February 5, 1862: Expulsion of Senator Jesse D. Bright of Indiana

 

Fourteen Senators were expelled from the United States during the Civil War.  All were from  slave holding states, except for the last Senator to be expelled from the Senate, Jesse D. Bright of Indiana.

Shortly after the Battle of Bull Run, Union troops captured a Texas arms merchant attempting to make his way into Confederate territory.  He carried this letter of introduction from Senator Bright to Jefferson Davis.

Washington, March 1, 1861

My Dear Sir: Allow me to introduce to your acquaintance my friend Thomas B. Lincoln, of Texas. He visits your capital mainly to dispose of what he regards a great improvement in fire‑arms. Irecommend him to your favorable consideration as a gentleman ofthe first respectability, and reliable in every respect.

Very truly yours,

Jesse D. Bright

To his Excellency Jefferson Davis

President of the Confederation of States.

In this letter Bright recognizes Jefferson Davis and aids an arms merchant who is seeking an introduction.  No one in America at the time had any doubt as to why the Confederate government was purchasing weapons.  A truly astonishing letter for a United States Senator to write.

Although he represented a free state, Jesse Bright had long been an ardent advocate of slavery.  He owned a plantation in Kentucky, well stocked with slaves.  He opposed the administration on the War, arguing that compromise on slavery would bring the South back and that military action never would.

Expulsion proceedings due to the letter were commenced on December 16, 1861.  A veteran of the Senate, serving since 1844, Bright defended himself vigorously, arguing that he was loyal to the Union, and that his enemies were seeking his expulsion solely because he opposed abolitionism.  On February 5, 1861, the Senate voted to expel him, 32-14. 

Bright went back to Indiana and attempted to have the Indiana legislature, controlled by Democrats, send him back to Washington.  Failing this, he moved to Kentucky and was elected to the Kentucky legislature.  The last man to be expelled from the Senate died in Baltimore, Maryland in 1875.

 

Published in: on February 5, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 5, 1862: Expulsion of Senator Jesse D. Bright of Indiana  
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