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Vice Presidents of the United States John C. Breckinridge (1857-1861) - page 7 / 7





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o f t h e A m e r i c a n f l a g , w h i c h B r e c k i n r i d g e v i e w e d n o s t a l g i c a l l y b u t t h e m o r e e m b i t t e r e d D a v i s d e s c r i b e d a s " t h e gridiron we have been fried on." 2 2

On Christmas Day, 1868, departing President Andrew Johnson issued a blanket pardon for all Confederates. John C. Breckinridge returned to the United States in February 1869. Stopping in many cities to visit old friends, he reached Lexington, Kentucky, a month later. He had not been back in Kentucky since he fled eight years before. In welcome, a band played "Home Sweet Home," "Dixie," and "Hail to the Chief." Breckinridge declared himself through with politics: "I no more feel the political excitements that marked the scenes of my former years than if I were an extinct volcano." Other than publicly denouncing the lawless violence of the Ku Klux Klan, he devoted himself entirely to private matters. The former vice president practiced law and became active in building railroads. Although he was only fifty-four, his health declined severely and he died on May 17, 1875. Despite his weakened condition at the e n d , B r e c k i n r i d g e s u r p r i s e d h i s d o c t o r w i t h h i s c l e a r a n d s t r o n g v o i c e . " W h y , D o c t o r , " t h e f a m o u s s t u m p s p e a k e r smiled from his deathbed, "I can throw my voice a mile." 2 3

Notes: 1. Frank H. heck, Proud Kentuckian: John C. Breckinridge, 1821-1875 (Lexington, KY, 1976), pp. 1-11; James C. Klotter, The Breckinridges of Kentucky, 1760-1981 (Lexington, KY, 1986), pp. 95-98.

  • 2.

    Heck, pp. 11-18; Klotter, p. 101.

  • 3.

    Heck, pp. 22, 30-31; William c. Davis, Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol (Baton Rouge, LA, 1974), p. 45.

  • 4.

    John W. Forney, Anecdotes of Public Men (New York, 1873), 2:41-42; Heck, pp. 30-31, 163-64; Klotter, p. 113.

  • 5.

    Heck, pp. 41-43.

  • 6.

    Forney, 2:301; Heck, pp. 44-46; Benja min Perley Poore, Perley's Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National

Metopolis (Philadelphia, 1886), 1:439-42; L.A. Gobright, Recollections of Men and Things at Washington During The Third of a Century (Philadelphia, 1869), p. 138. 7. Heck, pp. 47, 53-54; Mark W. Summers, The Plundering Generation: Corruption and the Crisis of the Union, 1849-1861 (New York, 1987), p. 203.

  • 8.

    Davis, Breckinridge, p. 172.

  • 9.

    Klotter, pp. 111, 113; Heck, pp. 55-66.

  • 10.

    Frederick Moore Binder, James Buchanan and the American Empire (Cranbury, NJ, 1994), pp. 219-22.

  • 11.

    Ibid., p. 223; Heck, pp. 67-68; Davis, Breckinridge, p. 172.

  • 12.

    Heck, pp. 69-74; Davis, Breckinridge, pp. 171-72; Elbert B. Smith, The Presidency of James Buchanan

(Lawrence, KS, 1975), p. 41; Forney, 1:41-42; Robert W. Johannsen, Stephen A. Douglas (New York, 1973), p. 652. 13. U.S., Congress, Senate, The Old Senate Chamber: Proceedings in the Senate of the United States upon Vacating their old Chamber on January 4, 1859, S. Doc. 67, 74th Cong., 1st sess., pp. 4-15; Heck, pp. 75-76; Davis, Breckinridge, p. 194.

  • 14.

    Forney, 1:283-84; Poore, 2:47; Davis, Breckinridge, p. 175.

  • 15.

    Davis, Breckinridge, p. 197; Smith, p. 113.

  • 16.

    David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York, 1976), p. 438; see also Margaret Jean Kelly, The

Career of Joseph Lane Washington, 1942). 17. William C. Davis, Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour (New York, 1991), pp. 282-83; Heck, p. 85; Smith, pp. 124-26; Summers, p. 274; Lowell H. Harrison, "John C. Breckinridge: Nationalist, Confederate, Kentuckian," The Filson Club History Quarterly 47 (April 1973): 128. 18. Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington, 1860-1865 (New York, 1941), pp. 32, 87. As a sign of the public confusion over Breckinridge's loyalties, Mathew Brady's studio produced a photograph of Breckinridge retouched to make him appear to be wearing a Union army uniform. See Susan Kismaric, American Politicians: Photographs from 1843 to 1993 (New York, 1994), p. 66. 19. Heck, pp. 101-2; U.S., Congress, Senate, The Senate, 1789-1989: Addresses on the History of the United States Senate, by Robert C. Byrd, S. Doc. 100-20, 100th Cong., 1st sess., vol. 1, 1989, p. 250.

  • 20.

    Heck, pp. 101-2; 106; U.S., Congress, Senate,

  • 21.

    Klotter, p. 127; Leech, p. 345; Heck, pp. 111, 127-28; Harrison, p. 136.

  • 22.

    Heck, pp. 133-34; Davis, Jefferson Davis, pp. 600-601, 616-33, 658; Lucille Stilwell Williams, "John Cabell

Breckinridge," Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society 33 (January 1935): 29. 23. Heck, pp. 149, 157; Davis, Breckinridge, pp. 593, 623.

Reprinted from Mark O. Hatfield, with the Senate Historical Office, Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789-1993 (Washington: U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1997). www.senate.gov

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