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Hannibal Hamlin

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Bangor, ME July 1, 2010 28th Vice President visited

Photographed July 1, 2010.

Three U.S. vice presidents have died on Independence Day. Unlike the first two in the sequence — Thomas Jefferson and John Adams — Hannibal Hamlin had no hand in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence or in the nation’s creation. Two generations removed from the Founders, Hamlin’s public service career spanned from to 1835 to 1882. On the Fourth of July 1891, the retired statesman collapsed during a card game. The 15th vice president died later that day. His gravesite is located in a family plot on the edge of Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor, Maine. The lot is right beside U.S. Route 2, with the Penobscot River beyond it.

Hamlin was the first Republican vice president. He was elected with Abraham Lincoln on the burgeoning party’s 1860 presidential ticket. Then, in an effort to promote unity, he was replaced on the ballot in 1864 by Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, a Democrat and the only southern senator to remain loyal to the United States during the Civil War. A mere 42 days after Hamlin left office, Lincoln was assassinated and Johnson was elevated to the presidency. Although dabbling in counterfactual arguments — or hypothetical history — is something historians generally like to avoid, I find it difficult not to speculate how different Southern Reconstruction may have developed had the more radical Hamlin been in the Executive Mansion instead of the blistering racist Johnson, who regarded poor whites as the true victims of the institution of slavery.

Photographed July 1, 2010.
Photographed July 1, 2010.

Here I am crouching beside the vice president’s footstone. His marker is situated between that of his second wife, Ellen Hamlin, and one of their two children together, Frank. Another member of the family interred there is son Cyrus Hamlin, who was a Union general.

Fast Facts

Born: August 27, 1809 in Paris, Massachusetts

Spouses: Sarah Jane Emery Hamlin (m. 1833-1855); Ellen Vesta Emery Hamlin (m. 1856-1891)

Primary Political Affiliation: Republican Party

Gubernatorial Term: 1857

Vice Presidential Term: 1861-1865 under Abraham Lincoln

Died: July 4, 1891 in Bangor, Maine

Age: 81

Interment: Mount Hope Cemetery, Bangor, Maine

"We cannot afford after enduring four years [of] war in which we gave up three hundred thousand young, good, and true men to their distant and mournful graves, and three thousand millions in treasure to admit our government to pass into the hands of those yet red and dripping with the best blood of the nation without a sufficient guarantee to secure in future our civil, moral, and religious rights."
- Hannibal Hamlin

September 8, 1866, condemning a policy of amnesty for former Confederates while campaigning on behalf of Republican political candidates at Norumbega Hall in Bangor, Maine

Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Maine Historical Society and Maine State Museum. “Hannibal Hamlin, Bangor, 1866.” Maine Memory Network. Accessed January 22, 2022. http://johnmartin.mainememory.net/page/4121/detail/101215/display.html.

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