Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850

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Richard Mentor Johnson (October 17, 1780 – November 19, 1850) was a politician and the ninth vice president of the United States from 1837 to 1841. He is the only vice president elected by the United States Senate under the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment. Johnson also represented Kentucky in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate; he began and ended his political career in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

Johnson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1806 in the early Federal period. He became allied with fellow Kentuckian Henry Clay as a member of the War Hawks faction that favored war with Britain in 1812. At the outset of the War of 1812, Johnson was commissioned a colonel in the Kentucky Militia and commanded a regiment of mounted volunteers from 1812 to 1813. He and his brother James served under William Henry Harrison in Upper Canada. Johnson participated in the Battle of the Thames. Some reported that he personally killed the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, a claim that he later used to his political advantage.

After the war, Johnson returned to the House of Representatives. The state legislature appointed him to the Senate in 1819 to fill the seat vacated by John J. Crittenden. With his increasing prominence, Johnson was criticized for his interracial relationship with Julia Chinn, a mixed-race slave who was classified as octoroon (or seven-eighths white). It worked against his political ambitions because Johnson did not hide the relationship.

Unlike other upper-class planters and leaders who had African-American mistresses or concubines, but never acknowledged them, Johnson treated Chinn as his common law wife. He acknowledged their two daughters as his children, giving them his surname, much to the consternation of some of his constituents. It is believed that because of this, the state legislature picked another candidate for the US Senate in 1828, forcing Johnson to leave in 1829. But his Congressional district voted for him and returned him to the House in the next election.

In 1836, Johnson was the Democratic nominee for vice-president on a ticket with Martin Van Buren. Campaigning with the slogan "Rumpsey Dumpsey, Rumpsey Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh", Johnson fell one short of the electoral votes needed to secure his election. Virginia's delegation to the Electoral College refused to endorse Johnson, abstaining instead.

