Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Thomas Hart Benton's two volume set on 30 years in the Senate. Printed in 1854-56. These are from the library of Congressman Augustus Cutler 1827-1897

Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858)

The spines of the book showing the offical seal of the USA in the 1850's.

The set as it looks on its side.

The face plate

The name plate of Congressman Augustus Cutler

Augustus Cutler (1827-1897) Member of the House 1875-1879

This rare set of books from 1854/1856 is a special piece of history as it was written by Thomas Hart Benton...He saw a great deal of the history from the age Monroe to Filmore. He was Andrew Jackson's Aide De Camp till there was a great deal of trouble between them resulting in Jackson being shot in the arm and shoulder. Benton fought many duels in an age where that was OK. Although he was originally from Tennessee, he moved to the Missouri territory. When Missouri became a state be was one of its first Senators.

He was a peer to Henry Clay, John Q. Adams, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun. Benton was also present at the terrible explosion of the USS. Princeton in 1844. There were many officials killed and Benton was one of the injured, but was never ill enough to miss a day at the Senate...By the later 1840's he was having an issue with slavery.
With the election of James K.Polk, however, his power began to ebb, and his views diverged from the party's. His career took a distinct downturn with the issue of slavery. Benton, a southerner and slave owner, became increasingly uncomfortable with the topic. He was also at odds with fellow Democrats such as John C. Calhoun, who he thought put their opinions ahead of the Union to a treasonous degree. With troubled conscience, in 1849 he declared himself "against the institution of slavery," putting him against his party and popular opinion in his state.

In April 1850, during heated Senate floor debates over the proposed Compromise of 1850, Benton was nearly shot by pistol-wielding Mississippi Senator Henry S. Foote, who had taken umbrage to Benton's vitriolic sparring with Vice-President Millard Fillmore. Foote was wrestled to the floor where he was disarmed.

After this he was basically a man with out a party. He cheered his son in law John C. Fremont as he ran for President in 1856 as the first Republican candidate ...Fremont lost to James Buchanan. But the times were changing. He lived till 1858, full of years and sure that there soon would be a great change coming.

He wrote his massive autobiography and that is what you see here....It was used and read by many a politician for the next half century. As the copy you see here was from the library of Congressman Augustus Cutler (1827-1897). You can see his name plate in the book. One would guess he took much of his library with him. Specially anything dealing with political matters.

I have just touched a bit on his history. I invite you to study him more.
He died in the later 1850's from intestinal cancer. His son in law and daughter would be involved in politics for much of the rest of the 19th century. One of his descendants became well known as a painter under the name of Thomas Hart Benton.

But the man I speak of who wrote these books was one of the rarer of them all and one of the few mentioned in JFK's Profiles in Courage.
He was unique in that form and this very rare set of books is a window into his political world starting nearly 200 years ago.