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Hamlin, Hannibal

Governor Hannibal Hamlin (1857), during the Civil War, Matthew Brady Studio, from the National Archives collections

Governor Hannibal Hamlin (1857), during the Civil War, Matthew Brady Studio, from the National Archives collections

Hannibal Hamlin in Bangor (2001)

Hannibal Hamlin in Bangor (2001)

(1809-1891) a Representative and a Senator from Maine and a Vice President of the United States, was born at Paris Hill in Oxford County on August 27, 1809. He attended the district schools, Hebron Academy, and Kents Hill School.

Hannibal Hamlin House (2001)

Hannibal Hamlin House (2001)

Hamlin took charge of the family farm and worked as a surveyor, a compositor in a printing office, and a school teacher. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1833, and practiced in Hampden until 1848. He moved to Bangor in 1851 where the colonial style “Hannibal Hamlin House” still stands as part of the Bangor Theological Seminary.

A member of the Maine House of Representatives (1836-1841, 1847), he served as Speaker in 1837, 1839, and 1840. Though an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for election in 1840 to the Twenty-seventh Congress, he was elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-eighth and Twenty-ninth Congresses (March 4, 1843-March 3, 1847), during which time he chaired the Committee on Elections (Twenty-ninth Congress).

Hannibal Hamlin Portrait as Governor

Hannibal Hamlin Portrait as Governor

Yet again an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the United States Senate in 1846, he was elected as a Democrat to that body in 1848 by the anti-slavery wing of the Democratic party to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John Fairfield. (Read his inaugural address.) He was reelected in 1850 and served from June 8, 1848, to January 7, 1857, when he resigned to become Governor. In the Senate he was chairman of the Committee on Commerce (Thirty-first through Thirty-fourth Congresses), and a member of the Committee on Printing (Thirty-second Congress).

Hamlin left the Democratic Party in 1856. In that year he was elected as the first Republican Governor of Maine.  He served from January to February 1857, when he resigned and was elected to the United States Senate as a Republican. Hamlin served as a Senator from March 4, 1857 until his resignation, effective January 17, 1861, to become the only Maine resident to serve as Vice President.

Lincoln-Hamlin Campaign Flag, at the Johnson Hall Museum in Wells (2013)

Lincoln-Hamlin Campaign Flag, at the Johnson Hall Museum in Wells (2013)

Elected on the ticket with Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) he was later appointed collector of the port of Boston in 1865 but resigned in 1866. Again elected to the United States Senate in 1869 and reelected in 1875, he served from March 4, 1869, until March 3, 1881. He was not a candidate for renomination but was appointed minister to Spain, where he served for two years.

During this term in the Senate, Hamlin’s assignments included chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia (Forty-first Congress), Committee on Manufactures (Forty-second Congress), Committee on Mines and Mining (Forty-second and Forty-third Congresses), Committee on Post Office and Post Roads (Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth Congresses), Committee on Foreign Relations (Forty-fifth Congress).

Hamlin then served as United States Minister to Spain from 1881 to 1882, when he resigned and devoted the remainder of his life to agricultural pursuits. He died in Bangor July 4, 1891, with interment in Mount Hope Cemetery.  Hamlin Plantation in Aroostook County bears his name.

Additional resources

Image of governor’s portrait courtesy of Maine State Museum.

Hamlin, Hannibal, 1809-1891.  Papers, 1829-1909. [microform]  Microfilm of original in Columbia University Libraries (New York, N.Y.). Correspondence, speeches, addresses, articles, notes, poems, reminiscences, personal and family records, genealogy, and obituaries relating to Hannibal Hamlin. University of Maine. Raymond H. Fogler Library.

Hunt, H. Draper. Hannibal Hamlin: Lincoln’s First Vice President. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1969.

Kazarian, Richard, Jr. Working Radicals: The Early Political Careers of William Seward, Thaddeus Stevens, Henry Wilson, Charles Sumner, Salmon P. Chase and Hannibal Hamlin. Ph.D. dissertation, Brown University, 1981.

Mills, Barbara L.  Hannibal Hamlin: The Man and his Speeches. Thesis (M.A.) in Speech–University of Maine. 1948.

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