John W. Stevenson

John W. Stevenson

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John White Stevenson was a U.S. Representative
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

, the 18th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
The office of lieutenant governor of Kentucky has existed under the last three of Kentucky's four constitutions, beginning in 1797. The lieutenant governor serves as governor of Kentucky under circumstances similar to the Vice President of the United States assuming the powers of the presidency...

, the 25th Governor of Kentucky
Governor of Kentucky
The Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is the head of the executive branch of government in the U.S. state of Kentucky. Fifty-six men and one woman have served as Governor of Kentucky. The governor's term is four years in length; since 1992, incumbents have been able to seek re-election once...

 and U.S. Senator
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

. His father, Andrew Stevenson
Andrew Stevenson
Andrew Stevenson was a Democratic politician in the United States. Educated at the College of William and Mary, he married three times. His second wife, Sarah Coles, was a cousin of Dolley Madison and sister of Edward Coles, a governor of Illinois...

, had served as Speaker of the House
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, or Speaker of the House, is the presiding officer of the United States House of Representatives...

 and minister to Great Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

. His cousin, Willoughby Newton
Willoughby Newton
Willoughby Newton was a nineteenth century congressman and lawyer from Virginia.-Biography:Born at "Lee Hall" near Hague, Virginia, he was the son of Willoughby Newton and Sarah "Sally" Bland Poythress , the widow of Richard "Squire" Lee and daughter of Peter Poythress of "Branchester", and...

, also served in Congress, and his great-grandfather, Carter Braxton
Carter Braxton
Carter Braxton was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence, a planter, and a representative of Virginia....

, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

.

Stevenson's political career began in 1845 with his election to the Kentucky House of Representatives
Kentucky House of Representatives
The Kentucky House of Representatives is the lower house of the Kentucky General Assembly. It is composed of 100 Representatives elected from single-member districts throughout the Commonwealth. Not more than two counties can be joined to form a House district, except when necessary to preserve...

. During his tenure, he helped revise the state's code of laws and was a delegate to the constitutional convention of 1849. He was then elected to the United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

, but became identified with states' rightists
States' rights
States' rights in U.S. politics refers to political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government. It is often considered a loaded term because of its use in opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation...

 and failed to win re-election in 1860. To avoid arrest by federal forces, he kept a low profile throughout the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

.

Following the war, Stevenson was elected Lieutenant Governor under Governor John L. Helm
John L. Helm
John LaRue Helm was the 18th and 24th governor of the U.S. state of Kentucky, although his service in that office totaled less than fourteen months. He also represented Hardin County in both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly and was chosen to be the Speaker of the Kentucky House of...

, who was serving in that capacity for the second time. Helm died only five days into his term, and Stevenson ascended to the governorship, a post he retained in a special gubernatorial election the following year. As governor, Stevenson advocated the restoration of rights to ex-Confederates
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

, and resisted the interference of the federal government in what he considered to be states' rights issues, such as the expansion of the rights of blacks
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

.

Near the end of his term as governor, Stevenson trumpeted Senator Thomas C. McCreery
Thomas C. McCreery
Thomas Clay McCreery was a Democratic U.S. Senator from Kentucky.Born at Yelvington, Kentucky., McCreery graduated from Centre College, in Danville, Kentucky, in 1837. He studied law, passed the bar, and commenced practice in Frankfort, Kentucky...

's support of the appointment of Stephen G. Burbridge
Stephen G. Burbridge
-External links:* — Article by Civil War historian/author Bryan S. Bush...

 to a federal post. McCreery's support of the man nicknamed "The Butcher of Kentucky" didn't play well with the state's voters, and helped Stevenson unseat the senator in 1871. Stevenson served in the Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 until 1877. While there, he became the first person designated "caucus chairman" for the Democratic party
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

.

Following his Senate service, Stevenson became a professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law
University of Cincinnati College of Law
The University of Cincinnati College of Law is the fourth oldest continually running law school in the United States and a founding member of the Association of American Law Schools. It was started in 1833 as the Cincinnati Law School...

, and served as president of the American Bar Association
American Bar Association
The American Bar Association , founded August 21, 1878, is a voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students, which is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. The ABA's most important stated activities are the setting of academic standards for law schools, and the formulation...

. He died in Covington, Kentucky
Covington, Kentucky
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 43,370 people, 18,257 households, and 10,132 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,301.3 people per square mile . There were 20,448 housing units at an average density of 1,556.5 per square mile...

 on August 10, 1886 following a brief illness.

