George H. Pendleton

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George H. Pendleton
GeorgeHPendleton.png
United States Senator
from Ohio
In office
March 4, 1879 – March 4, 1885
Preceded by Thomas S. Matthews
Succeeded by Henry B. Payne
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1857 – March 3, 1865
Preceded by Timothy C. Day
Succeeded by Benjamin Eggleston
Member of the Ohio Senate from the 1st district
In office
January 2, 1854 – January 6, 1856
Preceded by Edwin L. Armstrong
Adam N. Riddle
John L. Vattier
Succeeded by Stanley Matthews
George H. Holmes
William F. Converse
Personal details
Born George Hunt Pendleton
(1825-07-19)July 19, 1825
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Died November 24, 1889(1889-11-24) (aged 64)
Brussels, Belgium
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Alice Key Pendleton (née Key)
Profession Politician, Lawyer

George Hunt Pendleton (July 19, 1825 – November 24, 1889) was an American politician and lawyer. He represented Ohio in both houses of Congress and served as the Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States in 1864.

After studying at the University of Cincinnati and Heidelberg University, Pendleton practiced law in his home town of Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the son of Congressman Nathanael G. Pendleton and the son-in-law of poet Francis Scott Key. After serving in the Ohio Senate, Pendleton won election to the United States House of Representatives. During the Civil War, he emerged as a leader of the Copperheads, a group of Democrats who favored peace with the Confederacy. After the war, he opposed the Thirteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

The 1864 Democratic National Convention nominated a ticket of George B. McClellan, who favored continuing the war, and Pendleton, who opposed it. The ticket was defeated by the Republican ticket of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, and Pendleton lost his Congressional re-election race that same year. Pendleton was a strong contender for the presidential nomination at the 1868 Democratic National Convention, but was defeated by Horatio Seymour. After Pendleton lost the 1869 Ohio gubernatorial election, he temporarily left politics.

He served as the president of the Kentucky Central Railroad before returning to Congress. Pendleton won election to the Senate in 1879 and served a single term, becoming Chairman of the Senate Democratic Conference. After the assassination of President James A. Garfield, he wrote and helped pass the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883. The act required many civil service hires to be based on merit rather than political connections. Passage of the act lost him support in Ohio and he was not nominated for a second term in the Senate. President Grover Cleveland appointed him as the ambassador to the German Empire. He served in that position until 1889, dying later that same year.

Early life[edit]

Pendleton was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the son of Nathanael Greene Pendleton and attended the local schools and Cincinnati College and the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Pendleton studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1847 and commenced practice in Cincinnati. He married Alice Key, the daughter of Francis Scott Key, in 1846 and had four children:

  • Sarah Pendleton (born in Ireland, about 1846)
  • Francis Key Pendleton (born in Cincinnati, December 3, 1850)
  • Mary Lloyd Pendleton (born in Cincinnati, March 26, 1852)
  • Jane Francis Pendleton (born in the District of Columbia, April 22, 1860) [1]

Prewar political career[edit]

Currier and Ives print of the Democratic presidential party ticket, 1864. Lithograph with watercolor.

He was a member of the Ohio Senate from 1854 to 1856. In 1854, he ran unsuccessfully for the Thirty-fourth United States Congress. Three years later, he was elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-fifth Congress and would be re-elected to the three following Congresses (March 4, 1857 – March 3, 1865). During his time in the House of Representatives, he was one of the managers appointed by the House of Representatives in 1862 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against West H. Humphreys, a US judge for several districts of Tennessee. He was a leader of the peace faction of his party, with close ties to the Copperheads. He voted against the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude.[2]

National Politics[edit]

Pendleton ran as an antiwar Democrat in the 1864 presidential elections for Vice President, together with George McClellan. Their opponents were Lincoln (President) and Andrew Johnson (nominee for Vice President). At 39, Pendleton was one of the youngest candidates for national office in US history. McClellan and Pendleton lost, receiving about 45% of the vote. In the same election, Pendleton also lost re-election to the Thirty-ninth Congress.

Out of office[edit]

Out of office for the first time in a decade, Pendleton ran for his old House seat in 1866 but lost. In 1868, he sought the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. He led for the first 15 ballots and was nearly the nominee, but his support disappeared and he lost to Horatio Seymour, primarily for his support of the "Ohio idea." The following year, he was the Democratic nominee for Governor of Ohio and again lost, this time to Rutherford B. Hayes.

Pendleton stepped away from politics, and in 1869, he became president of the Kentucky Central Railroad.

Political comeback[edit]

In 1879, he made his comeback when he was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate. During his only term, from 1881 to 1885, he served concurrently as the Chairman of the Democratic Conference. Following the 1881 assassination of James A. Garfield, he passed his most notable legislation, known as the Pendleton Act of 1883, requiring civil service exams for government positions. The Act helped put an end to the system of patronage in widespread use at the time, but it cost Pendelton politically, as many members of his own party preferred the spoils system. He was thus not renominated to the Senate.

Later life[edit]

Instead, President Grover Cleveland appointed him Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Germany the year that he left office, which he served until April 1889. Five months later, during his return trip to the United States, he died in Brussels, Belgium. He is interred in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Beliefs[edit]

Pendleton had a very Jacksonian commitment to the Democratic Party as the best, perhaps the only, mechanism through which ordinary Americans could shape government policies. Mach (2007) argues that Pendleton's chief contribution was to demonstrate the Whig Party's willingness to use its power in government to achieve Jacksonian ideals.

While his Jacksonian commitment to states' rights and limited government made him a dissenter during the Civil War, what Mach calls Pendleton's Jacksonian "ardor to expand opportunities for ordinary Americans" was the basis for his leadership in civil service reform and his controversial plan to use greenbacks to repay the federal debt. What appeared to be a substantive ideological shift, Mach argues, represented Pendleton's pragmatic willingness to use new means to achieve old ends.

Memorials[edit]

Pendleton in his later years.

The city of Pendleton, Oregon, is named after him.[3]

The George H. Pendleton House in Cincinnati is a National Historical Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project: Janet Ariciu family Bush". Wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved 2013-11-08. 
  2. ^ "Recognizing The Anniversary Of The 13Th Amendment(Extensions of Remarks)". Congressional Record. Government Printing Office. 151 (157): E2496–E2497. December 8, 2005. 
  3. ^ "History of Pendleton". The City of Pendleton. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 

Sources[edit]

  • Mach, Thomas S. "Gentleman George" Hunt Pendleton: Party Politics and Ideological Identity in Nineteenth-Century America, Kent State University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-87338-913-6, 317 pp.

External links[edit]