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Episode 621

Political career of John C. Breckinridge
Wed, 2019-Jan-16 00:45 UTC
Length - 4:12

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Welcome to featured Wiki of the Day where we read the summary of the featured Wikipedia article every day.

The featured article for Wednesday, 16 January 2019 is Political career of John C. Breckinridge.

The political career of John C. Breckinridge included service in the state government of Kentucky, the United States federal government, and the government of the Confederate States of America. In 1857, at 36 years old, he was inaugurated as James Buchanan's vice president, and remains the youngest person to ever hold the office. Four years later, he ran as the presidential candidate of a dissident group of Southern Democrats, but lost the election to the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln.

A member of the Breckinridge political family, in 1849 John C. Breckinridge became the first Democrat to represent Fayette County in the Kentucky House of Representatives, and in 1851, he was the first Democrat to represent Kentucky's 8th congressional district in over 20 years. A champion of strict constructionism, states' rights, and popular sovereignty, he supported Stephen A. Douglas's Kansas–Nebraska Act as a means of addressing slavery in the territories acquired by the U.S. in the Mexican–American War. Considering his re-election to the House of Representatives unlikely in 1854, he returned to private life and his legal practice. He was nominated for vice president at the 1856 Democratic National Convention, and although he and Buchanan won the election, he enjoyed little influence in Buchanan's administration.

In 1859, the Kentucky General Assembly elected Breckinridge to a U.S. Senate term that would begin in 1861. In the 1860 presidential contest, he captured the electoral votes of most of the Southern states, but finished a distant second among four candidates. Lincoln's election as President prompted the secession of the Southern states to form the Confederate States of America. Though Breckinridge sympathized with the Southern cause, in the Senate he worked futilely to reunite the states peacefully. After the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War, he opposed allocating resources for Lincoln to fight the Confederacy. Fearing arrest after Kentucky sided with the Union, he fled to the Confederacy, joined the Confederate States Army, and was subsequently expelled from the Senate. He served in the Confederate Army from October 1861 to February 1865, when Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed him Confederate States Secretary of War. Concluding that the Confederate cause was hopeless, he encouraged Davis to negotiate a national surrender. Davis's capture in April 1865 ended the war, and Breckinridge fled to Cuba, then Great Britain, and finally Canada, remaining in exile until President Andrew Johnson's offer of amnesty in 1868. Returning to Kentucky, he refused all requests to resume his political career and died of complications related to war injuries in 1875.

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