George H. Pendleton

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George H. Pendleton
United States Senator
from Ohio
In office
March 4, 1879 – March 4, 1885
Preceded by Thomas S. Matthews
Succeeded by Henry B. Payne
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1857 – March 4, 1865
Preceded by Timothy C. Day
Succeeded by Benjamin Eggleston
Personal details
Born George Hunt Pendleton
(1825-07-19)July 19, 1825
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Died November 24, 1889(1889-11-24) (aged 64)
Brussels, Belgium
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Alice Key Pendleton (née Key)
Profession Politician, Lawyer

George Hunt Pendleton (July 19, 1825 – November 24, 1889) was a Representative and a Senator from Ohio. Nicknamed "Gentleman George" for his demeanor, he was the Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States during the Civil War in 1864, running as a peace Democrat with war Democrat George B. McClellan; they lost to Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. He is best known as the principal author of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883.

Early life and education

Pendleton was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the son of Nathanael Greene Pendleton and attended the local schools and Cincinnati College and the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Pendleton studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1847 and commenced practice in Cincinnati. He married Alice Key, the daughter of Francis Scott Key, in 1846, and had four children:

  • Sarah Pendleton (born in Ireland, about 1846)
  • Francis Key Pendleton (born in Cincinnati, December 3, 1850)
  • Mary Lloyd Pendleton (born in Cincinnati, March 26, 1852)
  • Jane Francis Pendleton (born in the District of Columbia, April 22, 1860) [1]


Currier and Ives print of the Democratic presidential party ticket, 1864. Lithograph with watercolor.

He was a member of the Ohio Senate from 1854 to 1856. In 1854 he ran unsuccessfully for the Thirty-fourth United States Congress. Three years later he was elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-fifth Congress and also succeeded in being reelected to the three following Congresses (March 4, 1857 to March 4, 1865), but in 1864 he failed to be elected to the Thirty-ninth Congress. Pendleton was a noted antiwar Democrat.

He was one of the managers appointed by the House of Representatives in 1862 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against West H. Humphreys, United States judge for several districts of Tennessee. He was a leader of the peace faction of the Democratic party, with close ties to the Copperheads. He voted against the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude.[2] He ran in the 1864 U.S. presidential elections for Vice President, together with George McClellan. Their opponents were Abraham Lincoln (President) and Andrew Johnson (nominee for Vice President). McClellan and Pendleton lost, receiving about 45% of the vote.

Pendleton also failed to be elected to the Fortieth Congress and was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Governor of Ohio in 1869, losing to Rutherford B. Hayes.

In 1869 he became president of the Kentucky Central Railroad and kept this position until he was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1879. He served six years in the Senate from March 4, 1879, to March 3, 1885, but was unsuccessful in winning renomination. During this time, he sponsored the Pendleton Act of 1883 in response to the assassination of President James A. Garfield by Charles Guiteau. The Act helped put an end to the system of patronage that was in widespread use at the time.

From 1881 to 1885 he was Chairman of the Democratic Conference. He was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Germany in 1885, and served until his death in Brussels, Belgium. He is interred in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Political role

Pendleton had a very Jacksonian commitment to the Democratic party as the best, perhaps the only, mechanism through which ordinary Americans could shape government policies. Mach (2007) argues that Pendleton's chief contribution was to demonstrate a "Whiggish" willingness to use the power of government to achieve Jacksonian ideals. So, while his Jacksonian commitment to states' rights and limited government made him a dissenter during the Civil War, what Mach calls Pendleton's Jacksonian "ardor to expand opportunities for ordinary Americans" was the basis for his leadership in civil service reform and his controversial plan to use greenbacks to repay federal debt. What appeared to be a substantive ideological shift, Mach argues, represented Pendleton's pragmatic willingness to use new means to achieve old ends.


Pendleton in his later years.

The city of Pendleton, Oregon is named after him.[citation needed]

The Senator George H. Pendleton House in Cincinnati is a National Historical Landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

In popular culture


  1. "RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project: Janet Ariciu family Bush". Retrieved 2013-11-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Recognizing The Anniversary Of The 13Th Amendment(Extensions of Remarks)". Congressional Record. Government Printing Office. 151 (157): E2496–E2497. December 8, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Mach, Thomas S. "Gentleman George" Hunt Pendleton: Party Politics and Ideological Identity in Nineteenth-Century America. (Kent State University Press, 2007) 317pp ISBN 978-0-87338-913-6.

External links