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William Hayden English

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Subject: United States presidential election, 1880, Thomas A. Hendricks, United States presidential election in New York, 1880, Democratic Party (United States), 1880 Greenback National Convention
Collection: 1822 Births, 1896 Deaths, American People of English Descent, American People of French Descent, Burials at Crown Hill Cemetery, Democratic Party (United States) Vice Presidential Nominees, Democratic Party Members of the United States House of Representatives, Hanover College Alumni, Indiana Democrats, Members of the Indiana House of Representatives, Members of the United States House of Representatives from Indiana, People from Indianapolis, Indiana, Politicians from Indianapolis, Indiana, Sons of the American Revolution, Speakers of the Indiana House of Representatives, United States Vice-Presidential Candidates, 1880, Writers from Indiana, Writers from Indianapolis, Indiana
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William Hayden English

William Hayden English
William Hayden English, c. 1860
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1853 – March 3, 1861
Preceded by Cyrus L. Dunham
Succeeded by James A. Cravens
Personal details
Born (1822-08-27)August 27, 1822
Lexington, Indiana, US
Died February 7, 1896(1896-02-07) (aged 73)
Indianapolis, Indiana, US
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Emma Mardulia Jackson
Children William E., Rosalind
Profession Politician, lawyer

William Hayden English (August 27, 1822 – February 7, 1896) was an American congressman from Indiana and the Democratic nominee for vice president in 1880. English entered politics at a young age, becoming a part of Jesse D. Bright's conservative faction of the Indiana Democratic Party. After a few years in the federal bureaucracy in Washington beginning in 1845, he returned to Indiana and participated in the state constitutional convention of 1850. He was elected to the state house of representatives in 1851 and served as its speaker at the age of twenty-nine. After a two-year term in the state house, English represented Indiana in the federal House of Representatives for four terms from 1853 to 1861, working most notably to achieve a compromise on the admission of Kansas as a state.

English retired from the House in 1861, but remained involved in party affairs. In the American Civil War he was a War Democrat, supporting the Union war effort. As well as pursuing a political career, he was an author and businessman, owning an opera house, serving as president of a bank, and developing many residential properties. English's business career was successful, and he became one of the wealthiest men in Indiana. After nearly two decades in the private sector, English returned to political life as the Democratic nominee for vice president in 1880. English and his presidential running mate, Winfield Scott Hancock, lost narrowly to their Republican opponents, James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur.


  • Family and early career 1
  • Politics and marriage 2
  • Congress 3
    • Kansas–Nebraska Act 3.1
    • English Bill 3.2
  • Business career 4
  • Vice-presidential candidate 5
  • Post-election career and legacy 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • Sources 9
  • External links 10

Family and early career

William Hayden English was born August 27, 1822, in Lexington, Indiana, the only son of Elisha Gale English and his wife, Mahala (Eastin) English.[1] Both his parents were Kentucky natives from slaveholding families of English and French Huguenot ancestry. They moved to southern Indiana in 1818. Elisha English quickly became involved in local politics as a Democrat, serving in the state legislature as well as building a prominent business career.[2] William English was educated in the local public schools, later attending Hanover College.[1] He left college after three years and began to read law. In 1840, English was admitted to the bar at the age of eighteen and soon built a practice in his native Scott County.[1] He started early in politics as well, attending the state Democratic convention that same year and giving speeches on behalf of the Democratic presidential candidate, Martin Van Buren.[3]

By the end of 1842, English came under the mentorship of Lieutenant Governor Jesse D. Bright, who helped him rise within Bright's faction of the party.[4] The following year, Indiana House of Representatives selected English as their clerk.[1] In 1844, he worked the campaign trail, this time in the service of presidential candidate James K. Polk.[1]

Politics and marriage

As a reward, after Polk took office in 1845, he granted English a patronage appointment as a clerk in the federal Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.[3] English held this position for four years, during which time he met Emma Mardulia Jackson. They married in November 1847.[5] They would have two children: William Eastin and Rosalind.[5]

