Crittenden, a U.S. senator who strove to preserve the Union, was nominated as associate justice of the Supreme Court. He served as attorney general under two presidents.
Crittenden, son of a Revolutionary War officer, graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1807 and began practicing law in Kentucky. Appointed attorney general for Illinois in 1809, he returned home for military service during the War of 1812.
John J. Crittenden
Crittenden was elected to the Kentucky state assembly in 1812 and gained an appointment to the U.S. Senate to fill an unexpired term in 1817. He was strongly allied with Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams, who made him U.S. district attorney for Kentucky in 1827. The following year, Adams nominated Crittenden to the Supreme Court, but the Senate declined to consider his appointment as associate justice. President William Henry Harrison chose Crittenden as attorney general in 1841, but after Harrison’s death, he resigned.
Crittenden returned to the Senate as a Whig in 1842 and became known as an opponent of the annexation of Texas and war with Mexico. In 1850 President Millard Fillmore named him attorney general.
Returning to the Senate in 1854, Crittenden devoted himself to averting civil war. In 1860 he introduced the Crittenden compromise, banning slavery north of a line 36′ 30″ N extending to the Pacific Ocean, while permitting slavery south of the line, thus resolving disputes over the issue in new territories and states. A constitutional amendment was proposed to prohibit Congress from passing further laws concerning slavery. The compromise failed.
Crittenden returned to Kentucky where he worked fervently to save the Union, serving as chairman of a border states convention, fighting for Kentucky’s neutrality, and attempting to bring back seceding states, until his death in 1863.
Territories and new states