Early life


John White Stevenson was born May 4, 1812 in Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

, the son of Andrew
Andrew Stevenson
Andrew Stevenson was a Democratic politician in the United States. Educated at the College of William and Mary, he married three times. His second wife, Sarah Coles, was a cousin of Dolley Madison and sister of Edward Coles, a governor of Illinois...

 and Mary Page (White) Stevenson. His mother died during his birth, and he was raised by his maternal grandparents, John and Judith White until his father's remarriage in 1817.

Stevenson's early education was provided by private tutors in Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 and Washington, D.C. He attended Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden-Sydney College
Hampden–Sydney College is a liberal arts college for men located in Hampden Sydney, Virginia, United States. Founded in 1775, Hampden–Sydney is the oldest private charter college in the Southern U.S., the last college founded before the American Revolution, and one of only three four-year,...

 in Virginia in 1828 and 1829, and graduated from the University of Virginia
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is a public research university located in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, founded by Thomas Jefferson...

 at Charlottesville
Charlottesville, Virginia
Charlottesville is an independent city geographically surrounded by but separate from Albemarle County in the Commonwealth of Virginia, United States, and named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the queen consort of King George III of the United Kingdom.The official population estimate for...

 in 1832. Following his graduation, he studied law under his cousin, Willoughby Newton. He was admitted to the bar
Bar (law)
Bar in a legal context has three possible meanings: the division of a courtroom between its working and public areas; the process of qualifying to practice law; and the legal profession.-Courtroom division:...

 and commenced practice in Vicksburg, Mississippi
Vicksburg, Mississippi
Vicksburg is a city in Warren County, Mississippi, United States. It is the only city in Warren County. It is located northwest of New Orleans on the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, and due west of Jackson, the state capital. In 1900, 14,834 people lived in Vicksburg; in 1910, 20,814; in 1920,...

. He relocated to Covington, Kentucky in 1841, and became the county attorney
County attorney
A county attorney in many areas of the United States is the chief legal officer for a county or local judicial district. It is usually an elected position...

 of Kenton County
Kenton County, Kentucky
Kenton County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, United States. It was formed in 1840. In 2010, the population was 159,720. It is the third most populous county in Kentucky behind Jefferson County and Fayette County. Its county seats are Covington and Independence...

.

On June 15, 1843, Stevenson married Sibella Winston of Newport, Kentucky
Newport, Kentucky
Newport is a city in Campbell County, Kentucky, United States, at the confluence of the Ohio and Licking rivers. The population was 15,273 at the 2010 census. Historically, it was one of four county seats of Campbell County. Newport is part of the Greater Cincinnati, Ohio Metro Area which...

. The couple had three daughters Sally, Mary, and Judith and two sons Samuel and John. On November 24, 1842, Stevenson was elected to the vestry
Vestry
A vestry is a room in or attached to a church or synagogue in which the vestments, vessels, records, etc., are kept , and in which the clergy and choir robe or don their vestments for divine service....

 of the Trinity Episcopal Church
Trinity Episcopal Church (Covington, Kentucky)
Trinity Episcopal Church is located at 16 East Fourth Street, at the northern end of the main commercial street in Covington, Kentucky, Madison Avenue. This historic church was founded November 24, 1842, in a third floor of a brick building near the Covington market. The cornerstone of the first...

 in Covington.

Political career


Stevenson began his political career in 1845, representing Kenton County in the Kentucky House of Representatives. He was chosen as a delegate to Kentucky's 1849 constitutional convention, which eventually produced the Kentucky Constitution of 1850. Stevenson, Madison C. Johnson, and James Harlan
James Harlan (congressman)
James Harlan was a U.S. Representative from Kentucky.Born in Mercer County, Kentucky, Harlan attended school before working as a clerk in a dry goods store from 1817 to 1821. Deciding to embark upon a legal career, he read law under the guidance of a local judge before gaining admission to the bar...

 were appointed as commissioners to revise the civic and criminal code of the state in 1850. They completed their work entitled Code of Practise in Civil and Criminal Cases in 1854.

In the House of Representatives



Stevenson was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention
Democratic National Convention
The Democratic National Convention is a series of presidential nominating conventions held every four years since 1832 by the United States Democratic Party. They have been administered by the Democratic National Committee since the 1852 national convention...

 in 1848, 1852, and 1856, serving as a presidential elector
United States Electoral College
The Electoral College consists of the electors appointed by each state who formally elect the President and Vice President of the United States. Since 1964, there have been 538 electors in each presidential election...

 in 1852
United States presidential election, 1852
The United States presidential election of 1852 bore important similarities to the election of 1844. Once again, the incumbent president was a Whig who had succeeded to the presidency upon the death of his war-hero predecessor. In this case, it was Millard Fillmore who followed General Zachary Taylor...

 and 1856
United States presidential election, 1856
The United States presidential election of 1856 was an unusually heated contest that led to the election of James Buchanan, the ambassador to the United Kingdom. Republican candidate John C. Frémont condemned the Kansas–Nebraska Act and crusaded against the expansion of slavery, while Democrat...

. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1857. As a representative, he supported the admission of Kansas
Kansas
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

 to the Union under the Lecompton Constitution
Lecompton Constitution
The Lecompton Constitution was the second of four proposed constitutions for the state of Kansas . The document was written in response to the anti-slavery position of the 1855 Topeka Constitution of James H. Lane and other free-state advocates...

. He also endorsed the Crittenden Compromise
Crittenden Compromise
The Crittenden Compromise was an unsuccessful proposal introduced by Kentucky Senator John J. Crittenden on December 18, 1860. It aimed to resolve the U.S...

, authored by fellow Kentuckian John J. Crittenden
John J. Crittenden
John Jordan Crittenden was a politician from the U.S. state of Kentucky. He represented the state in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and twice served as United States Attorney General in the administrations of William Henry Harrison and Millard Fillmore...

. He was defeated in his 1860 bid for re-election and supported John C. Breckinridge
John C. Breckinridge
John Cabell Breckinridge was an American lawyer and politician. He served as a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Kentucky and was the 14th Vice President of the United States , to date the youngest vice president in U.S...

 for president in that year's election
United States presidential election, 1860
The United States presidential election of 1860 was a quadrennial election, held on November 6, 1860, for the office of President of the United States and the immediate impetus for the outbreak of the American Civil War. The nation had been divided throughout the 1850s on questions surrounding the...

. A known Confederate sympathizer, Stevenson kept a low profile throughout the Civil War, and was able to avoid the fate of imprisonment that befell many of his peers.

Governor of Kentucky


Following the war, Stevenson served as a delegate to the National Union Party
National Union Party (United States)
The National Union Party was the name used by the Republican Party for the national ticket in the 1864 presidential election, held during the Civil War. State Republican parties did not usually change their name....

 convention in 1866. He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1867 and succeeded John L. Helm as governor upon the latter's death five days later. Due to the brevity of Helm's term, a special election was held in August 1867 to determine who would serve the remainder of the term. Stevenson won this vote over Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 challenger Richard Tarvin Baker by greater than a four-to-one margin.

Stevenson resented federal involvement in state political matters, and supported the immediate restoration of the rights of ex-Confederates. When Congress refused to seat some members of the 1868 Kentucky delegation on the grounds that they had Confederate sympathies, he urged the General Assembly
Kentucky General Assembly
The Kentucky General Assembly, also called the Kentucky Legislature, is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Kentucky.The General Assembly meets annually in the state capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky, convening on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January...

 to lodge a formal protest. He also saw the federal expansion of the rights of blacks as a violation of states' rights.

A major issue for Stevenson during his term as governor was the quelling of post-war mob violence in the Commonwealth. In October 1867, He dispatched the state militia
Militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

 to Mercer County
Mercer County, Kentucky
Mercer County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of 2000, the population was 20,817. Its county seat is Harrodsburg. The county is named for General Hugh Mercer...

 to suppress renegades that were running amok. In 1869, he again dispatched the militia to central Kentucky, this time to the counties of Boyle
Boyle County, Kentucky
Boyle County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. Its county seat is Danville. In 2000, its population was 28,432. It was formed in 1842 and named for John Boyle , a U.S...

, Garrard
Garrard County, Kentucky
Garrard County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. It is pronounced 'Gair-ad' with the third "r" silent. It was formed in 1797 and was named for James Garrard, Governor of Kentucky from 1796 to 1804. Its county seat is Lancaster. The population was 16,912 in the 2010 Census...

, and Lincoln
Lincoln County, Kentucky
Lincoln County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. The population was 24,742 in the 2010 Cesus. Its county seat is Stanford. Lincoln is a prohibition or "dry county" and is part of the Danville Micropolitan Statistical Area.- History :...

. The governor declared that he would never hesitate to send troops "whenever it becomes necessary for the arrest and bringing to justice of all those who combine together, no matter under what pretense, to trample the law under their feet by acts of personal violence."

In 1870, the first year blacks were allowed to vote, Stevenson warned that violence against the freedmen would not be tolerated, but left the problem of preserving order in this instance to the local authorities. He did, however, offer rewards to those who arrested perpetrators of violence against black voters.

On March 22, 1871 the General Assembly passed a bill, recommended by Stevenson, that outlawed the carrying of concealed weapons. The rapidly escalating values of the fines for infractions showed that the bill was aimed primarily at repeat offenders.

