Johnson, Richard Mentor

Johnson, Richard Mentor, 1780–1850, Vice President of the United States (1837–41), b. Kentucky, on the site of present Louisville. Admitted (1802) to the bar, he became prominent in state politics as a Jeffersonian Republican and sat (1804–7) in the Kentucky legislature. He served (1807–1819) in the U.S. House of Representatives and commanded a regiment of Kentucky riflemen in the War of 1812, in which he served under William Henry Harrison in the Canadian campaign. At the battle of the Thames (1813), Johnson was severely wounded in action, and he is said to have killed Tecumseh. He resigned (1819) from the House to fill an unexpired term in the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1829. Again (1829–37) in the House, Johnson supported President Jackson's administration and pushed the bill (1832) abolishing imprisonment for debt. Backed by Jackson, Johnson was nominated (1836) for Vice President on the Democratic ticket with Martin Van Buren. None of the vice presidential candidates received a majority of the electoral vote, so the election was decided by the U.S. Senate, which gave the office to Johnson. He was defeated (1840) in his bid for reelection by the Whig candidate, John Tyler.

See biography by L. H. Meyer (1932).

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