Wednesday, February 07, 2007

February 7, 1896:

William Hayden English Dies

A moment today for presidential also-rans; actually, the vice presidential also-rans, who mostly occupy the ninth circle of obscurity. There was a moment, however, when many millions of Americans would have known the name William Hayden English of Indiana, because he ran for vice president on the Democratic ticket with Winfield Scott Hancock of Pennsylvania in 1880. Hancock-English lost to Garfield-Arthur, but it was a close race: 4.45 million votes to 4.44 million in the popular vote, 214 to 155 in the electoral college.

Born in 1822 in Scott County, Indiana, in the southeast part of the state, and a attorney by trade, English had a successful political career that included time in the Indiana House of Representatives and the US House from 1853 to 1861. While in Congress, he was also regent of the Smithsonian Institution. After retiring from Congress, he returned to Indianapolis and organized the First National Bank. He was a developer as well, building a hotel and opera house on Monument Circle in the heart of Indianapolis. Finally, before he died, he wrote a two-volume history, The Conquest of the Northwest & the Life of George R. Clark.

Curiously, the Democratic vice presidential candidate before him in 1876, who had the office stolen from him every bit as much as Samuel J. Tilden did the presidency, was Thomas A. Hendricks, also of Indiana. But Hendricks got another chance in 1884 when he was nominated again for the vice presidency, and he became the 21st vice president of the United States during Cleveland's first term.

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