English attended the 1848 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore, where he supported Lewis Cass, the eventual presidential nominee. With the election of the Whig Party's candidate, Zachary Taylor, to the presidency, a Whig party member replaced English at the Treasury Department. He secured a job as clerk to the United States Senate's Claims Committee through party connections;[1] serving until 1850 in Washington, DC.[1]

Later that year, English and his wife returned to Indiana, where he worked as secretary to the Indiana Constitutional Convention.[3] Democrats were in the majority at the convention, and their proposals were included in the new law, including increasing the number of elective offices, guaranteeing a homestead exemption, and restricting voting rights to white men.[6] Free blacks had earlier had formerly had suffrage in the state. The voters approved the new Constitution of 1851 by a large majority.[7]

In August 1851, English won his first election to the state house of Representatives.[1] As it was the first meeting of the legislature under the 1851 constitution, English's knowledge of it contributed to his election, at the age of twenty-nine, as speaker of the House.[3] The House had a Democratic majority and at Bright's direction, English worked for the election of Graham N. Fitch, a member of Bright's faction of the party, to the federal Senate. The legislature chose a different Democrat, John Pettit, instead.[2][8] Holding the office of Speaker increased English's influence throughout the state; in 1852, the Democrats chose him as their nominee for the federal House of Representatives from the newly redistricted 2nd district.[9] The Democrats were victorious in the election that October, sweeping all but one House seat.[8] English defeated his Whig opponent 55% - 45% and joined the 33rd Congress when it convened in Washington in 1853.[10]


Kansas–Nebraska Act

The House of Representatives convened for the 33rd Congress in December 1853. At that time, the simmering disagreement between the [9] Northern Democrats divided almost evenly on the bill, but English, despite his stated reservations, was among those who voted for it.[9] In doing so, he said that Congress was bound to respect the decision of the territories' residents and pledged to uphold their decisions.[3][13] President Franklin Pierce signed the bill into law on May 30, 1854.

A photograph of a man, seated
English worked with Senator Alexander H. Stephens on the compromise legislation later called the English Bill.

The Kansas–Nebraska Act was grossly unpopular across the North. The reaction ultimately killed the Whig Party, weakened northern Democrats, and brought about a new party, the Republicans.[14] Only 3 of 42 free-state representatives were reelected after voting for it; English was one of them.[15] English was a conservative Democrat, and his southern Indiana district, while not pro-slavery, also had little sympathy for abolitionism.[16] He was reelected again in 1856, when the Democrats regained the House majority in the 35th Congress. The Speaker, James Lawrence Orr, assigned English to the Post Office and Post Roads Committee, but the issue of Kansas claimed more of his time.[17]

English Bill

In December 1857, in an election boycotted by free-state partisans, Kansas adopted the pro-slavery Alexander H. Stephens came up with a compromise measure, later called the English Bill.[19] The English Bill offered Kansas admission as a slave state, but only if they endorsed that choice in a referendum. The Bill also required Kansans to renounce the unusually large grant of federal lands they had requested in the Lecompton Constitution.[19] The Kansas voters could, thus, reject Lecompton by the face-saving measure of turning down the smaller land grant.[19] Congress passed the English Bill, and Kansans duly rejected their pro-slavery constitution by a ratio of six to one.[19] Some of English's political allies, including Bright (now a senator), would have preferred Kansas be admitted as a slave state, but the decision was popular enough in his district to allow English to be reelected in 1858 with a majority of 56% to 44%.[20]

Business career

A black-and-white picture of a large builing
English's Opera House

English declined to run for reelection in 1860, but did give several speeches advocating compromise and moderation in the growing North-South divide. After Abraham Lincoln's election that year, English urged Southerners not to secede.[21] When the Southern states did secede and the Civil War began, Governor Oliver P. Morton offered English command of a regiment, but he declined it, having no military knowledge or interests.[22] He did, however, support Morton's (and Lincoln's) war policies and considered himself a War Democrat. English loaned money to the state government to cover the expenses of outfitting the troops and served as provost marshal for the 2nd congressional district.[22]

