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Thomas Hart Benton Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-71877).

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Benton, Thomas Hart (14 March 1782–10 April 1858), U.S. senator and congressman, was born near Hillsboro (now Hillsborough), North Carolina, the son of Jesse Benton, a lawyer and farmer, and Ann “Nancy” Gooch. Jesse Benton died in 1791, leaving eight children, considerable land, extensive debts, and an aristocratic lifestyle. The family suffered a further blow when Thomas Hart Benton, at age sixteen, was expelled from the University of North Carolina for misusing money entrusted to him by roommates. The future senator was known ever after for scrupulous honesty and belligerent defense of his honor; concern that the story of his expulsion might surface probably influenced his consistent refusals to be considered for the presidency....

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Broderick, David Colbert (04 February 1820–16 September 1859), U.S. senator, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Thomas Broderick, a stonemason, and Honora Colbert. In 1817 Thomas Broderick moved his family from County Cork, Ireland, to Washington, D.C., where he worked on the Capitol. In 1825 the Brodericks moved to Greenwich Village, New York, where Thomas Broderick died in 1834. At age fourteen, David Broderick began a five-year apprenticeship as a stonemason, while his mother opened a china shop. China importer Townsend R. Harris, later the first envoy to Japan and founder of the City University of New York, revealed the world of books to young Broderick, and journalist George Wilkes broadened his reading....

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B. Gratz Brown. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90757).

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Brown, Benjamin Gratz (28 May 1826–13 December 1885), U.S. senator and governor of Missouri, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of Mason Brown, a lawyer, and Judith Bledsoe. He was educated at Transylvania and Yale Universities, graduating from the latter in 1847. He then earned a degree from Louisville Law School. Upon being admitted to the bar in the fall of 1849, he moved to St. Louis to join his cousins ...

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Aaron Burr. Engraving on paper, c. 1793 - 1814, by Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon.

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Burr, Aaron (06 February 1756–14 September 1836), revolutionary soldier, U.S. senator, and vice president of the United States, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Aaron Burr, a theologian and the second president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), and ...

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William H. Crawford. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97178).

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Crawford, William Harris (24 February 1772–15 September 1834), U.S. senator, cabinet member, and presidential candidate, was born in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Joel Crawford and Fanny Harris, farmers. In 1779 financial reverses led the Crawfords to move to the Edgefield District of South Carolina and four years later to Kiokee Creek, near Appling, Georgia. Joel Crawford valued education, and his children attended the field schools that served families in rural areas. After Joel’s death in 1788, young William Harris helped out on the farm while teaching at the field school he had recently attended. In 1794, at the age of twenty-two, Crawford enrolled for two years in ...

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Jefferson Davis. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92005).

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Davis, Jefferson (03 June 1808?–06 December 1889), president of the Confederate States of America and U.S. senator, was born in Christian (later Todd) County, Kentucky, the tenth and last child of Samuel Emory Davis and Jane Cook, farmers. The year of his birth is uncertain; for many years Davis regarded 1807 as correct, but he later settled upon 1808....

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Henry S. Foote. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110163).

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Foote, Henry Stuart (28 February 1804–20 May 1880), U.S. senator and governor of Mississippi, was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, the son of Richard Helm Foote and Jane Stuart. After graduating from Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in 1819, he was admitted to the bar in Richmond in 1823. Soon, he moved to Tuscumbia, Alabama, for a few years, where he edited a Democratic newspaper, and then to Mississippi, where he quickly became one of the leading criminal lawyers in the state....

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Hemphill, John (18 December 1803–04 January 1862), jurist and U.S. senator, was born in Chester District, South Carolina, the son of the Reverend John Hemphill and Jane Lind, both of Scotch-Irish descent and of the Presbyterian faith. Raised primarily by his father after his mother’s death, and by his stepmother Mary Nixon after 1811, young John attended local schools before enrolling at Jefferson College (now Washington and Jefferson College) in Pennsylvania. In 1825 he graduated second in his class and returned to South Carolina, where he taught in various classical academies. After a few years he abandoned teaching to take up the study of law and in 1828 entered the office of D. J. McCord, a prominent attorney in Columbia. A year later the two of them established their own practice in Sumterville....

