Hannibal Hamlin

Hannibal Hamlin
15th Vice President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1861  March 4, 1865
President Abraham Lincoln
Preceded by John C. Breckinridge
Succeeded by Andrew Johnson
United States Senator
from Maine
In office
June 8, 1848  January 7, 1857
Preceded by Wyman B. S. Moor
Succeeded by Amos Nourse
In office
March 4, 1857  January 17, 1861
Preceded by Amos Nourse
Succeeded by Lot M. Morrill
In office
March 4, 1869  March 3, 1881
Preceded by Lot M. Morrill
Succeeded by Eugene Hale
26th Governor of Maine
In office
January 8, 1857  February 25, 1857
Preceded by Samuel Wells
Succeeded by Joseph H. Williams
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Maine's 6th district
In office
March 4, 1843  March 3, 1847
Preceded by Alfred Marshall
Succeeded by James S. Wiley
United States Minister to Spain
In office
June 30, 1881  October 17, 1882
Appointed by James Garfield
Preceded by Lucius Fairchild
Succeeded by John W. Foster
Member of the Maine House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born (1809-08-27)August 27, 1809
Paris, Maine
Died July 4, 1891(1891-07-04) (aged 81)
Bangor, Maine
Political party Democratic (until 1856)
Spouse(s) Sarah Jane Emery
(m. 1833; her death 1855)

Ellen Vesta Emery Hamlin
(m. 1856; his death 1891)
Religion Unitarian
Signature Cursive signature in ink

Hannibal Hamlin (August 27, 1809  July 4, 1891) was an American attorney and politician from the state of Maine. In a public service career that spanned over 50 years, he is most notable for having served as the 15th Vice President of the United States. The first Republican to hold the office, Hamlin served from 1861 to 1865, during the first term of President Abraham Lincoln.

A native of Paris, Maine, Hamlin was a descendant of an English family that had originally settled in New England in the 1600s. After his early education was complete, Hamlin managed his father's farm before becoming a newspaper editor. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1833, and began to practice in Hampden, Maine.

Originally a Democrat, Hamlin began his political career with election to the Maine House of Representatives in 1835 and an appointment to the military staff of the Governor of Maine. As an officer in the militia, he took part in the 1839 negotiations that helped end the Aroostook War. In the 1840s Hamlin was elected and served in the United States House of Representatives. In 1848 the state house elected him to the United States Senate, where he served until January 1857. He served temporarily as governor for six weeks in the beginning of 1857, after which he returned to the Senate.

Hamlin was an active opponent of slavery; he supported the Wilmot Proviso and opposed the Compromise Measures of 1850. In 1854, he strongly opposed passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act. Hamlin's increasingly anti-slavery views caused him to leave the Democratic Party for the newly formed Republican Party in 1856.

In 1860, Hamlin was the Republican nominee for Vice President; selected to run with Abraham Lincoln, who was from Illinois, Hamlin was chosen in part to bring geographic balance to the ticket and in part because as a former Democrat, he could work to convince other anti-slavery Democrats that their future lay with the Republican Party. The Lincoln and Hamlin ticket was successful, and Hamlin served as Vice President from 1861 to 1865, which included the majority of the American Civil War. The first Republican Vice President, Hamlin held the office in an era when the incumbent was considered more a part of the legislative branch than the executive; he was not personally close to Lincoln and did not play a major role in his administration. Even so, Hamlin supported the administration's legislative program in his role as presiding officer of the Senate, and he looked for other ways to demonstrate his support for the Union, including a term of service in a Maine militia unit during the war.

For the 1864 election, Hamlin was replaced as Vice Presidential nominee by Andrew Johnson, a southern Democrat chosen for his appeal to pro-Union southerners. The Republicans considered their support to be necessary during the reconciliation and rebuilding anticipated once the Civil War was over. After leaving the vice presidency, Hamlin served as Collector of the Port of Boston, a lucrative post to which he was appointed by Johnson after the latter succeeded to the presidency following Lincoln's assassination. Hamlin resigned as Collector because of disagreement with Johnson over Reconstruction of the former Confederacy.

In 1869, Hamlin was elected again to the U.S. Senate, and he served two terms. After leaving the Senate in 1881, he served briefly as United States Ambassador to Spain before returning to Maine in late 1882. In retirement, Hamlin was a resident of Bangor, Maine, where he died in 1891. He was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor.

Early life

Hamlin in early middle age (30s or 40s)

Hamlin was born to Cyrus Hamlin and his wife Anna, née Livermore, in Paris, Maine. He was a descendant in the sixth generation of English colonist James Hamlin, who had settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639. He was a grandnephew of U.S. Senator Samuel Livermore II[1] of New Hampshire.

