Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy Birthday John C. Breckinridge!

Hey Vice-Precedence Blog Readers!

Well, tomorrow is the birthday of the youngest man ever elected to the Vice-Presidency, our 14th Vice-President-John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky!

Breckinridge was only 35 (the youngest age a person can be to be eligible) when elected VP and 36 when he was inaugurated. He was the young golden boy of the Democratic party. Handsome (at least by those days standards-check out the pic and decide for yourself), intelligent, a great speaker, a hero of the Mexican War, and extremely popular in both the North and the South. However, he was on horrible terms with his President, James Buchanan, considered by most historians as one of the 5 Worst Presidents in history for his waffling and weakness in the years leading up to the Civil War.

In the election of 1860 Breckinridge was the incumbent VP and one of the four candidates for President, the other three being John Bell, Stephen Douglas, and of course Abraham Lincoln. Breckinridge came in 3rd in the popular vote, but second in the electoral vote-winning 72 electoral votes and 11 of 15 slave states. He carried the border slave states of Delaware and Maryland, and nine of the eleven states that later formed the Confederacy, missing Virginia and Tennessee.

Had 25,000 New Yorkers voted for Douglas instead of Lincoln, Lincoln would not have won a majority in the Electoral College; without New York's 35 electoral votes, he would have received only 145 votes, seven short of the required 152. The vote would have then gone to the United States House of Representatives, and experts believe that the Southern-controlled House of Representatives led by Congressman William Yancey of Alabama, would have cast their vote for the Southern Democratic nomination, John C. Breckinridge. How different things could have been.

Breckinridge decided to side with the Confederacy, however, he had just been elected to the Senate by his horribly divided home state of Kentucky, which did not officially secede from the Union, making Breckinridge a traitor and a warrant was issued for his arrest on the charge of treason. Breckinridge joined the Confederate Army as a Brigadier General and fought bravely at many battles, before being named Secretary of War for the Confederacy. Unfortunately for him, that was in 1865 and he would be the last Confederate Secretary of War. He was forced to run for his life on a hellish trip through horrible swamps filled with poisonous snakes and mosquitoes, and at one time he and the men with him disguised themselves as pirates to board a boat to get to Cuba-of course, then he was attacked by actual, real-life pirates and forced to fight them as a fake pirate. Irony!

The whole experience was a nightmare out of Dantes Inferno, but eventually he made it to Cuba. He lived for a time in Europe because he was still wanted for treason. He was finally granted amnesty in 1869 and returned to Kentucky, which gave him a hero's welcome home. He returned to his law practice and did his best to fight the Klu Klux Klan in Kentucky before he died in 1875. Even though he had been granted amnesty for his service to the Confederacy, it wasn't until 1958 that the charge of treason against him was officially dismissed by a court in his home state.

A strange, remarkable, and exciting life-which is why we plan to focus on Breckinridge in "Vice-Precedence". So from all of us:

Happy Birthday John C. Breckinridge!

Thanks for reading and keep supporting "Vice-Precedence"!

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