Sixth Vice President of the United States (1817 - 1825). b. 1774 d. 1825.
People of his time often speak of Daniel Tompkins as an extremely attractive man. There were many paintings done of Tompkins at the time, and had it existed at the time, People magazine would probably have put him on the cover in some Sexiest Man Alive profile.
Tompkins was born in what is now Scarsdale, New York in 1774. Noted to be an exceptional scholar, he graduated first in his class out of Columbia University in 1795 with a clear focus on entering the political arena. Two years later, in 1797 he achieved admission into that arena with his marriage to Hannah Minthorne, the daughter of a well connected Republican party stalwart... as well as his admission to the New York bar.
His political career began as a New York City delegate to the 1801 state constitutional convention. Two years later he was elected to the New York assembly, and in 1804 was elected to the United States House of Representatives. He never served his term, as he resigned to accept appointment to the New York Supreme Court. In 1807 he was elected governor of New York with the support of DeWitt Clinton, one of the most powerful old time political bosses. Tompkins would not be subservient to Clinton for very long, as he would support the presidential campaign of James Madison over DeWitt Clinton.
During the War of 1812, Governor Tompkins struggled to support Madison's need for men and material from New York. The rest of the New York politicians were opposed to the war, so Tompkins used his own funds and endorsed bank loans to overcome their resistance. This would lead to future bad times for Tompkins, as he would years later be accused of financial mismanagement and illegal activities in connection in relation to his deeds during the war. In more modern times, they might have been able to find a term for it that ended in "gate." He was eventually vindicated of any wrongdoing, but that would come too late in his life to be much of any comfort.
While things were still on the upswing for our friend Daniel Tompkins, and he was considered one of the most beloved political figures in America, the Election of 1816 was on the horizon and Tompkins was running for president. However, James Monroe was being hailed as the necessary successor to James Madison. Tompkins was nailed to the ticket as the vice presidential candidate with Madison and they sailed on to victory.
Tompkins' early vice presidency would be spent, for the most part, at home in bed. After a nasty fall from his horse while on tour of a fort, he suffered numerous injuries that would cause him pain and discomfort. He considered resigning his position, but his health slowly improved to the point where he could return to his high profile job. It was then that his past financial problems would jump on top of him and wrestle the weakened Daniel Tompkins to the ground. He became angry, embittered and had great difficulty with his job in the Senate as vice president. During debate over the Missouri Compromise, he fled the scene rather than be caught up in the slave state vs. free state debate, angering many. His actions, as well as reports that he was drinking heavily, caused many Republicans to demand Monroe leave Tompkins off the re-election ticket in 1820.
Daniel Tompkins was re-elected to the vice presidency in 1820, as there was virtually no opposition candidate. He began to lose control more so than ever. He alienated James Monroe by being openly critical of him to high profile government officials. His drinking became more frequent and pronounced. The Senate was often without him at the helm, and some contemporaries write that it was better when he was not there, as it "spared him the greater embarassment."
Broken by an unwieldy personal financial crisis in which he was losing all his property and holdings, continuous problems with his old injuries, total alienation from everyone who knew him, and his alcoholism, he was a broken man when he left office in 1824. He returned home, wished for no further contact or involvement with the government and stated his wish to retire. One year later, in June of 1825, Daniel D. Tompkins died. He left no will and the courts were left to settle for his wife and eight children. He was fifty years of age.
Thus was the story of the "handsome farmer's boy" everyone wanted to paint and everyone wanted to embrace.
Part of TheDeadGuy's Vice Presidents project.