Governor Hannibal Hamlin
As found in REPRESENTATIVE MEN OF MAINE
A Collection of Biographical Sketches of all the Governors since the formation of the State.
Prepaired under the direction of Henry Chase
Portland, ME.
The Lakeside Press, Publisher
1893

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HANNIBAL HAMLIN, the eminent politician and statesman, was a son of Cyrus and Anna Livermore Hamlin, who were of English descent, the paternal ancestors coming from Norman England to Massachusetts. Hannibal was born in Paris, Me., August 27, 1809. His early education was procured in the district schools of his native town, supplemented by a course of study at Hebron Academy. His first work was on the farm and in the printing-office of the Jeffersonian, where he remained until be began the study of law in the office of Fessenden & Deblois of Portland.

Having perfected himself in law, he commenced the practice of his profession in 1833 at Hampden, then the most important town in Penobscot County, where he continued to reside until his removal to Bangor, in 1861, soon after his election to the Vice-Presidency on the ticket with Abraham Lincoln.

On becoming of age Mr. Hamlin allied himself with the Democratic party, and for twenty years he was one of its leaders and received his first political honors at its hands. In the early years of his professional life he was almost continuously in theState Legislature, and was Speaker of the House in 1837 and again in 1839 and in 1840. In 1842 he was elected to the Twenty-eighth Congress, and re-elected to the Twenty-ninth Congress.

Mr. Hamlin, in 1848, was appointed to the United States Senate to fill a vacancy, and elected a Senator to the Thirty-second Congress, the term commencing in 1851 and continuing until 1857. He resigned the senatorship in 1856 to accept the Republican nomination for Governor, with which party he had just allied himself. On the 12th of June, 1856, in a speech in the Senate he resigned his position as chairman of the Committee of Commerce in that body, and refused to longer act with the Democratic party. His reason for this was his party's position on the slavery question. The Convention at Cincinnati that nominated Mr. Buchanan had resolved:

"That Congress has no power under the Constitution to interfere with or control the domestic institutions of the several States, and that all such States are the sole and proper judges of everything appertauing to their own affairs not prohibitad by the constitution."

This Mr. Hamlin did not object to, but the next resolution was what troubled him;

"Resolved, That the foregoing proposition covers and was intended to embrace the whole subject of slavery agitation in Congress."

On these resolutions Mr. Hamlin said: "I deny the position thus assumed by the Cindnnati Convention. I hold that the entire and unqualified sovereignty of the Territories is in Congress. But the resolution brings the Territories precisely within the same limitations which are applied to the States in the resolution I first read. The two taken together deny to Congress any power of legislation in the Territories. Adopted as part of the present platform is the following ":

"The American Democracy adopt the principles contained in the organic laws establishing the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska as embodying the only safe solution of the slavery question, upon which the great national idea of the people of this whole country can repose in its determined conservatism of the Union -- non-interference by Congress with slavery in States and Territories."

The last resolution was:

"That we recognize. the right of the people of all the Territories, including Kansas and Nebraska, acting through the fairly expressed will of the majority of actual residents, and whenever the number of the inhabitants justifies it, to form a constitution, with or without domestic slavery, and be admitted into the Union upon terms of perfect equality with the other States."

"Take all these resolutions together," said Mr. Hamlin, "and the deduction which we must necessarily draw from them is a denial to Congress of any power whatever to legislate upon the subject of slavery." Earlier in his speech he said: "I hold that the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was a gross moral and political wrong, unequalled in the annals of the legislation of this country, and hardly equalled in the annals of any other free country. * * * As a wrong I opposed that measure,-not, indeed, by my voice, but with consistent and steady, uniform votes. I resisted it in obedience to the dictates of my own judgment. I did it also cheerfully, in compliance with the instructions of the Legislature of Maine, which were passed by a vote almost unanimous. In the House of Representatives of Maine, consisting now of one hundred and fifty-one members, only six, I think, dissented; and in the Senate, consisting of thirty-one members, only one member non-concurred."

Thus ended Mr. Hamlin's Connection with the Democratic party, and from that time until his death he was an able and one of the foremost leaders of the Republican party.

Taking his seat as Governor in January, 1857, he served less than two months. On February 25 he resigned to accept the senatorship to which he had again been elected, and Joseph H. Williams, President of the Senate, became acting Governor for the remainder of the term.

In 1860 he was elected Vice-President, which office he held during Mr. Lincoln's first term, but failed of a nomination in 1864. He entered the Senate again in 1869 and continued to represent Maine in that body until 1881, when he voluntarily retired at the expiration of his term, having served on the floor and in the chair for thirty years. He was for a short time Collector of Customs of the Port of Boston, and also Minister to Spain, which was the last public office he ever held.

Mr. Hamlin had a most successful political career. Many causes or reasons have been given for his great success in the political arena. One thing is certain, that his success was due largely to his well-known integrity of character and his fidelity to every trust. He had a kindly nature and was always affable and agreeable in manners. He regarded his word and honor as scrupulously in politics as in business, and he was always true to his friends. Besides, he never got higher than the fountain from which his power flowed, but was always in touch and in full sympathy with the people. He was not a brilliant orator, but a clear, convincing, and forcible speaker, always having a full comprehension of the subject under consideration. In private life be had the respect of everybody, and died July 4, 1891, at his borne in Bangor, lamented by all.

Mr. Hamlin's first wife was Sarah Jane Emery, of Paris, daughter of Stephen Emery, who was AttorneyGeneral in 1839-40. They were married in 1833, and she died in 1855. They had five children, of whom only one survives. In 1856 he married Ellen V. Emery, of Paris, by whom be had two sons.


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