Hannibal Hamlin served as the 15th Vice President of the United States, from 1861 to 1865, in the Republican administration of President Abraham Lincoln. Born to a farmer, Hamalin, after studying in Hebron Academy, worked on his family farm for a while and later managed a weekly newspaper. Then, he studied law and after starting his legal practice, he entered politics as an anti-slavery Democrat and served in the Maine state legislature. Later, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives and subsequently became a member of the Senate. During his first term as a senator, he took an anti-slavery position on sectional issues and later left the Democratic Party because of its endorsement of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. Thereafter, he joined the Republican Party and became Maine’s governor but resigned within months, returning to the Senate for a second time. The Republican National Convention of 1860 nominated Hamlin for Vice President and he was duly elected, in the administration of Abraham Lincoln. From 1861 to 1865, during the Civil War, Hamlin served as the Vice President of the United States, supporting the emancipation and the arming of freedmen. Afterwards, he was elected to the Senate again and served two more six-year terms. Subsequently, he was made a diplomat and after serving as Minister to Spain for a year, Hamlin retired from politics and returned to his home in Maine, where he died at the age of 81.
Childhood & Early Life
Hannibal Hamlin was born on August 27, 1809, in Paris Hill, Maine, to Cyrus Hamlin, a farmer and surveyor, and his wife, Anna Livermore.
Hamlin received early education from the district schools and then went to the Hebron Academy, a preparatory school in Hebron, Maine. Thereafter, he managed his family farm for some time and later also worked as a school teacher and managed a weekly newspaper.
Then, he studied law under the guidance of Samuel Fessenden, and was admitted to the bar in 1833.Subsequently, he began his own law practice and acquired a reputation as a competent lawyer.
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In 1835, Hamlin entered politics as an anti-slavery Democrat and was elected to the Maine House of Representatives, where he served with the militia in the Aroostook War of 1839. He assisted in reducing tensions and made way for the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which eventually ended the war.
After an unsuccessful run for the United States House of Representatives in 1840, he left the State House in 1841. In 1843, he was appointed a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine's 6th district, a capacity in which he served until 1847. He served as chairman of the Committee on Elections.
In 1848, he was elected to the United States Senate vacancy, a position Hamlin retained until 1857.Since the start of his service in Congress, Hamlin was a strong opponent of the extension of slavery. In 1854, he profoundly argued against the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise.
Subsequently, the Democratic Party permitted that repeal at the 1856 Democratic National Convention. Disappointed with his party's outlook on slavery, Hamlin left the Democratic Party and joined the newly organized Republican Party.
In 1856, he was elected as the first Republican Governor of Maine and was inaugurated on the post in January 1857. However, he served as governor for a very brief period and left the position in latter part of February, preferring to return to his Senate seat. From 1857 to 1861, he again served as a member of the United States Senate.
In 1860, Hamlin received the Republican nomination for vice president with Abraham Lincoln as the presidential candidate. Subsequently, they won the election and Hamlin became Vice President of the United States, taking oath of the office in March 1861.
From 1861 to 1865, during the Civil War, Hamlin served as Vice President and one of the chief advisers of President Abraham Lincoln. While in his office, Hamlin advocated the Emancipation Proclamation as well as the arming of the Negroes, steps that Lincoln later adopted.
After Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, Andrew Johnson became the President and appointed Hamlin as Collector for the Port of Boston. But, the two had strong ideological differences which eventually led Hamlin to resign from his post in protest of Johnson's Reconstruction policy.
In 1869, Hamlin was re-elected to the United States Senate and served two more six-year terms until 1880. During his term, he chaired various committees including the Committee on Mines and Mining, and the Committee on Foreign Relations.
In 1881, he was appointed the United States Ambassador to Spain, a post he retained until October 1882. After serving as a diplomat, he retired from political life.
A keen opponent of slavery since the beginning of his career, Hamlin went on to become a U.S. senator and raised his voice against this practice. As Vice President of the United States under Abraham Lincoln, Hamlin urged Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation to end southern slavery and later also supported Radical Reconstruction.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1833, Hamlin married Sarah Jane Emery and the couple had four children together; George, Charles, Cyrus and Sarah. Unfortunately, Sarah died in 1855.
In 1856, he wed Sarah’s half-sister, Ellen Vesta Emery. They were blessed with two children, Hannibal E. and Frank.
After retiring from political life, Hamlin returned to his home in Bangor, Maine, where he died on July 4, 1891, at the age of 81. He was buried in the Hamlin family plot at Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor, Maine, United States.