John C. Breckinridge

John C. Breckinridge
James Paxton Voorhees


John C. Breckinridge Vice President and Senator

He was a noble man, kind, generous, and able. When he was vice president I had charge of his room and was with him often. Whenever he drew his salary from the Treasury, I always went for it, and often kept it in my possession until he called for it. His son Clifton on one occasion came in to the Vice President’s Room and asked his father to give him a ten dollar gold piece. He said that Mr. Bassett had his bag with his money in it and to call him in and ask him to open the drawer where his bag of gold was. I always kept the key, I did so and gave it [to] him. The little fellow was so glad that he went out and told the pages and they went down with him to the restaurant and had a nice time. Frequently his wife, during the session would want to go to her house in Kentucky, and he would ask me to see that she got off safely. After his term expired as vice president he was elected to the Senate. While he was in the Senate he always wanted me to attend to his wants. On the day that I was balloted for the office I now hold, he called me up to him and said, “Why did you not tell me that you were a candidate for that place? I would have voted for you above everybody else in the world.” I told him I was not a candidate and did not know anything about it until just before they commenced voting. Senators Wade and Clark came to me while I was in the lobby and told me that they had just nominated me in caucaus for the office of assistant doorkeeper. I had no intimation of it before. [19A3]

Editor's Note:

John C. Breckinridge was elected vice president of the United States in 1856 on the Democratic ticket with James Buchanan as president. As vice president, Breckinridge served as president of the Senate. The bust pictured here honors his service in that role and is part of the Senate’s Vice Presidential Bust Collection. He was an unsuccessful candidate for president in 1860, then was elected to the U.S. Senate from his home state of Kentucky, and served from March 4, 1861, until expelled by resolution of December 4, 1861 for support of the Confederacy.

People, Places, & Things:

  • Vice President’s Room - As president of the Senate, the vice president of the United States has an office in the Capitol.
  • Page - For more than 175 years, messengers known as pages have served the U.S. Senate. Page duties consist primarily of delivering correspondence and legislative material within the Capitol complex. Other duties include preparing the Senate Chamber for Senate sessions, and carrying bills and amendments to the presiding officer’s desk.
  • Benjamin Franklin Wade (Whig, Opposition, Republican - OH) U.S. senator 1851-1855, 1855-1857, and 1857-1869.
  • Daniel Clark (Republican - NH) U.S. senator 1857-1866.
  • Assistant Doorkeeper - The positions of doorkeeper and assistant doorkeeper were first established in 1789. These officers tended the Senate Chamber door and enforced order in the galleries. The officer now responsible for these duties is the sergeant at arms of the Senate, whose full title is “sergeant at arms and doorkeeper.” The sergeant at arms is the chief law enforcement, protocol, and executive officer of the Senate.