Hannibal Hamlin (August 27, 1809 – July 4, 1891) was the 15th Vice President of the United States, serving under President Abraham Lincoln from 1861-1865. He was the first Vice President from the Republican Party. Prior to his election in 1860, Hamlin served in the United States Senate, the House of Representatives, and, briefly, as Governor of Maine.
Hamlin was born to Cyrus Hamlin and Anna Livermore in Paris, Maine, which is now known as Paris Hill, Maine. He is a descendant of James Hamlin in the sixth generation, who had settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639. Hamlin was a great nephew of U.S. Senator Samuel Livermore II of New Hampshire, and a grandson of Stephen Emery, Maine's Attorney General in 1839-40. Hamlin attended the district schools and Hebron Academy there, and later managed his father's farm. For the next few years he worked at several jobs: schoolmaster, cook, woodcutter, surveyor, manager of a weekly newspaper in Paris, and a compositor at a printer's office. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1833. He began practicing in Hampden, a suburb of Bangor, where he lived until 1848.
Hamlin's political career began in 1836, when he began a term in the Maine House of Representatives after being elected the year before. He served in the bloodless Aroostook War, which took place in 1839. Hamlin unsuccessfully ran for the United States House of Representatives in 1840 and left the State House in 1841. He later served two terms in the United States House of Representatives, from 1843-1847. He was elected to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy in 1848, and to a full term in 1851. A Democrat at the beginning of his career, Hamlin supported the candidacy of Franklin Pierce in 1852. From the very beginning of his service in Congress he was prominent as an opponent of the extension of slavery; he was a conspicuous supporter of the Wilmot Proviso, and spoke against the Compromise Measures of 1850. In 1854 he strongly opposed the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise. After the Democratic Party endorsed that repeal at the 1856 Democratic National Convention, on June 12, 1856, he withdrew from the Democratic Party and joined the newly organized Republican Party, causing a national sensation. The Republicans nominated him for Governor of Maine in the same year, and having carried the election by a large majority he was inaugurated in this office on the January 8, 1857. In the latter part of February, however, he resigned the governorship, and was again a member of the United States Senate from 1857 to January 1861.
In 1861, Hamlin became Vice President under Abraham Lincoln whom he never met until after the election. Maine was the first state in the Northeast to be captured by the Republican Party, and the Lincoln-Hamlin ticket thus made sense in terms of regional balance. Hamlin was also a strong orator, and a known opponent of slavery. While serving as Vice President, Hamlin had little authority in the Lincoln administration, although he urged both the Emancipation Proclamation and the arming of African Americans. He strongly supported Joseph Hooker's appointment as commander of the Army of the Potomac, which was a dismal failure. In June 1864 the National Union Party Convention chose not to nominate Hamlin for a second term. They nominated Unionist Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee as his replacement, in the apparent belief that Johnson would add more to the ticket for the fall election. Lincoln and Johnson were elected in November 1864, and Hamlin's term expired on March 4, 1865. Hamlin's vice presidency would usher in a half-century of sustained national influence for the Maine Republican Party. In the 50-year period 1861-1911, Maine Republicans would occupy the offices of Vice President, Secretary of the Treasury (twice), Secretary of State, President pro tempore of the United States Senate, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (twice), and would field a national presidential candidate in James G. Blaine, a level of influence in national politics seldom matched by subsequent Maine political delegations.
Hamlin served in the Senate from 1869 to 1881. In June 1881, President James Garfield nominated him for the post of ambassador to Spain, in which capacity he served from 1881 to 1882. After he completed the posting he retired from public life to his home in Bangor, Maine. He continued, however, to be a behind-the-scenes influence in the local and state Republican Party. Hamlin died while playing cards at the Tarratine Club in downtown Bangor.
Hamlin had three sons who grew to adulthood: Charles Hamlin, Cyrus Hamlin, and Hannibal Emery Hamlin. Charles and Cyrus served in the Union forces during the Civil War, both becoming generals. Cyrus was among the first Union officers to argue for the enlistment of black troops, and himself commanded a brigade of freemen in the Mississippi River campaign. Charles and sister Sarah were present at Ford's Theater the night of Lincoln's assassination. Hannibal Emery Hamlin was Maine Attorney General from 1905 to 1908. Hannibal Hamlin's great-granddaughter Sally Hamlin was a child actor who made many spoken word recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company in the early years of the 20th century. Hannibal's older brother, Elijah Livermore Hamlin, was president of the Mutual Fire Insurance Co. of Bangor, and the Bangor Institution for Savings. He was twice an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Maine in the late 1840s, though he did serve as Mayor of Bangor in 1851-52. The brothers were members of different political parties (Hannibal a Democrat, and Elijah a Whig) before both becoming Republican in the later 1850s.Hannibal's nephew (Elijah's son) Augustus Choate Hamlin was a physician, artist, mineralogist, author, and historian. He was also Mayor of Bangor in 1877-78, and a founding member of the Bangor Historical Society. Augustus served as surgeon in the 2nd Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, eventually becoming a U.S. Army Medical Inspector, and later the Surgeon General of Maine. He wrote books about Andersonville Prison and the Battle of Chancellorsville. Hannibal's first cousin Cyrus Hamlin, who was a graduate of the Bangor Theological Seminary, became a missionary in Turkey, where he founded Robert College. He later became president of Middlebury College in Vermont. His son, A.D.F. Hamlin, Hannibal's second cousin, became a professor of architecture at Columbia University and a noted architectural historian. There are biographies of Hamlin by his grandson Charles E. Hamlin (published 1899, reprinted 1971) and by H. Draper Hunt (published 1969).
Monuments and memorialsEdit
Hamlin County, South Dakota, is named in his honor, as is Hamlin, New York, and Hamlin Lake, Mason Co., Michigan. There are statues in Hamlin's likeness in the United States Capitol and in a public park (Norumbega Mall) in Bangor. There is also a building on the University of Maine Campus, in Orono, named Hannibal Hamlin Hall. Hamlin's house in Bangor subsequently housed the Presidents of the adjacent Bangor Theological Seminary. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.