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John Breckinridge

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John Breckinridge served many positions in government throughout his life.

John Breckinridge (December 2, 1760 - December 14, 1806) was a United States Senator and Attorney General.

Born in Staunton, Virginia, a frontier town, Breckinridge was nonetheless able to attend the prestigeous William and Mary College. He was first elected to the Virginia legislature while he was only nineteen years old and still a student, but because he was underage he was not allowed to serve until he was elected for his third time.

Breckinridge served in the Virginia militia during the U.S. Revolutionary War. Afterwards he studied law, and began a private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was elected to the United States Congress, but resigned in 1792 before his term even began.

In 1793 he moved to Lexington, Kentucky and began to practice law there. He ran for a seat in the United States Senate in 1794, but was not elected. He was, however, appointed as attorney general of Kentucky in 1795, although he resigned this position as well in 1797. He then successfully ran for a seat in the Kentucky House, and served for two years. During this time he became the Speaker of the House.

In 1799 he served in Kentucky's constitutional convention. Afterwards he ran, this time as a Democratic-Republican, for a seat in the United States Senate, and he was elected. He served from March 4, 1801, until August 7, 1805, when he resigned again, this time to accept an appointment as the Attorney General of the United States under President Thomas Jefferson.

By many accounts, Breckinridge was an important advisor to Jefferson, and he sponsored Jefferson's Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions. In 1806, while still serving as Attorney General, Breckinridge died. He was buried in Lexington Cemetery.

He was the grandfather of John C. Breckinridge. Many people and places have been named after him.

Further reading

  • Harrison, Lowell. John Breckinridge, Jeffersonian Republican. Louisville: Filson Club, 1969
  • Klotter, James C. The Breckinridges of Kentucky: Two Centuries of Leadership. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1986.

External link


Preceded by:
Robert Smith
Attorney General of the United States
1805-1806
Succeeded by:
Caesar A. Rodney

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