The private correspondence of Henry Clay (1855)
When the U. Senate term of Martin D. Hardin , one of Slaughter's unpopular nominees, expired in , the Kentucky General Assembly chose Crittenden to fill the vacancy. After leaving Congress, Crittenden moved to Frankfort , the state capital, to attract more legal clients and be nearer to the center of the state's political activity. Morehead , John Breathitt , and Robert P. The boundary was supposed to run along the line at 36 degrees, 30 minutes north latitude, but when Thomas Walker surveyed it, he erroneously marked the line farther south.
Crittenden and Rowan proposed either that the "Walker Line" remain the boundary from the Cumberland Mountains to the Tennessee River and Tennessee would compensate for the error west of the Tennessee River, or that the boundary be reset at 36 degrees, 30 minutes throughout.
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Tennessee's commissioners rejected both proposals, asking instead that the Walker Line be accepted east of the Tennessee River and a more southerly line west of it, with reciprocal agreements between the states to honor existing land grants. Crittenden was inclined to accept the offer, but Rowan was not. The Kentucky commissioners proposed that the matter be submitted to arbitration , but Tennessee refused.
In a report to the General Assembly, Crittenden recommended that Kentucky accept the Tennessee proposal.
Public Dinner for Henry Clay
The legislators were swayed by Crittenden's report, and the articles of agreement were signed on February 2, Crittenden was elected to the board of trustees for Transylvania University in , possibly due to lobbying by Henry Clay. Crittenden was drawn back into public service by the Old Court — New Court controversy. When legislation aimed at providing relief to the state's debtors was struck down by the Kentucky Court of Appeals , supporters of the legislation in the General Assembly passed a bill abolishing the Court and creating a new court, which they stocked with sympathetic justices.
Opponents of the legislation held that the Assembly's action was unconstitutional, and for a time both courts claimed authority as the court of last resort in the state. Though he had served as president of the New Court-backed Bank of the Commonwealth since its formation in , Crittenden publicly identified himself with the Old Court supporters in April In the legislative election of , friends called on Crittenden to seek election to the state House of Representatives.
Many believed that he was the only Old Court supporter that commanded enough respect to win one of the two seats allotted to Franklin County , a bastion of the New Court. Sharp and Lewis Sanders, a prominent lawyer. Crittenden and Sharp were elected to the two seats. In the early hours of the morning of November 7, , the very morning the legislature was to convene, Sharp was assassinated.
Charges were made that Old Court supporters had instigated the murder.
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When assassin Jereboam O. Beauchamp was apprehended, it became clear that the motivation for the killing was personal, not political. Beauchamp's wife had married him on the condition that he kill Sharp, who had refused to claim the child he had fathered with her previously. Despite this, Crittenden refused a request to represent Beauchamp in his murder trial because he wanted to avoid any implication in the matter. The court controversy dominated the legislative session.
The bill was killed in the Senate, however, by the tie-breaking vote of Lieutenant Governor Robert B. Crittenden later served on a committee of six to resolve the conflict, but to no avail. He was unwilling to accept a solution whereby all the justices resigned from both courts, and the governor would appoint a reorganized court made up equally of Old Court and New Court supporters.
This position cost him the support of some New Court partisans that had voted for him in the previous election, and he was not returned to the House in Ultimately, Old Court partisans gained control of both houses of the legislature, and the New Court was abolished permanently in December Crittenden supporters sought to make him the National Republican nominee for governor in the election of Though his nomination was all but certain, Crittenden declined the opportunity, fearing that his association with Clay, who was losing popularity in the state, would cost his party the election.
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Instead, he threw his support behind Thomas Metcalfe , who went on to carry a very close election over Democrat William T. Crittenden instead sought another term in the Kentucky House, but was again denied the seat. In , Crittenden was elected to the Kentucky House via a special election. Wickliffe , and John Breathitt. The following year, a clear majority of the House of Representatives were pledged to Crittenden for the open Senate seat. However, Clay allies pressured Crittenden to step aside and allow Clay to be the Whig nominee. Crittenden was active in organizing the Whig Party from the remnants of the defunct National Republican Party in Morehead appointed Crittenden Secretary of State.
Senate over Democrat James Guthrie by a vote of 94— Immediately upon taking his seat in the Senate, Crittenden was named to the Committee on Public Lands and the Committee on the Judiciary , probably due to Clay's influence. Benton 's proposal to spend the federal budget surplus on public land graduation and military fortifications along the eastern seaboard. During his term, Crittenden remained an outspoken critic of Jackson and his successor, Martin Van Buren.