Stevenson sanctioned many public school advancements during his administration. At his request, the General Assembly passed an additional tax to raise funds for education. The fund-raising was racially disproportionate, however, as most blacks possessed few taxable assets and consequently generated little revenue for their education. The General Assembly also established the state bureau of education in 1870, a proposal which Stevenson supported.

A fiscal conservative
Fiscal conservatism
Fiscal conservatism is a political term used to describe a fiscal policy that advocates avoiding deficit spending. Fiscal conservatives often consider reduction of overall government spending and national debt as well as ensuring balanced budget of paramount importance...

, Stevenson ordered a study of the state's financial system. He recommended that the state no longer cover its short-term debt with bonds. He had some success in collecting Kentucky's Civil War claims against the federal government. He was unsuccessful in persuading the General Assembly to create a bureau of immigration to spur interest in the Commonwealth
Commonwealth (United States)
Four of the constituent states of the United States officially designate themselves Commonwealths: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia....

, but did manage to reorganize the state's prison system.

Senator


As early as 1869, Stevenson began laying the groundwork for a bid for a U.S. Senate seat by trumpeting the fact that current senator Thomas C. McCreery
Thomas C. McCreery
Thomas Clay McCreery was a Democratic U.S. Senator from Kentucky.Born at Yelvington, Kentucky., McCreery graduated from Centre College, in Danville, Kentucky, in 1837. He studied law, passed the bar, and commenced practice in Frankfort, Kentucky...

 and Representative Thomas L. Jones had supported President Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

's appointment of Stephen G. Burbridge
Stephen G. Burbridge
-External links:* — Article by Civil War historian/author Bryan S. Bush...

 to a federal post. Burbridge's heavy-handed and often violent actions in Kentucky during the closing months of the Civil War had vilified him to many Kentuckians and earned him the nickname "The Butcher of Kentucky." Stevenson's tactic worked, and he unseated McCreary in 1871, resigning as governor to accept his position in the Senate.

Stevenson continued his conservative ways in the Senate. He opposed spending on internal improvements and advocated a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. At the Democratic National Convention of 1872, Stevenson received the votes of Delaware
Delaware
Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is bordered to the south and west by Maryland, and to the north by Pennsylvania...

's six electors for the office of Vice President. He was the first senator generally recognized as chairman
Democratic Conference Chairman of the United States Senate
The Democratic caucus of the United States Senate chooses a conference chairman, or caucus chairman. The office of conference chairman was created in the 19th century, but it was informal until 1903. The office of party floor leader was not created until 1920...

 (later known as the floor leader
Floor Leader
Floor Leaders are leaders of their political parties in each of the houses of the legislature.- Senate :In the United States Senate, they are elected by their respective party conferences to serve as the chief Senate spokesmen for their parties and to manage and schedule the legislative and...

) of the Democratic Party caucus
Democratic Caucus of the United States Senate
The Senate Democratic Caucus is the formal organization of the current 51 Democratic Senators in the United States Senate. In the 112th Congress, the Democratic Caucus additionally includes two independent senators who formally caucus with the Democrats for the purpose of committee assignments...

 in the Senate. The first known record of his service in this capacity was December 1873, and he served until he left the Senate in 1877.

Later life and legacy


Following his service in the Senate, Stevenson became a professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He also served as chairman of the 1880 Democratic National Convention
1880 Democratic National Convention
The Democratic National Convention of 1880 met June 22 to 24 of that year, at the Cincinnati Music Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio. George Hoadly served as temporary chairman and John W. Stevenson served as permanent president. Delegates nominated Winfield S. Hancock of Pennsylvania for President of the...

 and as president of the American Bar Association
American Bar Association
The American Bar Association , founded August 21, 1878, is a voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students, which is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. The ABA's most important stated activities are the setting of academic standards for law schools, and the formulation...

 from 1884 to 1885. Among those who studied law under Stevenson were future Treasury Secretary John G. Carlisle and future Kentucky governor William Goebel
William Goebel
William Justus Goebel was an American politician who served as the 34th Governor of Kentucky for a few days in 1900 after having been mortally wounded by an assassin the day before he was sworn in...

.

Stevenson died in 1886 in Covington, Kentucky
Covington, Kentucky
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 43,370 people, 18,257 households, and 10,132 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,301.3 people per square mile . There were 20,448 housing units at an average density of 1,556.5 per square mile...

, and is buried at the Spring Grove Cemetery
Spring Grove Cemetery
Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum is a nonprofit garden cemetery and arboretum located at 4521 Spring Grove Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio. It is the second largest cemetery in the United States and is recognized as a U.S. National Historic Landmark....

 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His home in Covington at Fourth and Garrard Streets was torn down to build a state office building.

External links