Friday, July 2, 2010

The Bunning Seat -- John Breckinridge

So I did some more research (in Humphrey Marshall's book) to understand why Marshall was elected in 1794. He claims that the state legislature wanted to show support for President Washington (a Federalist himself) in his battle against the Whiskey Rebellion (in which Washington called out the army against a bunch of rednecks who refused to pay their taxes).

But even in 1794, Marshall just barely got elected. By 1800, after four years of John Adams, the Federalists were finished in Kentucky. Marshall himself wrote of 1800 that "to establish upon a candidate that he was a federalist, was the equivalent of his exclusion from office."

In short, it is not surprising that Humphrey Marshall was replaced by John Breckinridge -- a name to conjure with in Kentucky history. Breckinridge was quite a figure. He was born in 1760 in Staunton, Virginia. He attended William and Mary and was actually elected to the Virginia legislature when he was only 19 years old. He later fought in the Revolution, and was elected to Congress in 1792, but never served.

Instead, in 1793 he moved to Lexington, Kentucky and began practicing law. He purchased 2,467 acres of land and started what became one of the most famous horse-breeding farms in America. By 1794 he was a leader of the Kentucky Democrat-Republicans and was only narrowly defeated by Marshall for the Senate. In 1795 he became Kentucky's Attorney General, and in 1797 he was elected to the State House. In 1799, he served in Kentucky's constitutional convention, and had a county named in his honor.

In 1800, the General Assembly sent him to Washington as a Senator. He served until August 7, 1805 -- when President Jefferson named him Attorney General for the United States. He held this position until December 14, 1806 -- when he died at the age of only 46 at his home near Lexington. The Breckinridge family, of course, would remain a great power in Kentucky for a very long time. One can only wonder whether this fact brought any consolation to Humphrey Marshall, an aristocrat himself.

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