After retiring from Congress, English spent a year at his home in Scott County before relocating to First National Bank of Indianapolis in 1863, the first bank in that city chartered under the new National Bank Act.[23] He remained president of that bank until 1877, including the difficult period during the Panic of 1873, when many other banks folded.[22] English's business interests included other industries as well. He became the controlling shareholder of the Indianapolis Street Railway Company, remaining in charge of that company until 1876, when he sold his shares.[24] Having also sold his shares of the bank by 1877, English turned most of his investment capital to real estate. By 1875, he had already ordered construction of seventy-five houses along what is now English Avenue.[25] His wife, Emma, died two years later, in 1877. English survived her by nineteen years. By the time he died in 1896, he owned 448 pieces of property, most of them in Indianapolis.[26]

In 1880, English constructed English's Opera House, which, according to the 1994 Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, quickly became known as the city's finest.[24] The building was modeled after the Grand Opera House in New York and seated 2000 people.[27] It opened on September 27, 1880, with a performance of Hamlet starring Lawrence Barrett.[27] By that time, English was involved in politics once more. He turned over management of the Opera House to his son, William Eastin English, who was interested in the theater (and had just married an actress, Annie Fox).[27] English senior later added a hotel to the Opera House, and both operated until 1948.[28]

Vice-presidential candidate

A campaign poster with two men's faces on it
Hancock–English campaign poster

After leaving the House of Representatives, English had remained in touch with local politics, even serving as chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party. His son had been elected to the state house in 1879, and the elder English was still consulted on political matters.[26] Although he had not sought elected office since 1858, he had raised his national profile in 1879 through several interviews and letters to friendly newspapers.[29] English attended the 1880 Democratic National Convention in Cincinnati as a member of the Indiana delegation, where he favored presidential candidate Thomas F. Bayard of Delaware, whom he admired for his support of the gold standard.[30] The first ballot was inconclusive, with Bayard in second place.[31] Major General Winfield Scott Hancock of Pennsylvania led the voting, and on the second ballot was nominated for President.[32]

The Indiana delegation held back their votes from Hancock until the crucial moment, and as a reward, the delegates selected English for the vice-presidential nomination.[33] The nomination was unanimous. He was not expected to add much to the ticket outside of Indiana, but the party leaders thought his popularity in that swing state would help Hancock against James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur, the Republican nominees.[33] The Republicans believed that the real reason for English's nomination was his willingness to use his personal fortune to finance the campaign, as Democratic campaign coffers were low.[34] English gave a brief speech accepting the nomination, then replied more formally in a letter a month later. In that letter, English called the disputes of the Civil War settled, and promised a "sound currency, of honest money", the restriction of Chinese immigration, and a "rigid economy in public expenditure".[35] He characterized the election as one between

the people endeavoring to regain the political power which rightfully belongs to them, and to restore the pure, simple, economical, constitutional government of our fathers on the one side, and a hundred thousand federal office-holders and their backers, pampered with place and power, and determined to retain them at all hazards, on the other.[36]

Hancock and the Democrats expected to carry the Solid South, which, with the disenfranchisement of black Southerners following the end of Reconstruction, was dominated electorally by white Democrats.[37] In addition to the South, the ticket needed to add a few of the Midwestern states to their total to win the election; national elections in that era were largely decided by closely divided states there.[38] The practical differences between the parties were few, and the Republicans were reluctant to attack Hancock personally because of his heroic reputation.[39] The one policy difference the Republicans were able to exploit was a statement in the Democratic platform endorsing "a tariff for revenue only".[40] Garfield's campaign used this statement to paint the Democrats as unsympathetic to the plight of industrial laborers, who benefited from the high protective tariff then in place. The tariff issue cut Democratic support in industrialized Northern states, which were essential in establishing a Democratic majority.[41]

