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February 27, 2019

John C. Breckinridge was Vice President of the United States from March 4, 1857 through March 4, 1861.  As President of the Senate his name appears on the March 2, 1861 resolution to amend the Constitution with the following language: “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which shall authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

On April 1, 1861 the Kentucky state senate unanimously approved this amendment, but Southern Rights Democrats in the lower chamber tried to adjourn their legislative session before a vote could be taken.  Their stalling tactics were encouraged by native son Breckinridge.  The former Vice President had just been appointed to the U.S. Senate, but his heart was with the states which had voted for him in the last Presidential election.

In 1860 Breckinridge had won the Electoral votes of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas.  By April 4, 1861, the date when Kentucky ratified the above amendment, seven of these states had seceded from the Union.  Although the Kentucky state legislature had just made him a U.S. Senator, the people of Kentucky had not voted to make him President in 1860.  They had not voted for Lincoln either, but it was no consolation for Breckinridge to have placed second to John Bell, the candidate of the Constitutional Union Party.

When the Civil War came, Kentucky remained in the Union but Breckinridge did not.  He was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate Army, rising to the rank of major general in 1862.  He survived the war and was eventually able to return to Kentucky following the Christmas amnesty of 1868.



  1. His war record was at best inconsistent, at worst, incompetent. He should have remained with his fellow Kentuckians.

  2. Breckinridge indeed made a big mistake when he followed the Confederacy. As a general he was certainly no Stonewall Jackson. Thanks for your thoughts.

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