John B. Henderson

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John B. Henderson
John B. Henderson - Brady-Handy.jpg
United States Senator
from Missouri
In office
January 17, 1862 – March 3, 1869
Preceded byTrusten Polk
Succeeded byCarl Schurz
Member of the Missouri House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
John Brooks Henderson

(1826-11-16)November 16, 1826
Danville, Virginia
DiedApril 12, 1913(1913-04-12) (aged 86)
Washington, D.C.
Political partyDemocrat, Unionist, Republican
SpouseMary Foote
ProfessionPolitician, Lawyer, Teacher
Military service
Branch/serviceMissouri Militia
RankBrigadier General

John Brooks Henderson (November 16, 1826 – April 12, 1913) was a United States senator from Missouri and a co-author of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For his role in the investigation of the Whiskey Ring, he was considered the first special prosecutor.

Early life[edit]

Born near Danville, Virginia, he moved with his parents to Lincoln County, Missouri, studied on his own while a farm hand, taught school, was admitted to the bar in 1844, and practiced.

Political career[edit]

Henderson was a member of the Missouri House of Representatives in 1848-1850 and 1856–1858, and was active in Democratic politics. He was commissioned a brigadier general in the Missouri State Militia in 1861, commanding federal forces in northeast Missouri.

On January 17, 1862 Henderson was appointed to the U.S. Senate as a Unionist to fill the vacancy caused by the expulsion of Trusten Polk. Later that year, Henderson was elected to a full six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

13th Amendment[edit]

As a United States Senator representing a slave state, Henderson co-authored and co-sponsored the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution permanently prohibiting slavery in the United States. Henderson's original proposal, made January 11, 1864, was submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and on February 10, 1864, it presented the Senate with a proposal combining the drafts of congressmen James Mitchell Ashley (Republican, Ohio), James Falconer Wilson, (Republican, Iowa), Charles Sumner (Republican, Massachusetts), and Henderson.[1]

John B. Henderson in his elder years.

On January 31, 1865, the 13th Amendment was approved by the U.S. Congress, and on February 1, 1865, it was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. On April 14, 1865, Lincoln was assassinated before the amendment was ratified by the State of Georgia on December 6, 1865.

While in the Senate, Henderson was chairman of the Committee to Audit and Control the Contingent Expense (Thirty-ninth Congress) and a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs (Thirty-ninth and Fortieth Congresses).

During President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial, Henderson broke party ranks, along with nine other Republican senators and voted for acquittal. Among them, seven Republican senators were disturbed by how the proceedings had been manipulated in order to give a one-sided presentation of the evidence. In addition to Henderson, the other senators expressing those concerns were Senators William Pitt Fessenden, Joseph S. Fowler, James W. Grimes, Lyman Trumbull, Peter G. Van Winkle,[citation needed] and Edmund G. Ross of Kansas, who provided the decisive vote,[2] defied their party and public opinion and voted against conviction.[3] The other three Republican senators to vote against convicting Johnson were James Dixon, James Rood Doolittle, Daniel Sheldon Norton[4] After the trial, Congressman Benjamin Butler conducted hearings on the widespread reports that Republican senators had been bribed to vote for Johnson's acquittal. In Butler's hearings, and in subsequent inquiries, there was increasing evidence that some acquittal votes were acquired by promises of patronage jobs and cash cards.[3]

Henderson was not a candidate for reelection to the Senate in 1868 and left the U.S. Senate on March 3, 1869.

Henderson was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Missouri and later U.S. Senator. In 1875, he was appointed by Ulysses Grant as a special United States attorney for prosecution of the Whiskey Ring at St. Louis. After attempting to stifle Henderson's investigation of the president's personal secretary, Grant fired Henderson on the basis that Henderson's statements to a grand jury regarding Grant were impertinent.[5] Following criticism, Grant appointed a new special prosecutor, James Broadhead, to continue the investigation. In 1877, Henderson was appointed a commissioner to treat with hostile tribes of Indians.

Later life[edit]

Henderson moved to Washington, D.C. in 1888, was a writer, and resided in the capital until his death in 1913. Interment was in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.


  1. ^ Congressional Proposals and Senate Passage Harper Weekly. The Creation of the 13th Amendment. Retrieved February 15, 2007
  2. ^ "The Trial of Andrew Johnson, 1868".
  3. ^ a b David O. Stewart, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy (2009), pp. 240-249, 284-299.
  4. ^ "Senate Journal. 40th Cong., 2nd sess., 16 / 26 May 1868, 943–51". A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
  5. ^ "OIC Smaltz: Speeches and Articles: Georgetown Law Journal: A View From Inside". Retrieved March 14, 2017.


External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by
William Gentry
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 1) from Missouri
January 17, 1862 – March 3, 1869
Served alongside: Robert Wilson, B. Gratz Brown and Charles D. Drake
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by Most senior living U.S. senator
(Sitting or former)

January 6, 1901 – April 12, 1913
Succeeded by