He was elected to the office by the US Senate. Johnson proved such a liability for the Democrats in the 1836 election that they refused to renominate him for vice-president in 1840. President Van Buren campaigned for re-election without a running mate. He lost to William Henry Harrison, a Whig. Johnson tried to return to public office but was defeated. He finally was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1850, but he died on November 19, 1850, just two weeks into his term.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Autograph File, H, 1584-1988. Houghton Library
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Letter, 1834. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Tucker, Beverley, 1784-1851. Letter to Littleton Waller Tazewell 1826 June 26. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Bodley family. Bodley family papers, 1773-1939. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Beatty-Quisenberry family. Beaty-Quisenberry familty papers, 1798-1962. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1780-1850. Autograph letter signed : Washington, to an unidentified recipient, 1849 May 26. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Thayer, George W. Lucius Lyon papers, 1770-1934, bulk 1833-1851. University of Michigan, William Clements Library
referencedIn Frederick M. Dearborn collection of military and political Americana, Part I: The Revolution and the Administration, 1669-1958. Houghton Library
referencedIn Marshall family. Marshall family papers, 1815-1897. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1780-1850. Autograph letter signed : Washington, to Richard Smith, 1822 Feb. 4. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Letter and address, 1834. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Johnson family. Johnson family : papers, 1859-1971. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Gideon Welles Papers, 1777-1911, (bulk 1820-1876) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Dawes Collection of Documents on American History, 1681-1921 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn The Naval History Society Collection, 1721-1995 (bulk 1781-1936) © 2011 New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1781-1850. Autograph letter signed : [n.p.], to "Dear Col.", 1839 Jan. 13. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn John J. Crittenden Papers, 1782-1913, (bulk 1841-1888) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Rust, George, Jr., 1788-1857. Papers, 1788-1858 (bulk 1815-1858). Library of Virginia
referencedIn Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. Thomas Jefferson : miscellaneous papers, 1782-1819. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Lewis Cass papers, Cass, Lewis, papers, 1774-1924 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Campaign newspaper, 1844 Sept. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Thruston, Buckner, 1763-1845. Buckner Thruston correspondence, 1834 January 23. Library of Congress
referencedIn Campbell, Arthur Lee, 1780-1838. Arthur Lee Campbell Papers, 1801-1837. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Todd, Harry Innes, 1818-1891. Harry Innes Todd-George Davidson Todd papers, 1823-1925. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Fuller, B. A. G. B. A. G. Fuller autograph collection. 1620-1920. Houghton Library
referencedIn McAfee, Robert Breckinridge, 1784-1849. Robert Breckinridge McAfee : papers, 1813-1859. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Littleton Dennis Teackle letters, 1823-1834 Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, Letter 2011-219., 1815 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
referencedIn Asher, Louis Eller, 1877-1948. Lewis Eller Asher autograph collection, 1757-1925. Library of Congress
creatorOf Lewis Cass papers, Cass, Lewis, papers, 1774-1924 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Richard M. Johnson papers : letters 1816-1838. Kentucky Historical Society, Martin F. Schmidt Research Library
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Letter to Richard Smith regarding Governor James Barbour [manuscript] 1827 March 10. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Crittenden, John J. (John Jordan), 1787-1863. John J. Crittenden papers, 1782-1913 (bulk 1841-1888). Library of Congress
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Letter : City of Washington, to Gov. Wm. P. Duvall, Tallahassee, Florida, [ca. 1829]. Newberry Library
referencedIn William Medill Papers, 1834-1864 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Henderson, Thomas, 1781-1846. Thomas Henderson : papers, 1824-1841. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1780-1850. Autograph letter signed : Great Crossings, to an unidentified correspondent, 1818 May 19. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn General Records of the Department of State, 1763 - 2002. Letters Received, 1789 - 1906 National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
creatorOf Christy, William, b. 1791. Letter : to Richard Mentor Johnson, 1837 April 22. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Pirtle family. Pirtle-Rogers family papers, 1797-1875. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1780-1850. Autograph letter signed and docketed : Washington?, to J. K. Paulding, Secretary of the Navy, ansd. 1840 Jan. 29. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Payne, John, 1788-1854. Papers of John Payne, 1780-1905 (bulk 1812-1848) Library of Congress
referencedIn Grundy, Felix, 1777-1840. Felix Grundy papers, 1807-1889 (bulk 1824-1840) [manuscript]. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Fuller, B. A. G. B. A. G. Fuller autograph collection. 1620-1920. Houghton Library
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Autograph letter signed : Washington, D.C., to Virgil David, n.p., 1836 Apr. 5. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Welles, Gideon, 1802-1878. Gideon Welles papers, 1777-1911 (bulk 1820-1876). Library of Congress
referencedIn Crittenden, John J. (John Jordan), 1787-1863. Crittenden, John J. (John Jordan) 1787-1863 5 January 1820 letter. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn John McLean Papers, 1817-1861, (bulk 1829-1860) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Records of the National Park Service, 1785 - 2006. National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 - 2017 National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Letter : Great Crossing, Ky., to Luther Rice, Washington, D.C., 1824 July 15. Texas Christian University
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1780-1850. Autograph letters signed (2) : Washington, to Nicholas Biddle, 1834 Jan. 30 and Mar. 12. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Tazewell family. Papers, 1756-1931. Library of Virginia
