Hannibal (Cyrus) Hamlin was born on August 27th 1809 in Paris Hill Maine. The Hamlins had been among the first settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and were involved in politics since the 1600’s. Hannibal attended the Hebron Academy and after his education he returned to run the family farm and founded the Oxford Jeffersonian paper. He studied law with Samuel Fessenden and set up his law practice in Hampden Maine after passing the bar in 1833. During the Aroostook War (The Franks and Beans War) over the border between Canada and Maine Hamlin joined the militia and was involved in the negotiations of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, the war ended with no shots fired and no casualties.
Hamlin’s political career began in 1835 when he was elected to the Maine House of Representatives where he served until 1841. In 1840 he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives but lost. In 1843 he ran a successful campaign and was elected to the U.S. House and served until 1848 when he was elected to the Senate as a Democrat. During his time in Congress he was an outspoken member of the Abolitionists and voted against every pro slavery bill and the Compromise of 1850.
In 1854 the Democratic Party supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act, establishing the balance between slave and free states, so he left the party in protest. Hannibal joined the Republican Party, which propelled him into the national spotlight. In 1857 he was elected the Governor of Maine but two months later he had to resign when he once again was sent to the Senate.
In 1860 the Republican party nominated Abraham Lincoln as their Presidential candidate and they felt they needed someone from the Atlantic Coast to balance the ticket, they chose Hamlin in hopes of carrying the New England states. The Democrats ran multiple candidates in order to divide the vote and throw the election to the House of Representatives but Lincoln carried the all the Northern states with enough delegates to take the Electoral College. Hamlin and Lincoln had never met until they took the oath of office in Washington.
Hamlin found that he had little say in the Lincoln cabinet so he spent the majority of his time at home in Maine. When the Civil War broke out he joined the Maine Coast Guard but since he was the Vice President they only gave him safe duty. The highest rank he obtained was Corporal.
During the election of 1864 the Republicans joined with the Democratic War Party, the branch that had broken with the Southern Democrats. They felt that Hamlin was too aligned with the radical Abolitionists and replaced him with Andrew Johnson, a southern slave owner whose post war views were closer to that of Lincoln. Hamlin returned to Maine where he established the Republicans as the main political party of the state, many future officer holders got their start thanks to him. After the war Andrew Johnson appointed Hamlin to the post of Collector at the Port of Boston but he resigned in protest of the Reconstruction policies.
In 1868 Hamlin was once again elected to the Senate and served until 1880 when health issues forced him to retire. James Garfield convinced Hamlin to accept the position of Ambassador to Spain; he served in the position for one year and then retired permanently. Hamlin died on July 4th 1891; he was the third Vice President to die on that date. Hamlin was considered such an important figure in Maine politics that his house in Bangor was maintained and is now listed in the National Registry of Historical Places.
Had John Wilkes Booth attempted his assassination plot a few months earlier Hamlin would have been the seventeenth President of the United States and created a new Constitutional Crisis since he was a lame duck Vice President. However Lincoln died after Andrew Johnson was sworn in to office and probably saved Hamlin from dealing with the Reconstruction mess that haunted Johnson’s time in office. Hamlin’s main claim to fame is that he was the first Republican Vice President.
So, in the tradition of Hamlin I promise that if you elected me as an independent candidate for the Vice Presidency I will do as little as possible while in office. If it wasn’t for a free house with a pool I might just stay home myself.