Hamlin attended the district schools and Hebron Academy and later managed his father's farm. From 1827 to 1830 he published the Oxford Jeffersonian newspaper in partnership with Horatio King.[2]

He studied law with the firm headed by Samuel Fessenden,[3] was admitted to the bar in 1833, and began practicing in Hampden, Maine, where he lived until 1848.

Personal life

Hamlin married Sarah Jane Emery of Paris Hill in 1833. Her father was Stephen Emery, who was appointed as Maine's Attorney General in 1839–1840.[4] Hamlin and Sarah had four children together: George, Charles, Cyrus and Sarah.

Sarah died in 1855. The next year, Hamlin married her half-sister, Ellen Vesta Emery in 1856. They had two children together: Hannibal E. and Frank. Ellen Hamlin died in 1925.[5]

Political beginnings

Hamlin's political career began in 1835, when he was elected to the Maine House of Representatives. Appointed a Major on the staff of Governor John Fairfield, he served with the militia in the bloodless Aroostook War of 1839. He facilitated negotiations between Fairfield and Lieutenant Governor John Harvey of New Brunswick, which helped reduce tensions and make possible the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which ended the war.

Hamlin unsuccessfully ran for the United States House of Representatives in 1840 and left the State House in 1841. He later was elected to two terms in the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1843 to 1847. He was elected by the state legislature to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy in 1848, and to a full term in 1851. A Democrat at the beginning of his career, Hamlin supported the candidacy of Franklin Pierce in 1852.

From the very beginning of his service in Congress, Hamlin was prominent as an opponent of the extension of slavery. He was a conspicuous supporter of the Wilmot Proviso and spoke against the Compromise Measures of 1850. In 1854, Hamlin strongly opposed the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise. After the Democratic Party endorsed that repeal at the 1856 Democratic National Convention, on June 12, 1856, he withdrew from the Democratic Party and joined the newly organized Republican Party, causing a national sensation.

The Republicans nominated Hamlin for Governor of Maine in the same year. He carried the election by a large majority and was inaugurated on January 8, 1857. In the latter part of February 1857, however, he resigned the governorship. He returned to the United States Senate, serving from 1857 to January 1861.

Vice presidency

1860 election campaign button for Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin. The other side of the button has Lincoln's portrait.

Hamlin was nominated by the Republican Party to serve as Vice President of the United States in the 1860 presidential election on a ticket with former Representative Abraham Lincoln.[6] Given that Lincoln was from Illinois, a vice presidential nominee from Maine made sense in terms of regional balance. As a former Democrat, Hamlin could also be expected to try to persuade other anti-slavery Democrats that joining the Republican Party was the only way to ensure slavery's demise.

Hamlin and Lincoln were not close personally, but had a good working relationship. At the time, the Vice President was considered part of the legislative branch in his role as President of the Senate, and so did not attend cabinet meetings; thus, Hamlin did not regularly visit the White House. It was said that Mary Todd Lincoln and Hamlin disliked each other. For his part, Hamlin complained, "I am only a fifth wheel of a coach and can do little for my friends."[7]

He had little influence in the Lincoln Administration, although he urged both the Emancipation Proclamation[8] and the arming of Black Americans.[9] He strongly supported Joseph Hooker's appointment as commander of the Army of the Potomac,[10] which ended in failure at the Battle of Chancellorsville.[11]

Beginning in 1860, Hamlin was a member of Company A of the Maine Coast Guard, a militia unit. When the company was called up in the summer of 1864, Hamlin was told that because of his position as Vice President, he did not have to take part in the muster. He opted to serve, arguing that he could set an example by doing the duty expected of any citizen, and the only concession made because of his office was that he was quartered with the officers. He reported to Fort McClary in July, initially taking part in routine assignments including guard duty, and later taking over as the company cook. He was promoted to corporal during his service, and mustered out with the rest of his unit in mid-September.[12][13]

In June 1864, the Republicans and War Democrats joined to form the National Union Party. Although Lincoln was renominated, War Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee was named to replace Hamlin as Lincoln's running mate. Lincoln was seeking to broaden his base of support and was also looking ahead to Southern Reconstruction, at which Johnson had proven himself adept as military governor of occupied Tennessee. Hamlin, by contrast, was an ally of Northern radicals (who would later impeach Johnson). Lincoln and Johnson were elected in November 1864, and Hamlin's term expired on March 4, 1865.

