Richard Mentor Johnson

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Richard Mentor Johnson (October 17, 1780 or 1781[a] – November 19, 1850) was the ninth Vice President of the United States, serving in the administration of Martin Van Buren. He was the only vice-president ever elected by the United States Senate under the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment. Johnson also represented Kentucky in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and began and ended his political career in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

Johnson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1806. He became allied with fellow Kentuckian Henry Clay as a member of the War Hawks faction that favored war with Britain in 1812. At the outset of the War of 1812, Johnson was commissioned a colonel in the army. He and his brother James served under William Henry Harrison in Upper Canada. Johnson participated in the Battle of the Thames where some maintain that he personally killed the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, a fact he later used to his political advantage.

Following the war, Johnson returned to the House of Representatives, and was elevated to the Senate in 1819 to fill the seat vacated by John J. Crittenden, who resigned to become Attorney General. As his constituency grew, his interracial relationship with a mulatto slave named Julia Chinn was more widely criticized, damaging to his political ambition. Unlike other leaders who had relationships with their slaves, Johnson was open about his relationship with Chinn, and regarded her as his common law wife. He freely claimed Chinn's two daughters as his own, much to the consternation of some in his constituency. The relationship was a major factor in the 1829 election that cost him his seat in the Senate, but his district returned him to the House the following year.

In 1836, Johnson was the Democratic nominee for vice-president on a ticket with Martin Van Buren. Campaigning with the slogan "Rumpsey Dumpsey, Rumpsey Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh", Johnson fell just short of the electoral votes needed to secure his election when Virginia's delegation to the electoral college bucked the vote of their state and refused to cast their votes for Johnson. He was elected to the office by the Senate along sharp party lines.

Johnson proved such a liability for the Democrats in the 1836 election that the party refused to renominate him for vice-president in 1840. Instead, Van Buren campaigned with no running mate, and lost the election to William Henry Harrison. Johnson made several failed attempts to return to elected office, and he finally returned to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1850. He died on November 19, 1850, just two weeks into his term.

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