled in St. Louis, practiced law and edited The Missouri Enquirer, 2nd major newspaper west of the Mississippi River. When Missouri became a state in 1820, Benton was elected one of its 1st Senators. After the 1824 presidential election, Benton and Jackson put aside their differences and joined forces. Benton became the Democratic-Republican Party’s Senate leader, and argued vigorously against the Bank of the United States. An unflagging advocate of “hard money”, currency backed by gold, he was nicknamed “Old Bullion”. His greatest concern was US territorial expansion to meet its “manifest destiny” as a continental power. He was instrumental in settling the Oregon border at the 49th parallel in the 1846 Oregon Treaty, opposing the extremist “Fifty-four forty or fight” movement. He authored the 1st Homestead Acts which encouraged settlement by giving land to anyone willing to work the soil. He pushed for greater exploration of the West, supporting son-in-law John C. Frémont’s numerous treks. He pushed for public support of the intercontinental railway and advocated the telegraph for long-distance communication. He strongly advocated displacement of Native Americans in favor of European settlers. Benton opposed Texas’ annexation in 1845 and the Mexican-American War. A southern slave owner, he became increasingly uncomfortable with the issue. In 1849 he declared himself “against the institution of slavery,” putting him against his party and popular opinion in Missouri. In April 1850, during heated Senate debates on the proposed Compromise of 1850, Benton was nearly shot by pistol-wielding Mississippi Senator Henry S. Foote. In 1851, Benton was denied a 6th term over slavery. In 1852 he won a seat in the House, but his opposition to repeal of the Missouri Compromise led to his defeat in 1854. He ran for Governor in 1856, but lost. That year son-in-law Frémont ran for President on the Republican ticket, but Benton, party loyalist to the end, and voted for Democrat James Buchanan. He published his autobiography, Thirty Years’ View, in 1854. His great-nephew, Thomas Hart Benton, was a notable 20th century painter.

Frameable 1 ¼ x 5 clipped free franked piece as US Senator”
Type: Free Franked Signature

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