Crittenden was regarded as a moderate on the issue, seeking to keep it out of politics altogether. In , he resisted petitions by the Quakers to abolish slavery in Washington, D. Calhoun 's proposal to ban abolitionist literature from being delivered by mail in the Southern states. In contrast to his usually conciliatory nature, Crittenden was drawn into a disagreement between congressmen Jonathan Cilley and William J. Graves that ended in a duel.
Webb demanded a retraction of Cilley's comments through his friend, Congressman Graves. When Cilley refused to receive the communication from Graves, Graves charged that Cilley was questioning Webb's honor and challenged him to a duel. Graves, accompanied by Kentucky congressman Richard Menefee and Virginia congressman Richard Wise asked Crittenden to serve as a second for Graves in the duel; Crittenden initially protested, but finally agreed.
After two misses by both combatants, Cilley was killed on the third exchange. The House proposed the expulsion of Graves and the censure of the other participants excluding Crittenden, who was a senator and not subject to House censure. The resolutions of expulsion and censure were eventually tabled, but Crittenden personally felt the sting of what he considered an indirect censure and later regretted his actions. In the presidential election , Crittenden again encouraged Kentucky Whigs to support the nomination of Henry Clay. When the group received word of William Henry Harrison 's victory, Clay blamed his loss on Scott and struck him, with the blow landing on the shoulder which had been wounded during Scott's participation in the Battle of Lundy's Lane.
Afterwards Clay had to be physically removed from the hotel room. Scott then sent Crittenden to Clay with Scott's challenge for a duel, but Crittenden reconciled them by convincing Clay to apologize. After Clay lost the nomination, Crittenden supported Harrison.
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As attorney general, Crittenden issued only one notable opinion. The plaintiff in the case was an individual whose property had been damaged during Andrew Jackson's invasion of what would become the Florida Territory in The case was still being adjudicated in A Florida court found in favor of the plaintiff and ordered the federal government to compensate him for the damages and to pay him interest on his claim from the time the damages were incurred.
Treasury Secretary Thomas Ewing asked Crittenden whether the court had the authority to award interest and whether or not it should be paid. Crittenden opined that it did not, and Ewing did not pay the interest. Crittenden's opinion was used as a precedent in similar cases by future attorneys general.
Only a week after being appointed by Harrison, Crittenden was dispatched to New York City to mediate tensions with Great Britain over the sinking of the steamboat Caroline by a group of Canadian militia, who were attempting to suppress a rebellion in Canada. Seward and secured his promise to pardon Alexander McLeod , who had seized and burned the Caroline , if he were convicted of a crime in New York. Crittenden was appointed to the United States Senate in , filling the vacancy caused by Clay's resignation.
Crittenden again supported Clay's presidential bid in Clay believed the Democrats would again nominate Martin Van Buren, who was ardently opposed to annexation, and this would keep annexation from becoming an issue in the campaign. Polk , who strongly favored annexation. In , the Senate took up the question of ending the joint occupancy of the Oregon Territory with Great Britain.
Friends encouraged Crittenden to run for president in the election. Kinkead desired to have the Kentucky General Assembly nominate Crittenden for president in The Whig Party was also divided in Kentucky, not only between Clay and Taylor, but between gubernatorial candidates.
Graves, out of politics since his fatal shooting of Representative Cilley, had the backing of sitting Whig governor William Owsley , while Archibald Dixon had secured support from former Whig governor Robert P. Elijah Hise , Chief Justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals , was the leading candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, but after the Whig nomination of Crittenden, Hise withdrew from consideration. With his own campaign at a close, Crittenden resumed direction of Taylor's presidential campaign, dispatching accomplished Whig speakers to all parts of the country.
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Crittenden's reasons for refusing Taylor's appointment were many. Partially, he declined out of respect for Clay's feelings and partially he felt it would be viewed in the same way as Clay and Adams' "corrupt bargain" in During Crittenden's term, he gave strong support to superintendent of public education, Robert Jefferson Breckinridge , who would come to be known as the "Father of public school system in Kentucky.
Crittenden ordered the refurbishing of the state penitentiary, which had been damaged by a fire, and called for an extensive state geological survey. With the question of slavery becoming even more critical following the territorial acquisitions of the Mexican—American War, John C. Calhoun delivered an inflammatory address in December urging leaders of the southern states to resist "Northern aggression", even if it meant secession from the Union.
Crittenden strongly denounced secession in his annual messages to the legislature in and In response, the state senate passed a resolution calling on Kentucky's citizens to cherish the Union and resist any efforts to secede. Questions regarding claims in Florida, some already considered by Crittenden during his first term as attorney general, continued during his second term.
The claimants contended that this allowed an executive officer to overrule a judicial decision in violation of the doctrine of separation of powers.