After leaving the vice presidency Hamlin served briefly as Collector of the Port of Boston. Appointed to the post by Johnson, Hamlin resigned in protest over Johnson's Reconstruction policy and accompanying efforts to build a political following loyal to him after he had been repudiated by the Republicans. Republicans had supported Johnson as part of the National Union ticket during the war, but opposed him after he became President and his position on Reconstruction deviated from theirs.[14]

Although Hamlin narrowly missed becoming President, his vice presidency would usher in a half-century of sustained national influence for the Maine Republican Party. In the period 1861–1911, Maine Republicans occupied the offices of Vice President, Secretary of the Treasury (twice), Secretary of State, President pro tempore of the United States Senate, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (twice), and would field a presidential nominee in James G. Blaine, a level of influence in national politics unmatched by subsequent Maine political delegations.

Later life and death

Not content with private life, Hamlin returned to the U.S. Senate in 1869 to serve two more 6-year terms before declining to run for re-election in 1880 because of an ailing heart. His last duty as a public servant came in 1881 when Secretary of State James G. Blaine convinced President James A. Garfield to name Hamlin as United States Ambassador to Spain. Hamlin received the appointment on June 30, 1881, and held the post until October 17, 1882.

Upon returning from Spain, Hamlin retired from public life to his home in Bangor, Maine, which he had purchased in 1851. The Hannibal Hamlin House – as it is known today – is located in central Bangor at 15 5th Street; incorporating Victorian, Italianate, and Mansard-style architecture, the mansion was posted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.[15]

Hamlin was elected as a Third Class Companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Third Class was the MOLLUS division created to recognize civilians who had contributed outstanding service to the Union during the war.


On Independence Day, July 4, 1891, Hamlin collapsed and fell unconscious while playing cards at the Tarratine Club he founded in downtown Bangor. He was then placed on one of the club's couches and died a few hours later. He was 81. Hannibal Hamlin was buried in the Hamlin family plot at Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor, Maine.[16]

He had survived six of his successors as Vice President: Andrew Johnson, Schuyler Colfax, Henry Wilson, William A. Wheeler, Chester A. Arthur and Thomas A. Hendricks. From June 4, 1887 to March 4, 1889, he was the only living Vice President (current or former) and afterwards he continued to be the only living former Vice President until his own death in 1891.


Hamlin in his elder years

Hamlin had four sons who grew to adulthood: Charles Hamlin, Cyrus Hamlin, Hannibal Emery and Frank Hamlin. Charles and Cyrus served in the Union forces during the Civil War, both becoming generals, Charles by brevet. Cyrus was among the first Union officers to argue for the enlistment of black troops, and himself commanded a brigade of freedmen in the Mississippi River campaign. Charles and sister Sarah were present at Ford's Theater the night of Lincoln's assassination. Hannibal Emery Hamlin was Maine Attorney General from 1905 to 1908. Hannibal Hamlin's great-granddaughter Sally Hamlin was a child actor who made many spoken word recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company in the early years of the 20th century.

Hannibal's older brother, Elijah Livermore Hamlin, was president of the Mutual Fire Insurance Co. of Bangor, and the Bangor Institution for Savings.[17] He was twice an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Maine in the late 1840s, though he did serve as Mayor of Bangor in 1851–52. The brothers were members of different political parties (Hannibal a Democrat, and Elijah a Whig) before both becoming Republican in the later 1850s.[18]

Hannibal's nephew (Elijah's son) Augustus Choate Hamlin was a physician, artist, mineralogist, author, and historian. He was also Mayor of Bangor in 1877–78, and a founding member of the Bangor Historical Society.[19]

Augustus served as surgeon in the 2nd Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, eventually becoming a U.S. Army Medical Inspector, and later the Surgeon General of Maine. He wrote books about Andersonville Prison and the Battle of Chancellorsville.[20] Hannibal's grand-nephew (Elijah's grandson) Isaiah K. Stetson was Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives in 1899–1900,[21] and owned a large company in Bangor which manufactured and shipped lumber and ice and ran a shipyard and marine railway.[22]

Hannibal's first cousin Cyrus Hamlin, who was a graduate of the Bangor Theological Seminary, became a missionary in Turkey, where he founded Robert College. He later became president of Middlebury College in Vermont. His son, A. D. F. Hamlin, Hannibal's first cousin once removed, became a professor of architecture at Columbia University and a noted architectural historian. There are biographies of Hamlin by his grandson Charles E. Hamlin (published 1899, reprinted 1971) and by H. Draper Hunt (published 1969).


Hamlin County, South Dakota is named in his honor, as are Hamlin, Kansas; Hamlin, New York; Hamlin, West Virginia; Hamlin Township; Hamlin Lake in Mason County, Michigan; and, Hamlin, a small Maine village that is a U.S.-Canada border crossing with Grand Falls, New Brunswick. There are statues in Hamlin's likeness in the United States Capitol and in a public park (Norumbega Mall) in Bangor, Maine.

There is also a building on the University of Maine Campus, in Orono, named Hannibal Hamlin Hall. This burned down in 1945, in a fire that killed two students, but was subsequently rebuilt. Hannibal Hamlin Memorial Library is next to his birthplace in Paris, Maine.

