Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Hamlin, Hannibal from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US political leader and vice-president 1861–65. Originally a Democrat, he served in the US House of Representatives 1843–47 and the US Senate 1848–61. Opposed to slavery, he joined the Republican Party 1856. He was vice-president in Abraham Lincoln's first term. Returning to the Senate as a radical Republican 1868–80, he later served as US minister to Spain 1881–82.

Hamlin was born in Paris Hill, Maine. He worked at a succession of jobs before studying law and becoming a barrister 1833. He served in the state legislature 1836–41 and was briefly governor of Maine 1857.


Summary Article: Hamlin, Hannibal from American Civil War: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document collection

Birth Date: August 27, 1809

Death Date: July 4, 1891

Vice president of the United States (1861–1865). Born on August 27, 1809, in Paris Hill, Maine, Hannibal Hamlin attended Hebron Academy before being admitted to the bar in 1833. Active in Democratic politics, he served in the state legislature from 1836 to 1841, during most of which time he was Speaker. Hamlin held strong antislavery sentiments but believed that the federal government had no authority to regulate slavery in the states. He objected, however, to congressional efforts to suppress discussion of the slavery question.

One of Abraham Lincoln's earliest New England supporters, Hannibal Hamlin was vice president of the United States from March 1861 to March 1865, when he was a strong advocate of emancipation and increasingly identified with the radical wing of the Republican Party. (Library of Congress)

Hamlin served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1843–1847) and maintained a low profile in the acrimonious debates regarding the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). In 1848 he was selected by the antislavery wing of the Democratic Party in Maine to complete a U.S. Senate term after Senator John Fairfield had died in office. Hamlin won election to a full term in 1851 and served until 1856.

Dissatisfied with the Democratic Party's position on slavery, Hamlin joined the Republican Party in July 1856. His election as governor of Maine that same year marked the emergence of the Republican Party as the dominant political force in New England. He resigned as governor after a few weeks, however, and returned to the Senate. Hamlin's strong antislavery views and New England origins made him a logical choice for the Republican vice presidential nomination in 1860 as Abraham Lincoln's running mate.

Hamlin served as vice president throughout Lincoln's first term and was a vocal advocate of emancipation. During Hamlin's tenure, he became increasingly associated with the radical wing of the Republican Party. Seeking a moderate running mate in 1864, Lincoln chose Senator Andrew Johnson (a Southerner) instead of Hamlin. Hamlin was replaced by Johnson as vice president on March 4, 1865, a little more than a month before Lincoln's assassination and Johnson's ascent to the presidency.

After leaving the vice presidency, Hamlin served briefly as collector for the port of Boston. He resigned in protest over President Johnson's Reconstruction policies, however. A leading Radical Republican, in 1868 Hamlin was again elected to the Senate, where he remained until his retirement in 1881. While in the Senate, he firmly supported Radical Republican Reconstruction programs. At the Republican National Convention in 1880, he played an important role in preventing former president Ulysses S. Grant's nomination for a third term as president. Hamlin's final post was as minister to Spain from 1881 to 1882. He died in Bangor, Maine, on July 4, 1891.

See also

Johnson, Andrew; Lincoln, Abraham; Radical Republicans; Republican Party

Further Reading
  • Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. Simon and Schuster New York, 1995.
  • Hunt, H. Draper. Hannibal Hamlin: Lincoln's First Vice President. Syracuse University Press Syracuse NY, 1969.
  • Steven G. O'Brien
    Copyright 2013 by Spencer C. Tucker

    Related Credo Articles

    Full text Article Hamlin, Hannibal
    Chambers Biographical Dictionary

    1809-91 US politician Born in Paris Hill, Maine, he practised law (1833-48), was Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, and was returned to C

    Full text Article Wade, Benjamin Franklin
    The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

    US lawyer and public official. As a US senator (Whig, Ohio, 1851–56; Republican, 1856–69), he joined with congressional Radical Republicans to press

    Full text Article Ramsey, Alexander
    American Civil War: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document collection

    Birth Date: September 8, 1815 Death Date: April 22, 1903 Governor of Minnesota. Alexander Ramsey was born on September 8, 1815, near Harrisburg, Pen

    See more from Credo