Who was Daniel D. Tompkins?
Daniel D. Tompkins was an American statesman who served as the sixth Vice President of the United States, from 1817 to 1825. Born into a farmer family, Tompkins, after graduating from the Columbia College, studied law and was admitted to the bar. After establishing his legal career in New York, Tompkins entered into politics and became a delegate to the New York Constitutional Convention. Later, he served as a member of the New York Assembly and was then elected to U.S. House of Representatives but he resigned his seat, serving instead on the New York Supreme Court bench. Afterwards, he won the election to the New York governorship, becoming the city’s Fourth Governor. During his term as governor, educational and penal reform measures were encouraged, the War of 1812 was recognized, and the militia system was restructured. In 1817, he was elected to the vice presidency of the United States in the government of James Monroe, a position Tompkins held until 1825. As Vice President, he took some notable steps towards the abolition of slavery in the state during his administration. Although, he was re-elected as the Vice President, a decade of financial hardship coupled with charges of mishandling state and federal funds during the War of 1812 broke him towards the end of his career and he frequently remained absent from his office. Subsequently, he fell into alcoholism and died three months after leaving the office of the Vice President
Childhood & Early Life
Daniel Tompkins was born on June 21, 1774, in Scarsdale, Westchester County, New York, to Jonathan Griffin Tompkins, and his wife, Sarah Anny Hyatt. He was one of the eleven children of his parents, both of whom worked as tenant farmers.
In 1795, Tompkins completed his graduation from Columbia College, New York, as a valedictorian. Thereafter, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1797, practicing in New York, and later served as a bankruptcy commissioner.
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In 1801, he was appointed a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention. In 1803, he became a member of the New York State Assembly.
In 1804, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He never took his seat and instead resigned to become an associate justice of the New York Supreme Court; he served in this capacity from 1804 to 1807.
In 1807, he won the governorship of New York against the incumbent Governor Morgan Lewis, and became the Fourth Governor of the city. He was re-elected several times in the later years; 1810, 1813 and 1816.
An opponent of banking interests, Tompkins took the unique step of proroguing the state legislature in 1812, in order to prevent the chartering of a banking institution in New York.
Between 1807 and 1817, as the Governor of New York, he encouraged school improvements and emphasized on a more liberal penal code, including a reduction in the number of crimes eligible for capital punishment.
In 1814, Tompkins declined an offer to become the United States Secretary of State by President James Madison and instead chose to become the commander of the federal military district that included New York. Same year, he was also elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society.
In 1816, he was elected as Vice President on the ticket with the President James Monroe. He assumed the office of the Vice President on March 4, 1817 and became the sixth Vice President of the United States.
In 1820, Tompkin ran for the Governor of New York while serving as the Vice President. He lost the election to the incumbent DeWitt Clinton.
Subsequently, Tompkins was re-nominated for vice presidency and won a second term. But, he often remained absent from his office during the last three years of his office due to financial privation.
During the War of 1812, as Governor of New York, he played a key role in preparation and mobilization of the New York militia. For this purpose, he borrowed money on his personal security when the New York state legislature denied the necessary funds.
After the war, neither the state nor the Federal government compensated him so he could repay his loans. For over a decade, Tompkins was involved in legal dispute with the authorities which kept him from his duties during much of his second term as Vice President. Gradually, the financial problems took a toll on his health and he became an alcoholic.
During the War of 1812, Tompkins proved to be one of the most active war governors. He was largely responsible in reorganizing the state militia and promoted the development of a standing state military force based on select conscription.
Tompkins also played a significant role for the passage of legislation prohibiting slavery in the state, and advocated the creation of a firm final date for the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Personal Life & Legacy
On February 20, 1798, Daniel Tompkins married Hannah Minthorne, the 16-year-old daughter of Assistant Alderman on the Common Council, Mangle Minthorne. The couple was blessed with eight children.
Daniel Tompkins died on June 11, 1825, in Tompkinsville, Staten Island, New York, at the age of 50. He was buried in the Minthorne vault in the west yard of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, New York City.