The October state elections in Ohio and Indiana resulted in Republican victories there, discouraging Democrats about the federal election to come the following month.[41] There was even some talk among party leaders of dropping English from the ticket, but English convinced them that the October losses owed more to local issues, and that the Democratic ticket could still carry Indiana, if not Ohio, in November.[41] In the end, English was proven wrong: the Democrats and Hancock failed to carry any of the Midwestern states they had targeted, including Indiana. Hancock and English lost the popular vote by just 7,018.[42] The electoral vote, however, had a much larger spread: 214 for Garfield and Arthur, compared to 155 for Hancock and English.[42]

Post-election career and legacy

English resumed his business career after the election. He also became more interested in local history, joining a reunion of the survivors of the 1850 state constitutional convention, which met at his opera house in 1885.[26] He became the president of the

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Cyrus L. Dunham
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 2nd congressional district

March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1861
Succeeded by
James A. Cravens
Party political offices
Preceded by
Thomas A. Hendricks
Democratic vice presidential nominee
Succeeded by
Thomas A. Hendricks

External links

  • Finding aid to the William Hayden English family papers at the Indiana Historical Society

Manuscript collection

  • Philipp, Ernest Joseph (1917). "Chapter 5: The Democratic National Convention". The Presidential Election of 1880 (M.A. thesis). University of Wisconsin. 


  • "Some Letters of Jesse D. Bright to William H. English (1842–1863)". Indiana Magazine of History 30 (4): 370–392. December 1934.  
  • Craig, Berry (Autumn 1998). "William English Walling: Kentucky's Unknown Civil Rights Hero". The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 96 (4): 351–376.  
  • Draegart, Eva (June 1954). "The Fine Arts in Indianapolis, 1875–1880". Indiana Magazine of History 50 (2): 105–118.  
  • Draegart, Eva (March 1956). "Cultural History of Indianapolis: The Theater, 1880–1890". Indiana Magazine of History 52 (1): 21–48.  
  • Draegart, Eva (December 1956). "Cultural History of Indianapolis: Literature, 1875–1890". Indiana Magazine of History 52 (4): 343–367.  
  • Elbert, E. Duane (March 1974). "Southern Indiana in the Election of 1860: The Leadership and the Electorate". Indiana Magazine of History 70 (1): 1–23.  
  • House, Albert V. (September 1962). "The Democratic State Central Committee of Indiana in 1880: A Case Study in Party Tactics and Finance". Indiana Magazine of History 58 (3): 179–210.  
  • Russel, Robert R. (May 1963). "The Issues in the Congressional Struggle over the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, 1854". The Journal of Southern History 29 (2): 187–210.  
  • Van Bolt, Roger H. (June 1953). "Indiana in Political Transition, 1851–1853". Indiana Magazine of History 49 (2): 131–160.  


  • Commemorative Biographical Record of Prominent and Representative Men of Indianapolis and Vicinity. Chicago, Illinois: J.H. Beers & Co. 1908. 
  • Clancy, Herbert J. (1958). The Presidential Election of 1880. Chicago, Illinois: Loyola University Press.  
  • Dubin, Michael J. (1998). United States Congressional elections, 1788–1997 : the official results of the elections of the 1st through 105th Congresses. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.  
  • Freehling, William W. (2007). The Road to Disunion: Volume 2 Secessionists Triumphant 1854–1861. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, USA.  
  • Jordan, David M. (1996) [1988]. Winfield Scott Hancock: A Soldier's Life. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.  
  • Kennedy, E.B.; Dillaye, S.D.; Hill, Henry (1880). Our Presidential Candidates and Political Compendium. Newark, New Jersey: F.C. Bliss & Co.  
  • Nicholas, Stacey (1994). "William Hayden English". In Bodenhamer, David J.; Barrows, Robert G. The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 544–545.  
  • Official Proceedings of the National Democratic Convention. Dayton, Ohio: [Dayton] Daily Journal Book and Job Room. 1882. 
  • Worth, Richard W. (1994). "English Hotel and Opera House". In Bodenhamer, David J.; Barrows, Robert G. The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 546–547.  
  • Zeigler, Connie J. (1994). "Banking Industry". In Bodenhamer, David J.; Barrows, Robert G. The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 291–293.  



