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Thomas Hart Benton: A Featured Biography


Photo of Thomas Hart Benton

As a hotheaded youth on the frontier Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) once fought a duel with Andrew Jackson, who carried Benton's bullet in his body for the rest of his life. Neither man could have anticipated that after Jackson was elected president, Benton as a Missouri Democrat would become his strongest supporter in the Senate. (Some years later, a still hotheaded Benton barely avoided being shot in the Senate Chamber.) In 1834, the Whig majority in the Senate censured President Jackson for refusing to turn over government documents relating to the Bank of the United States. Benton opposed the censure. In 1837, just before the end of Jackson's presidency and after Democrats returned to the majority in the Senate, Benton engineered a vote to expunge the censure resolution from the Senate Journal--a gesture of friendship for a former foe.