George H. Pendleton

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
George H. Pendleton
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 a Representative and a Senator from Ohio. Nicknamed "Gentleman George" for his demeanor, he was the Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States during the Civil War in 1864, running as a peace Democrat with war Democrat George B. McClellan; they lost to Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. He is best known as the principal author of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883.

Early life and education[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]


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

State office and Congress[edit]

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 also succeeded in being reelected 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, United States judge for several districts of Tennessee. He was a leader of the peace faction of the Democratic party, with close ties to the Copperheads. He voted against the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude.[2]

National Politics[edit]

Pendleton ran as an anti-war Democrat in the 1864 U.S. presidential elections for Vice President, together with George McClellan. Their opponents were Abraham Lincoln (President) and Andrew Johnson (nominee for Vice President). McClellan and Pendleton lost, receiving about 45% of the vote. In the same election, Pendleton also lost re-election to the Thirty-ninth Congress.

Political Comeback[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 due to 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.

Pendletopn stepped away from politics and in 1869 he became president of the Kentucky Central Railroad. In 1879, he made his comeback when he was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate. During his one 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 that was 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.

Instead, President Grover Cleveland appointed him Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Germany the year he left office, and he served in that role 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.

Political role[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 a "Whiggish" willingness to use the power of government to achieve Jacksonian ideals. So, 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 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.


Pendleton in his later years.

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

The Senator 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]


  1. ^ "RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project: Janet Ariciu family Bush". 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. 

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]