Sculptor Charles Tefft of Brewer, Maine, created this bronze statue of Hannibal Hamlin, which was dedicated in 1927 in downtown Bangor.

Hamlin's house in Bangor subsequently housed the Presidents of the adjacent Bangor Theological Seminary. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as is Hamlin's birthplace in Paris, Maine (as part of the Paris Hill Historic District).

Hamlin appears briefly in three alternate history writings by Harry Turtledove: The Guns of the South, Must and Shall, and How Few Remain.


  1. Hamlin, Charles Eugene (1899). The Life and Times of Hannibal Hamlin. Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press. p. 12.
  2. Waterman, Charles E. (August 1, 1891). "The Birthplace of Hannibal Hamlin". The New England Magazine. Boston, MA. 4 (6): 731.
  3. Hamlin, Charles Eugene (1899). The Life and Times of Hannibal Hamlin. Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press. p. 41.
  4. Barrett, Joseph Hartwell (1860). Life of Abraham Lincoln (of Illinois). Moore, Wilstach, Keys & Co.: Cincinnati, OH. p. 196.
  5. "Fogler Library: Finding Guide to the Hamlin Family Papers". Library.umaine.edu. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
  6. "Abraham Lincoln: Campaigns and Elections (Winning Republican Support)". The Miller Center. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  7. "Abraham Lincoln's White House – Hannibal Hamlin (1809–1891)". Mrlincolnswhitehouse.org. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
  8. Eicher, David J. (2001). The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 366. ISBN 978-0-7432-1846-7.
  9. Dray, Philip (2008). Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-618-56370-8.
  10. Taaffe, Stephen R. (2006). Commanding the Army of the Potomac. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-7006-1451-6.
  11. Steers, Edward Jr. (2007). Lincoln Legends: Myths, Hoaxes, and Confabulations Associated with Our Greatest President. Lexington, KY: University Press of KY. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-8131-2466-7.
  12. Laird, Archibald (1980). The Near Great—Chronicle of the Vice Presidents. Boston, MA: Christopher Publishing House. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-8158-0381-2.
  13. Scroggins, Mark (1994). Hannibal: The Life of Abraham Lincoln's First Vice President. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. pp. 210–11. ISBN 978-0-8191-9440-4.
  14. Hamlin, Charles Eugene (1899). The Life and Times of Hannibal Hamlin. Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press. pp. 505–509.
  15. "The Hannibal Hamlin House posted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979". Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  16. Hannibal Hamlin at Find a Grave
  17. Augustus C. Smith, Bangor, Brewer, and Penobscot Co. Directory, 1859–60 (Bangor, 1859)
  18. "The late Hon. Elijah L. Hamlin" (PDF). The New York Times. July 23, 1872. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
  19. Moorhead, Warren King (1980). A Report on the Archeology of Maine. New York City: AMS Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0404156435.
  20. Augustus Choate Hamlin (1896). The Battle of Chancellorsville. Bangor, Maine.
  21. "Speakers of the Maine House of Representatives 1820-". Maine State Legislature. October 6, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  22. "Isaiah K. Stetson profile". Representative Men of Maine. 1893. Retrieved 2015-10-21.


Wikisource has the text of a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Hannibal Hamlin.
Political offices
Preceded by
John C. Breckinridge
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1861 – March 4, 1865
Succeeded by
Andrew Johnson
Preceded by
Samuel Wells
Governor of Maine
January 8 – February 25, 1857
Succeeded by
Joseph H. Williams
Preceded by
John Z. Goodrich
Collector of Customs for the Port of Boston
1865 – 1866
Succeeded by
Darius N. Couch
United States Senate
Preceded by
Lot M. Morrill
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Maine
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1881
Served alongside: William P. Fessenden, Lot M. Morrill, James G. Blaine
Succeeded by
Eugene Hale
Preceded by
Amos Nourse
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Maine
March 4, 1857 – January 17, 1861
Served alongside: William P. Fessenden
Succeeded by
Lot M. Morrill
Preceded by
Wyman B. S. Moor
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Maine
June 8, 1848 – January 7, 1857
Served alongside: James W. Bradbury and William P. Fessenden
Succeeded by
Amos Nourse
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Alfred Marshall
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maine's 6th congressional district

March 4, 1843 – March 4, 1847
Succeeded by
James S. Wiley
Party political offices
Preceded by
William L. Dayton
Republican nominee for
Vice President of the United States

Succeeded by
Andrew Johnson(1)
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Lucius Fairchild
United States Minister to Spain
June 30, 1881 – October 17, 1882
Succeeded by
John W. Foster
Notes and references
1. Lincoln and Johnson ran on the National Union ticket in 1864.
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