Date of Graduation

5-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

History

Advisor

Williams, Patrick

Reader

McMath, Bob

Second Reader

Funkhouser, Eric

Third Reader

Sheppard, Steve

Abstract

On September 27, 1817, Thomas Hart Benton, a young St. Louis attorney and an aspiring politician, killed a fellow gentleman lawyer in their second duel together, prompting a significant amount of controversy within the community. While much of the St. Louis press attacked Benton for his part in the bloody feud, threatening his political career, three years later the Missouri General Assembly elected him as one of the state’s first two U.S. Senators. He would go on to become one of the most prominent figures in the national Democratic Party and antebellum politics. This essay will explore his political ascendency after killing a man in a duel – during a time when dueling in many ways seemed to be in disrepute. Benton’s duel and subsequent election to the Senate will serve as a case study of dueling’s role in politics in the trans-Mississippi region. But this new look at Benton’s political ascendency also contributes to the scholarship concerning Missouri’s transition from territory to state. Through a geographic analysis of the Missouri General Assembly vote for U.S. Senators in 1820, this essay will shed light on an election that is largely ignored or oversimplified by historians.

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