Name:  Thomas A. Hendricks

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Born:  September 7, 1819
Died:  November 25, 1885
Complete HarpWeek Biography:
Thomas Hendricks was born in Zanesville, Ohio, to John Hendricks and Jane Tompson Hendricks. The next year, the family moved to an Indiana farm. After attending local schools, young Hendricks entered Hanover College, where he became known for his debating skill, and graduated in 1841. He studied law for a year under an Indiana judge, followed by law school in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He was admitted to the bar and established a lucrative law practice in Shelbyville, Indiana. In 1845, he married Eliza Morgan; their only child died at the age of three.

In 1848 Hendricks, running as a Democrat, won a seat in Indiana's state assembly, whereupon he became chair of the banking committee. In 1850 he was selected as a delegate to the state constitutional committee, where he argued successfully for a ban on black migration to the state. The next year he was elected to Congress and reelected in 1852 under the new state constitution. A supporter of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Stephen Douglas, Hendricks was defeated for reelection in 1854 by a fusion candidate. He served as a land office commissioner from 1855-1859. In 1860, he lost his bid to become Indiana's governor to Republican Henry Lane. In 1863, however, the Democratically-controlled state legislature elected Hendricks to the U. S. Senate. He quickly became a leader of the Democratic opposition to the Lincoln administration's policies on the draft, emancipation (including the 13th Amendment), taxation, and the issuance of paper money (greenbacks).

After the war, Hendricks endorsed President Andrew Johnson's lenient plan for Reconstruction and opposed the Freedmen's Bureau Bill, Civil Rights bill, the 14th and 15th Amendments, and Johnson's impeachment. In 1868, he was one of several contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, but was defeated by Horatio Seymour. Hendricks was nominated in the same year for governor of Indiana, but lost by a whisker-thin margin of 961 votes to Conrad Baker. For the next several years Hendricks practiced law in Indianapolis, but in 1872 his third nomination for the governorship was the charm. As the nation's first Northern Democrat elected governor in the post-Civil War years, he accrued ample political prominence within his party. When Democratic presidential nominee Horace Greeley died shortly after the November 1872 election, 42 of his 62 electoral college votes were later cast for Hendricks.

In 1876, the Democrats selected Samuel Tilden for president by an overwhelming margin, then awarded Hendricks, who had placed a distant second in the presidential tally, with the vice presidential nomination. Although the ticket was unsuccessful, Hendricks was again tapped by the Democrats as their vice presidential candidate in 1884 to balance another New Yorker, Grover Cleveland. Besides geographical differences, the two diverged on monetary policy, with Cleveland representing the "hard money" faction and Hendricks having long since converted to a "soft money" stance. Hendricks served as the nation's vice president for less than a year when he died of a stroke on November 25, 1885, in his Indianapolis home.

Source consulted: Dictionary of American Biography; William A. DeGregorio, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents.











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