Henry Johnson (Louisiana)

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Henry Johnson
H.S.Johnson.jpg
5th Governor of Louisiana
In office
December 13, 1824 – December 15, 1828
Preceded by Henry S. Thibodaux
Succeeded by Pierre Derbigny
Personal details
Born (1783-09-14)September 14, 1783
Davidson County, Tennessee
Died September 4, 1864(1864-09-04) (aged 80)
Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana
Political party Democratic-Republican, National Republican, Whig
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Key
Religion Episcopalian

Henry Johnson (September 14, 1783 – September 4, 1864) was an attorney and politician, the fifth Governor of Louisiana (1824-1828). He also served as a United States Representative and as a United States Senator.

Early life[edit]

Johnson was born in Virginia in September 1783.[1] His family is said to have resided in southern Virginia, where Johnson completed academic study and became a member of Virginia Bar.

Marriage and family[edit]

After passing the bar, Johnson married Elizabeth Key of Virginia, a daughter of Philip B. Key and his wife; Elizabeth's father was a cousin of Francis Scott Key. The couple had a family together.

Several years after the United States made the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, Johnson moved to the Territory of Orleans in 1809. He was appointed as Clerk of the Second Superior Court of the Territory. In 1811, he was appointed Clerk of the newly formed St. Mary Parish in the southwestern part of the state.[1]

Political career[edit]

1812 to 1828[edit]

In 1812, Johnson lost a bid to the U.S. Congress. After his defeat, he practiced law in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, located on the south bank of the Mississippi River in the south-central part of the state. He became a district judge of the Parish Court in 1811; and was selected as a delegate to the first State constitutional convention in 1812.[1]

Upon the death of U.S. Senator William C.C. Claiborne in 1818, Johnson was elected by the state legislature as a Democratic-Republican Party to fill his vacancy. He served as chairman, Committee on Indian Affairs in the Seventeenth Congress. In 1823, he was elected by the state legislature as an "Adams Republican", also known as the National Republican Party candidate,[1] to a full 6-year US Senate term. The party asked him to promise not to run for Governor in 1824, as it wanted to retain control of that Senate seat.

Johnson did run for governor, being elected in 1824. He served a full term as Louisiana Governor from 1824 until 1828.[1] During his term, the legislature moved the state seat of government to Donaldsonville, a compromise location settled on between Anglo-American leaders, who wanted the capital moved from New Orleans to a more northerly location, and French Creoles, who wanted to retain the seat of government within a historically French area to reflect the origins of the state. Earlier in 1824, riots in New Orleans over this same issue had forced the resignation of Governor Thomas B. Robertson.

Johnson gained election as governor due to a bitter division among the Creoles at the time. He also enjoyed the goodwill of a visit to Louisiana by the Revolutionary War hero, the French aristocrat Marquis de Lafayette. That visit allayed the bitter Creole-Anglo split. Johnson inflamed the conflict again by taking the side of the "Anglos" in a dispute about cotton and sugar cultivation.

During Johnson's term, his administration founded two financial institutions that promoted prosperity: the Louisiana State Bank and the Consolidated Association of Planters of Louisiana. He improved commerce within Louisiana by forming the Internal Improvement Board to maintain and build infrastructure, such as roads and canals, to improve transportation and the movement of goods and produce to market.

1829 to 1839[edit]

In 1829, Johnson ran to gain election by the state legislature to his former US Senate seat against Charles Dominique Joseph Bouligny, a man of French Creole and French-Spanish descent whose father had been a high-ranking official in Spanish Louisiana at the end of the 18th century. In that election ticket, Johnson backed Edward Douglass White Sr. against Edward Livingston for the Louisiana's 1st Congressional District, John Quincy Adams for President, and Pierre Derbigny for Governor. The men he supported were elected, but the legislature re-elected the incumbent Bouligny to the Senate; he had first been elected after Johnson resigned to take the governorship in 1824.[1]

In 1834 Johnson was elected as a Whig to the United States Congress, to fill the vacancy after the resignation of Edward Douglass White Sr. Johnson was re-elected for two more terms, serving in total from 1834 to 1839.[1]

1844 to 1850[edit]

In 1844, Johnson was appointed to fill the vacant U.S. Senate position of Alexander Porter, who never took the seat due to ill health and died in January 1844. Johnson served the remainder of the term until 1849. He served as Chairman of the Committee on Pensions. As Senator he supported bills favoring annexation of Texas, which had become an independent Republic after separating from Mexico. He also voted to repeal the tariff of 1846.

In 1848 Johnson lost a bid to remain in the Senate to Pierre Soulé, a Jacksonian-Democrat of French Creole descent. In 1850, he suffered a final political defeat, losing a race for Representative to Congress against Henry Adams Bullard (Whig). Johnson moved to New River in Pointe Coupée Parish, and continued the practice of law.[1]

Death[edit]

During the Civil War, Gov. Johnson remained in Pointe Coupee Parish. The state was controlled by the Union after the fall of New Orleans. He died in September 1864, near the close of the war, and was buried on his plantation, which lies at the confluence of Bayou Grosse Tête and Bayou Maringouin.

Sidney Marchand in his Story of Ascension Parish said that Johnson had bequeathed the land in Donaldsonville on which was built the present-day Ascension Episcopal Church (at the corner of Attakapas/Nicholls and St. Patrick streets).[citation needed]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

United States Senate
Preceded by
William C.C. Claiborne
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Louisiana
January 12, 1818 – May 27, 1824
Served alongside: Eligius Fromentin, James Brown, Josiah S. Johnston
Succeeded by
Dominique Bouligny
Preceded by
Charles M. Conrad
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Louisiana
February 12, 1844 – March 4, 1849
Served alongside: Alexander Barrow, Pierre Soulé, Solomon W. Downs
Succeeded by
Pierre Soulé
Political offices
Preceded by
Henry S. Thibodaux
Governor of Louisiana
1824–1828
Succeeded by
Pierre Derbigny
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Edward Douglass White Sr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Louisiana's 1st congressional district

September 25, 1834 – March 4, 1839
Succeeded by
Edward Douglass White Sr.
Honorary titles
Preceded by
John J. Crittenden
Most Senior Living U.S. Senator
(Sitting or Former)

July 26, 1863 – September 4, 1864
Succeeded by
Walter Lowrie