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James Jackson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94984 ).

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Jackson, James (21 September 1757–19 March 1806), congressman, U.S. senator, and governor of Georgia, was born in Moreton Hampstead, Devonshire, England, the son of James Jackson, Sr., and Mary Webber, about whom nothing is known. At age fifteen he immigrated alone to Savannah, Georgia, where lawyer John Wereat took him in. Young Jackson received no formal education, but within the next few years the American Revolution transformed and gave focus to his life. In 1777 he was a delegate to the Georgia Constitutional Convention. More notably, he served in the state militia, fought in numerous engagements, including Cowpens in 1781, and became a major general in 1792. For his leadership of the patriot forces that repossessed Savannah after the British departure in July 1782, the assembly awarded him a house and lot in the town. In 1785 he married Mary Charlotte Young; they had five sons. By 1796 Jackson’s estate had grown to include several thousand acres of rice and cotton producing lands, including 4,594 acres from grants made to him by Georgia governors in recognition of war service. Showing little interest in selling this domain, he apparently was immune from the land speculation fever of his day. After studying with ...

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Marshall, Humphrey (1760–26 June 1841), senator and historian of Kentucky, was born near Warrenton, Fauquier County, Virginia, the son of John Marshall and Mary Quisenberry, farmers. He received his education from family and private tutors at home and at the neighboring plantation of his uncle Thomas Marshall, the father of Chief Justice ...

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McDuffie, George (10 August 1790–11 March 1851), U.S. senator, congressman, and governor of South Carolina, was born in Columbia County, Georgia, the son of John McDuffie and Jane (maiden name unknown). His parents were poor Scottish immigrants, and he was put to work early on farms and in stores. While employed as a store clerk in Augusta, Georgia, he caught the eye of store-owner James Calhoun, brother of ...

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Moore, Gabriel (1785?–06 August 1844), U.S. representative and senator, Alabama governor, was born in Stokes County, North Carolina, the son of Matthew Moore, a farmer and iron worker, and Letitia Dalton. He received his education and studied law in North Carolina. By 1810 he migrated to Huntsville, Madison County, Mississippi Territory, to open a law practice and entered public service soon thereafter, first holding the position of assessor and collector of taxes for Madison County, then the most populous county in the area that ultimately became Alabama. He represented Madison County in the House of Representatives of the Mississippi Territorial Legislature from 1811 to 1817, serving as its speaker from 1815 to 1817. After Alabama became a separate territory, Moore represented Madison County in the House of Representatives of the Alabama Territorial Legislature, serving as speaker for the first session in January and February 1818. However, he did not serve as speaker for the second session in November 1818. During that session, the legislature granted his wife, whom he had married earlier that year, a divorce from him and granted her petition to resume using her maiden name of Mary Parham Caller. Soon afterward, Moore wounded his former wife’s brother in a pistol duel....

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Rowan, John (12 July 1773–14 July 1843), U.S. senator, was born in York, Pennsylvania, the son of Captain William Rowan, a sheriff, and Sarah Elizabeth Cooper. The Rowan family lost most of their resources during the revolutionary war by supporting the American cause. In 1783, feeling that the West offered a brighter future for them than did Pennsylvania, they set out for frontier Kentucky. John Rowan suffered from rheumatic pains as a youngster, and his family finally determined that he would have a difficult life without the benefit of the best education available. Therefore, the Rowan family moved to Bardstown, Kentucky, in 1790 to allow John to attend Salem Academy, a school run by Dr. James Priestly. At the time, the Priestly school had the reputation as the best educational establishment west of the Allegheny Mountains....