referencedIn McLean, John, 1785-1861. John McLean papers, 1817-1861 (bulk 1829-1860). Library of Congress
referencedIn Lewis Walker letter books, Walker, Lewis letter books, 1813-1880, 1813-1815 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Fuller, B. A. G. B. A. G. Fuller autograph collection. 1620-1920. Houghton Library
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Letter : Washington, D.C., to John Pitchlynn, Choctaw Agency, Miss., 1826 Jan. 6. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Barnes, John S. (John Sanford), 1836-1911. Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 1756-1931. New-York Historical Society Library
referencedIn Thomas Addis Emmet collection, 1483-1876, 1700-1800 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn United States. War Dept. Records of the United States War Dept., 1794-1848. Library of Congress
referencedIn O'Fallon, John, 1791-1865. John O'Fallon : papers, 1809-1850. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Filson Club. Filson Club lectures, 1887-1992. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1780-1850. Autograph letter signed : Washington, to Jonathan Smith, 1822 Jan. 4. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Beall-Booth family. Beall-Booth family papers, 1778-1956. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Charles Henry Brainard papers, 1795-1884 and undated. Houghton Library
referencedIn Desha, Joseph, 1768-1842. Joseph Desha and John R. Desha papers, 1773-1871 (bulk 1800-1855). Library of Congress
referencedIn Robinson, Jeremy, 1787-1834. Jeremy Robinson papers, 1806-1832. Library of Congress
creatorOf Lawson, Robert, 1748-1805. Papers, 1794-1840, 1835-1840. William & Mary Libraries
referencedIn Shepard, Samuel, 1765-. Letters. 1799-1835. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Henderson, Thomas, Rev. Papers, 1805-1841. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1780-1850. Autograph letter signed : Great Crossings, to Leslie Combs, 1820 Oct. 10. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Claiborne, J. F. H. (John Francis Hamtramck), 1809-1884. J.F.H. Claiborne papers, 1818-1885. Library of Congress
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1780-1850. Autograph letter signed : Washington, to Messrs. January, Huston & Co., 1830 Jan. 30. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Bragg, Catherine L. Catherine L. Bragg Letters, 1840-1841. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Whitehead, Robert, 1815-1898. Papers of Robert Whitehead [manuscript], 1830-1978, (bulk 1830-1839). University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Wright, John, 1792-1860. Address to Col. Richard M. Johnson. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Medill, William, 1802-1865. William Medill papers, 1834-1864. Library of Congress
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1780-1850. Autograph letter signed : [n.p.], to Messrs. Langtree & O'Sullivan, [no year] May 9. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn War of 1812 mss., 1776-1879 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn Wilson, Samuel M. (Samuel Mackay), 1871-1946,. Letters to George Nicholas Sanders, 1842-1873. University of Kentucky Libraries
referencedIn Gragg, Alan. Georgetown College historical collection, 1848-1980. Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives, Kentucky Guide Project Office
referencedIn Lucius Lyon papers, Lyon, Lucius, papers, 1770-1934, 1833-1851 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Van Buren, Martin, 1782-1862. Broadside, ca. 1836. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Hinde, Thomas S. (Thomas Spottswood), 1785-1846. Draper manuscripts: Thomas Spottswood Hinde papers, 1807-1845. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Letter : Lexington, Ky., to Richard Smith, Washington, D.C., 1843 July 14. Texas Christian University
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Letters to Isaac Wayne, 1830. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Thurman, Edward C., 1882-1950. Collection, 1788-1870. The Filson Historical Society
referencedIn Tyler, Benjamin Owen, b. 1789. Manuscript subscription book for his facsimile Declaration of Independence, 1815-1818. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Joseph Desha and John R. Desha Papers, 1773-1871, (bulk 1800-1855) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Williams, Ira. Ira Williams letter, 1839 June 16. Louisiana State University, LSU Libraries
referencedIn Teackle, Littleton Dennis, 1777-1850. Littleton Dennis Teackle letters, 1823-1834. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
referencedIn Jouett, Charles. Charles Jouett : miscellaneous papers, 1817-1871. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1781-1850. Letter, 1838 April 25, Washington D.C. [to] Samuel Drake. Indiana Historical Society Library
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Letter, 1816 June 14, Great Crossing, Ky. to Robert B ... Dartmouth College Library
creatorOf Marshall, Humphrey, 1812-1872. Humphrey Marshall papers, 1827-1921 (bulk 1840-1872). The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Letter : Washington, D.C., to John Pitchlynn, Choctaw Agency, Miss., 1826 Jan. 6. Texas Christian University
creatorOf Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1780-1850. Autograph letter signed : [n.p.], to an unidentified correspondent, 1824 May 7. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn United States War Department Records, 1794-1848 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Johnson, Richard M. (Richard Mentor), 1780-1850. Richard M. Johnson : miscellaneous papers, 1814-1848. The Filson Historical Society
creatorOf Cowdery, Oliver. Letter book, docket, and correspondence of Oliver Cowdery, 1833-1894 bulk (1833-1838). Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
Role Title Holding Repository
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Place Name Admin Code Country
Jefferson County KY US
Lexington KY US
Frankfort KY US
Scott County KT US
Subject
Indians of North America--Education
Learned institutions and societies--History--19th century
Elections
Presidents--Election--1844--Sources
Vice presidents--Correspondence
Indians of North America--History--19th century--Sources
Choctaw Nation--Education--History--19th century
Indians of North America--History
Manuscripts, American
Tariff--History--Sources
Schools
Indians of North America--Education--History--Sources
Railroads
Occupation
Plantation owners
Representatives, U.S. Congress--Kentucky
State Representative
Vice Presidents--United States
Lawyers
Senators, U.S. Congress--Kentucky
Merchants
Function

Person

Birth 1780-10-17

Death 1850-11-19

Male

Americans

English

Information

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