Solomon Foot

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Solomon Foot
Solomon Foot - Brady-Handy.jpg
Brady-Handy Photograph Collection, Library of Congress, circa 1860
United States Senator
from Vermont
In office
March 4, 1851 – March 28, 1866
Preceded bySamuel S. Phelps
Succeeded byGeorge F. Edmunds
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
February 16, 1861 – April 13, 1864
Preceded byBenjamin Fitzpatrick
Succeeded byDaniel Clark
Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds
In office
Preceded byJesse D. Bright
Succeeded byB. Gratz Brown
Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives
In office
Preceded byEbenezer N. Briggs
Succeeded byWilliam C. Kittredge
Member of the
United States House of Representatives
from Vermont's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1843 – March 3, 1847
Preceded byHiland Hall
Succeeded byWilliam Henry
Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives
In office
Preceded byCarlos Coolidge
Succeeded byCarlos Coolidge
State's Attorney of Rutland County, Vermont
In office
Preceded byReuben R. Thrall
Succeeded byWilliam C. Kittredge
Member of the Vermont House of Representatives from Rutland
In office
Preceded byJoel M. Mead
Succeeded byEdwin L. Griswold
In office
Preceded byAmbrose L. Brown
Succeeded byGeorge Tisdale Hodges
In office
Preceded byRodncy C. Royce
Succeeded byAmbrose L. Brown
Personal details
Born(1802-11-19)November 19, 1802
Cornwall, Vermont, US
DiedMarch 28, 1866(1866-03-28) (aged 63)
Washington, D.C., US
Resting placeEvergreen Cemetery, Rutland, Vermont
Political partyWhig (before 1854)
Republican (from 1854)
Spouse(s)Emily Fay Foot
Anna Dora Hodges Foot
ChildrenHelen Eliza Foot
Alma materMiddlebury College

Solomon Foot (November 19, 1802 – March 28, 1866) was an American politician and attorney. He held numerous offices during his career, including Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives, State's Attorney for Rutland County, member of the United States House of Representatives, and United States Senator.

A native of Cornwall, Vermont, Foot began working on local farms at age nine, helping support his family after the death of his father. After graduating from Middlebury College, Foot worked as a teacher, school principal, and college professor while studying law. After attaining admission to the bar in 1831, he opened a practice in Rutland.

Entering politics as a Whig, Foot served in several offices, including member of the Vermont House of Representatives, delegate to the state constitutional conventions of 1833 and 1836, and Rutland County State's Attorney. He was Vermont's Speaker of the House from 1837 to 1839. Foot served in the United States House of Representatives from 1843 to 1847 and was noted for his opposition to the Mexican–American War and the extension of slavery. He did not run for reelection in 1846; returned to the Vermont House, he served as Speaker from 1847 to 1848.

In 1850 Foot was elected to the United States Senate; he became a Republican when the party was founded, and won reelection in 1856 and 1862. Foot served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate during the American Civil War, and was a strong advocate for the Union. He headed the Joint Congressional Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds beginning in 1861, and which included supervising completion of the United States Capitol's construction.

Foot died in Washington, DC in 1866; he was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Rutland.

Early life[edit]

Foot was born on November 19, 1802, in Cornwall, Vermont.[1] He was the son of Dr. Solomon and Betsey Crossett Foot,[1] and his family lived across the road from William Slade.[2]: 244  Foot's father died when he was nine years old, and he worked on local farms to help support his family.[3] He graduated from Middlebury College in 1826 and also received a master's degree from Middlebury.[1][4][2]: 244 

He was a tutor in Middlebury and Burlington, preceptor of Castleton Academy, and professor of natural philosophy at the Vermont Medical School in Castleton.[5]

While teaching he studied law with attorneys Benjamin F. Langdon and Reuben R. Thrall.[6] Foot attained admission to the bar in 1831, afterwards practicing in Rutland.[7]

Start of career[edit]

Foot served in the Vermont House of Representatives in 1833 and was a Delegate to the Vermont State Constitutional Convention in 1836.[1] He served again in the Vermont House from 1836 to 1839 and was Speaker from 1837 to 1839.[8]

