Senator Thomas Hart Benton

The things you find on the internet!  Profiles in Courage was a television series that aired on NBC in 1964-1965.  The historical dramatizations lauded figures from American history who took unpopular stances based on principle.  The springboard for the series was the book attributed to the recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy, but actually ghost-written by his aide Ted Sorenson.   Some kind individual has posted all 26 episodes on YouTube.  Go here to view them.

The best of the episodes, going away, was the one on Senator Thomas Hart (Bullion) Benton and his fight to have California admitted into the Union as a free state.  Benton was a larger than life figure, completely eccentric, brilliant and fearless, a man of whom legends clustered while he lived.  Brian Keith portrays him as the wild and woolly figure that he was.  A Senator from Missouri, the first Senator to serve five terms, Benton was a Jacksonian Democrat.  He was also a nationalist who deeply loved the Union  When, during the Nullification Crisis, Senator Hayne of South Carolina told Senator Benton of Missouri that he doubted if Jackson would really hang anyone, Benton, a good friend of Jackson and a man who had shot him in a brawl, one of many such affrays Jackson was involved in during his life, in 1813 before they became friends, told him that “When Jackson begins to talk about hanging, they can begin to look out for ropes”.

Benton signed his political death warrant by his anti-slavery stance over California, and never did a man meet his political fate with more brio and courage than Benton.  Most politicians are essentially insignificant figures, smaller than the offices they mis-occupy.    Nothing was ever insignificant about Bullion Benton.

Published in: on August 28, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Senator Thomas Hart Benton  
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