John Jordon Crittenden, an American statesman, born in Woodford co., Kv., Sept. 10, 1787, died near Frankfort, July 26, 1863. His father, a major in the revolutionary war, was of Welsh descent, and his mother of Huguenot ancestry. Having completed his studies at William and Mary college, Va., in 1807, he entered upon the practice of the law in his native county, but soon removed to Logan county, near the Tennessee border, then an almost unsettled part of the state. In 1816 he was elected to the legislature of Kentucky, and in the following year to the senate of the United States. He resigned the senatorship in 1819, and returned to Kentucky, taking up his residence in Frankfort, where he resided till 1835, engaged in legal practice, and being several times a member of the state legislature. In 1827 he was appointed by President Adams United States district attorney, but in 1829 was removed by President Jackson. He ac-quired a high reputation as a criminal lawyer, never appearing except as counsel for the defendant.
In 1835 he was again elected to the United States senate, served a full term, and was reelected, but resigned in 1841, in order to become attorney general in the cabinet of President Harrison. He resigned this post upon the accession of Mr. Tyler, and was in 1842 appointed to fill the seat in the senate vacated by the resignation of Henry Clay, and was again elected for six years; but he resigned in 1848, in order to become governor of Kentucky. He favored the nomination of Gen. Taylor as the whig candidate for president, and in 1850 became attorney general in the cabinet of Mr. Fillmore. In this capacity he gave an opinion in favor of the constitutionality of the fugitive slave law. In 1855 he was once more elected to the senate of the United States.. In the events of the next few years he bore a prominent part. He had opposed the repeal of the Missouri compromise, and now in all the Kansas troubles he opposed the policy of Presidents Pierce and Buchanan. In 1860 he favored the nomination of Mr. Bell for the presidency. After the election of Mr. Lincoln he took firm ground for the Union, holding that it was right and lawful to resist secession by force. On Dec. 18, 1860, he proposed to congress a series of amendments to the constitution, to be presented for the acceptance of the states.
The substance of these was the reenactment of the Missouri compromise, and the prohibition of any interference by congress with slavery, wherever it should be legally established. A few days later he endeavored to have these amendments submitted to the direct vote of the people; this failing, he favored a single amendment to the constitution embodying the substance of those which he had proposed. On March 4, 1861, he took leave of the senate, to which he had been six times elected, and presented the credentials of Mr. Breckinridge, his successor. Returning to Kentucky, he urged the state to stand fast by the Union, and at a special election in June was chosen a member of the lower house of congress. On July 19 he offered a resolution, which was adopted by a vote of 117 to 2, affirming that the war was brought about by the disunionists of the southern states, and that it was carried on by the nation only to defend the supremacy of the constitution, and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several states unimpaired.
He opposed the employment of slaves as soldiers, and denied the power of congress to create the state of West Virginia. His last public speech was delivered Feb. 22, 1863, in opposition to the conscription bill; in this he declared that the object of the war had been changed from its original purpose. Notwithstanding his age and infirm health, he was a candidate for reelection to congress at the time of his death, which took place suddenly, while away from his home. See "Life of John J. Crittenden, with Selections from his Correspondence and Speeches, edited by his daughter, Mrs. Chapman Coleman" (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1871.) - Of his sons, one, George B., educated at West Point, became a general in the confederate army; another, Thomas L., entered the Union army, served with high credit, and was in 1867 made brevet brigadier general.