He served as Rutland County State's Attorney from 1836 to 1842.[9]


Foot was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Whig in 1842 and served two terms, 1843 to 1847.[10] As a Congressman Foot opposed extending slavery and the Mexican–American War.[11][12]

He declined renomination in 1846.[10] Returned to the Vermont House of Representatives, Foot was again chosen to serve as Speaker, holding the post from 1847 to 1848.[13]

1848 Whig Convention[edit]

Foot was a Delegate to the 1848 Whig National Convention, and was Chairman of the Vermont delegation.[14][15] Abbott Lawrence of Massachusetts, who had worked diligently to obtain the Presidential nomination for Zachary Taylor, expected to be the Vice Presidential nominee, counting on the support of Thurlow Weed of New York and the southern delegates who had backed Taylor.[14][15] Northern and border state delegates, who had backed Henry Clay or Daniel Webster for President, threatened to run a northern candidate in opposition to Taylor unless a northerner other than Lawrence—one seen as less willing to allow slavery—was selected for Vice President.[14][15] They proposed Millard Fillmore of New York.[14][15]

Other delegates promoted Fillmore because they opposed the efforts of Weed and William H. Seward to control the party in New York, and believed that Weed was working to install Seward as Secretary of State in a Taylor administration.[14][15] They backed Fillmore for Vice President because in an era when the President, Vice President and cabinet were expected to reflect geographic balance, if Fillmore became Vice President, another New Yorker (Seward) could not be expected to claim a place in the cabinet.[14][15]

Foot went to the convention as a supporter of Lawrence.[14][15] Recognizing that the Whigs would likely collapse if Lawrence was nominated and northern delegates left the party, Foot agreed to support Fillmore.[14][15] Lawrence's support eroded as other northern delegates followed Foot's lead, and on the first ballot, Fillmore had 115 votes and Lawrence 109.[14][15] Fillmore won the nomination on the second ballot, and the ticket of Taylor and Fillmore went on to win the election.[14][15]

United States Senator[edit]

Foot was elected to the United States Senate as a Whig in 1850.[16] He became a Republican at the party's founding and was reelected to the Senate in 1856 and 1862.[16] He served from March 4, 1851, until his death.[17]

In early 1861 Foot met the Vermont delegates to the Peace Conference which attempted to prevent the start of the American Civil War.[18] At this meeting, he shared with them his view that the conference was a sham by secessionists who hoped to obtain additional time to plan for the withdrawal of their states from the Union.[18]

Foot was also Chairman of the Senate committee responsible for the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in 1861.[19]

Foot served as the Senate's President pro tempore from 1861 to 1864.[20] Because Vice President Hannibal Hamlin was often absent, Foot usually presided over the Senate during the war, and he was commended for his tact and fairness.[21]

He was Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds from 1861 until his death.[10] In this capacity, he oversaw completion of construction on the United States Capitol.[22][23]


Foot died in Washington, D.C. on March 28, 1866.[24] Funeral services were held in the Chamber of the United States Senate.[25] He is interred at Evergreen Cemetery, Rutland, Vermont.[8]


Foot was a Trustee of Middlebury College and the University of Vermont.[26][27] He received an honorary LL.D. degree from Middlebury in 1857.[27][28]


Foot was married in 1839 to Emily Fay of Rutland.[1] They had one daughter, Helen Eliza Foot (1840-1841).[29] Emily died on May 2, 1842.[30][31]

In 1844, Foot married Mary A. (Hodges) Dana.[1] She was the mother of a son, William Hodges Dana (1830-1837).[32]

Foot's brother Jonathan (born October 31, 1804) graduated from Vermont Medical College in 1829.[2]: 272  [33] He settled in Whitby, Ontario, Canada, where he practiced medicine.[2]: 272  [33]

