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Hannibal Hamlin

Hannibal Hamlin (August 27, 1809July 4, 1891) was an American statesman, serving in the United States House of Representatives and Senate, as well as in the executive branch as the fifteenth Vice President during Abraham Lincoln's first term (1861-1865).

He was born in Paris Hill, a district of South Paris, in Oxford County, Maine on August 27, 1809. After studying in Hebron Academy, he conducted his father's farm for a time, became schoolmaster, and later managed a weekly newspaper at Paris.

He served in the Maine House of Representatives from 1836 to 1841, during which time he served in the Aroostook War, and then served two terms in the United States House of Representatives, from 1843-1847. He was elected to fill a Senate vacancy in 1848 and to a full term in 1851.

From the very beginning of his service in Congress he was prominent as an opponent of the extension of slavery; he was a conspicuous supporter of the Wilmot Proviso, spoke against the Compromise Measures of 1850, and in 1856, chiefly because of the passage in 1854 of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, which repealed the Missouri Compromise, and at his party's endorsement of that repeal at the Cincinnati Convention two years later, he withdrew from the Democrats and joined the newly organized Republican party.

A Democrat, Hamlin supported the candidacy of Franklin Pierce in 1852. However, he broke with the party over pro-slavery Democratic policies, and on June 12, 1856, he left the party and joined the Republicans. This caused a national sensation.

The Republicans nominated him for Governor of Maine in the same year, and having carried the election by a large majority he was inaugurated in this office on the January 8, 1857. In the latter part of February, however, he resigned the governorship, and was again a member of the Senate from 1857 to January 1861.

He was chosen for the second place on the Republican ticket in 1860. While in this office he was one of the chief advisers of President Abraham Lincoln, and urged both the Emancipation Proclamation and the arming of African-Americans. His identification with Radical Republicans caused him to be dropped from the ticket in 1864 in favor of Andrew Johnson, who was a member of the Democratic Party and a Southerner.

Hamlin served in the Senate from 1869 to 1881. His last post was minister to Spain, from 1881 to 1882.

He died in Bangor, Maine, on July 4, 1891 and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.

He had two sons, Charles Hamlin and Cyrus Hamlin, who served in the Civil War. Charles and sister Sarah were present at Ford's Theater the night of Lincoln's assassination. His son Hannibal Emery Hamlin was Maine state attorney general from 1905 to 1908.

There are biographies by his grandson Charles E. Hamlin (printed 1899, reprinted 1971) and H. D. Hunt (printed 1969).

Further reading

  • Hamlin, Charles E., Life and Times of Hannibal Hamlin, Cambridge, Mass.: 1899.


Preceded by:
John C. Breckinridge
Vice President of the United States
Succeeded by:
Andrew Johnson
Preceded by:
Samuel Wells
Governor of Maine
Succeeded by:
Joseph H. Williams

Preceded by:
William L. Dayton
Republican Party Vice Presidential candidate
1860 (won)
Followed by:
Andrew Johnson
Lincoln and Johnson ran on the National Union ticket in 1864

Last updated: 02-03-2005 05:58:33
Last updated: 02-25-2005 21:16:14