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Commemorative Biography, p. 9.
  2. ^ Commemorative Biography, p. 8.
  3. ^ a b c d Kennedy et al, p. 220.
  4. ^ Bright, pp. 370–392.
  5. ^ a b Commemorative Biography, p. 17.
  6. ^ Van Bolt, pp. 136–139.
  7. ^ Van Bolt, p. 141.
  8. ^ a b Van Bolt, pp. 155–157.
  9. ^ a b c d Commemorative Biography, p. 10.
  10. ^ Dubin, p. 164.
  11. ^ Freehling 1990, pp. 536–565.
  12. ^ Freehling 1990, pp. 554–565.
  13. ^ a b Russel, p. 201 n.38.
  14. ^ Freehling 2007, pp. 61–96.
  15. ^ Commemorative Biography, p. 10; Freehling 1990, p. 559.
  16. ^ Elbert, p. 8.
  17. ^ a b Commemorative Biography, p. 11.
  18. ^ a b Freehling 2007, pp. 136–141.
  19. ^ a b c d Freehling 2007, pp. 142–144.
  20. ^ Dubin, p. 181.
  21. ^ Commemorative Biography, p. 12.
  22. ^ a b c d Commemorative Biography, p. 13.
  23. ^ Zeigler, p. 292.
  24. ^ a b c Nicholas, p. 545.
  25. ^ Draegart 1954, p. 114.
  26. ^ a b c Commemorative Biography, p. 14.
  27. ^ a b c Draegart 1956a, pp. 25–26.
  28. ^ Worth, p. 547.
  29. ^ House, p. 184.
  30. ^ Clancy, pp. 64–65.
  31. ^ Proceedings, p. 99.
  32. ^ Jordan, pp. 274–280.
  33. ^ a b Jordan, p. 281.
  34. ^ Philipp, pp. 43–44; House, p. 185.
  35. ^ Proceedings, p. 168.
  36. ^ Proceedings, p. 167.
  37. ^ Clancy, p. 250.
  38. ^ Jensen, pp. xv–xvi.
  39. ^ Jordan, pp. 292–296.
  40. ^ Jordan, p. 297.
  41. ^ a b c Jordan, pp. 297–301.
  42. ^ a b Jordan, p. 306.
  43. ^ Draegart 1956b, pp. 352–356.
  44. ^ a b Commemorative Biography, p. 18.
  45. ^ Craig, p. 352.


  1. ^ Bright, now a Senator, was a member of the committee.
  2. ^ Before the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1913, senators were chosen by their states' legislatures.
  3. ^ Many in Congress did not agree they were so bound, and this was a point of contention in the debates.[13]


He died at his home in Indianapolis on February 7, 1896. English was interred in Crown Hill Cemetery with his wife, who had died in 1877. Although many of the buildings he constructed have been demolished, English, Indiana, the county seat of Crawford County, is named after him, as is English Street in Indianapolis.[44] Identical statues of English stand in front of the Scott County Courthouse in Scottsburg, Indiana, and at the Crawford County Fairgrounds in English.[44] His son William served in Congress from 1884 to 1885. His grandson, William English Walling, the son of his daughter Rosalind, was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.[45] An extensive collection of English's personal and family papers is housed at the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis, where it is open for research.

[24] there.Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument He served on the Indianapolis Monument Commission in 1893, and helped to plan and finance the [43]

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