Birth: Mar. 14, 1782
Death: Apr. 10, 1858
First elected to the United States Senate from Missouri in 1820, Thomas Hart Benton soon emerged as the state’s most prominent and powerful political leader and as a nationally recognized advocate of Jacksonian Democracy. His five successive terms in the Senate enabled Benton to play a leading part in nearly every major national political debate from Missouri statehood controversy in 1820 to the crisis of disunion in the early 1850’s.
Born on March 14, 1782, near Hillsborough, North Carolina, as the first son of Jesse and Ann Gooch Benton, young Thomas seemed destined to a life of the gentry. Unexpected events, however, altered his future. After the untimely death of Thomas’s father in 1792 left the family deeply in debt, Thomas attended the University of North Carolina. Later he taught school and began to study law on his own.
After practicing law for a time in Tennessee he volunteered for military service in the War of 1812. Advancing to the rank of colonel, Benton became a regimental commander and first aide to Gen. Andrew Jackson. In 1815, at the age of thirty-three, he moved to St Louis in the Missouri Territory.
In 1818 Benton turn his energies to the editorship of the St. Louis Enquirer, which he used to launch his political career in Missouri. He was outspoken in his editorials of political issue, especially those relating to the interests of Missouri and Missourians. He also called for national government to confirm the old Spanish land grants and to provide more aid and protection for the western fur trade.