Solomon Foot's mother lived with him in Rutland until her death in 1845.[2]: 208 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Middlebury College, Catalogue of Officers and Students of Middlebury College, 1917, page 78
  2. ^ a b c d e Matthews, Lyman (1862). History of the Town of Cornwall, Vermont. Middlebury, VT: Mead and Fuller – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Johnson, Rossiter, ed. (1904). The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans. Vol. IV. Boston, MA: The Typographical Society. p. 154 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ George F. Edmunds, Addresses Delivered Before The Vermont Historical Society, 1866, page 5
  5. ^ The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated, Solomon Foot: Portrait, Character and Biography, June 1866, page 166
  6. ^ Wiley, Edgar J. (1917). Catalogue of Officers and Students of Middlebury College. Middlebury College: Middlebury, VT. p. 78.
  7. ^ Solomon Foot. Encyclopedia, Vermont Biography. 1912. p. 367. Retrieved November 21, 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Solomon Foot". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved November 21, 2012.
  9. ^ Marcus Davis Gilman, The Bibliography of Vermont, 1897, page 96
  10. ^ a b c Hubbell, John T.; Geary, James W., eds. (1995). Biographical Dictionary of the Union: Northern Leaders of the Civil War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-0-3132-0920-8 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ John J. Duffy, Samuel B. Hand, Ralph H. Orth, editors, The Vermont Encyclopedia, 2003, page 129
  12. ^ U.S. Government Printing Office, Proceedings on the Death of Hon. Solomon Foot, 1866, pages 59–60
  13. ^ Vermont General Assembly, Vermont Legislative Directory, 1886, page 187
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, 2003, pages 327–329
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Alan Brinkley, Davis Dyer, The American Presidency, 2004, page 146
  16. ^ a b Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1887). Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography. Vol. II. New York, NY: D. Appleton & Company. p. 495 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ "Solomon Foot". Govtrack. US Congress. Retrieved November 21, 2012.
  18. ^ a b Ernest B. Furgurson, Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War, 2007, page 38
  19. ^ The Magazine of History, The Role of Doctors In the Lincoln Administration, 1922, page 33
  20. ^ Byrd, Robert C. (1993). The Senate, 1789-1989. Vol. 4. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 650. ISBN 978-0-1606-3256-3 – via Google Books.
  21. ^ Robert C. Byrd, Mary Sharon Hall, History of the United States Senate, 1789-1989, Volume 1, page 244
  22. ^ The New York Times, The New York Times: Disunion: Modern Historians Revisit and Reconsider the Civil War, 2013
  23. ^ Guy Gugliotta, Freedom's Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War, 2012, page 386
  24. ^ Historian of the United States Senate. "Solomon Foot Dies, March 28, 1866". Washington, DC: U.S. Senate. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  25. ^ "Solomon Foot". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved November 21, 2012.
  26. ^ University of Vermont (1901). General Catalogue of the University of Vermont. Burlington, VT: Free Press Association. p. 5 – via Google Books.
  27. ^ a b Middlebury College, Catalogue of the Officers and Alumni of Middlebury College, 1890, page 60
  28. ^ University of Vermont, General Catalogue of the University of Vermont, 1901, page 5
  29. ^ Fay, Orlin Prentice (1898). Fay Genealogy: John Fay of Marlborough and His Descendants. Cleveland, OH: J. B. Savage. p. 46. ISBN 9780598972743 – via Google Books.
  30. ^ Vermont Northeast Kingdom Genealogy, Saint Johnsbury Caledonian, Newspaper Death Notices from 1837 to 1850 Archived December 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, retrieved December 18, 2013
  31. ^ Emma C. Brewster Jones, The Brewster Genealogy, 1566-1907, Volume 1, Part 2, 1908, page 418
  32. ^ Montes-Bradley, Saul II (2012). Dissident Cemeteries in Buenos Aires. Vol. I. South Boston, VA: Thomas Osgood Bradley Foundation. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-9859-6320-0 – via Google Books.
  33. ^ a b Dawn D. Hance, Rutland Historical Society, Early Families of Rutland, Vermont, 1990, page 139


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Preceded by Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1843 – March 3, 1847
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 1) from Vermont
March 4, 1851 – March 28, 1866
Served alongside: William Upham, Samuel S. Phelps, Lawrence Brainerd, Jacob Collamer and Luke P. Poland
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by President pro tempore of the United States Senate
February 16, 1861 – April 13, 1864
Succeeded by