John Bell

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Bell, John,

1797–1869, American statesman, b. near Nashville, Tenn. A leading member of the Nashville bar, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1827–41), was speaker in 1834, and for a few weeks in 1841 was Secretary of War under President William Henry Harrison. At first a Jacksonian, Bell broke with Jackson in the fight over the Bank of the United States and ultimately became the chief leader of the Whigs in Tennessee, dominating state politics for nearly two decades. As U.S. Senator (1847–59), he was the leader of the conservative Southern element that, though supporting slavery, placed the Union first. He admitted the right of Congress to prohibit slavery in the territories, supported the Compromise of 1850, objected to the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and opposed the admission of Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution. In 1860, Bell was the presidential candidate of the moderate Constitutional Union partyConstitutional Union party,
in U.S. history, formed when the conflict between North and South broke down the older parties. The Constitutional Union group, composed of former Whigs and remnants of the Know-Nothings and other groups in the South, was organized just before the
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 and won the electoral votes of Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. The lower South seceded with Lincoln's election, but Bell held Tennessee in the Union until after the firing on Fort Sumter. Bell counseled resistance to the Union invasion, but, disheartened and in ill health, he took no active part in the Civil War.

Bibliography

See biography by J. H. Parks (1950).

Bell, John

 

Born 1691 at Antermony, Scotland; died there on July 1, 1780. Memoirist.

Bell was in the Russian service from 1714 to 1747. He left notes (published in Glasgow in 1763) about his journeys across Russia into Iran, China, and Turkey. These notes contain much ethnographic information and many facts about Russian cities.

WORKS

Belevy puteshestviia cherez Rossiiu v raznye asiiatskie zemli, parts 1–3. St. Petersburg, 1776.

Bell, John

(1797–1869) U.S. senator, cabinet officer; born in Nashville, Tenn. A prominent Tennessee lawyer, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1827–41), first as a Democrat, then as a Whig; as the latter, he served less than a year as secretary of war (1841) and then as a moderate U.S. senator from Tennessee (1847–59). Although he owned slaves, he was opposed to the spread of slavery in the new territories and states, and he spent fruitless years trying to fend off the oncoming confrontation over slavery. In 1860 he was presidential candidate for the Constitutional Union Party, in an effort to present a plea against secession that would appeal to those who saw the Republicans as extremists. (He won three states.) But when the Civil War broke out, his last public act was to advise Tennessee to join the Confederacy.