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John Bell Letter

Identifier: MS-2866

  • Staff Only

This collection consists of one letter from John Bell, then Secretary of War, to William Brownlow, publisher of The Whig newspaper. Written on August 30, 1844, Bell discusses in the letter his support for Henry Clay in 1839 after Brownlow wrote in a book that the only man who had the holding in 1839 to come out openly for Clay was future Governor James C. Jones.


  • 1844 August 30

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0.1 Linear Feet


In this August 30, 1844, letter to William Brownlow, publisher of The Whig newspaper, John Bell, then Secretary of War, discusses his support of Henry Clay in 1839.

Biographical/Historical Note

Born near Nashville on February 15, 1797, John Bell served as a state senator in 1817, but declined reelection. In 1827, he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, a seat that he held through 1841. He served as Speaker of the House for the Twenty-third Congress from 1833-1834, and as Secretary of War under President William Henry Harrison from March 5-September 12, 1841. After a term in the state house of representatives, Bell was elected as a Whig to the U. S. Senate in 1847, serving until March 3, 1859. He was an unsuccessful candidate for President of the United States on the Constitutional Union ticket in the 1860 election. Bell died at his home on September 10, 1869, and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery near Nashville.

William Gannaway Parson Brownlow (1805-1877) was an influential East Tennessee minister, journalist, and governor. In 1838 he became owner/editor of an Elizabethton newspaper popularly known as Brownlow's Whig. His newspaper, which, one the eve of the Civil War, reached nearly eleven thousand subscribers across the nation, moved to Knoxville in 1849. The Parson was a prominent spokesperson for the Whig Party and a staunch defender of the Union. After Tennessee left the Union, Brownlow continued speaking out against the Confederacy. He was eventually jailed in Knoxville and later expelled from the Confederacy for his anti-secession editorials. After traveling on a speaking tour throughout the North, the Parson returned to Knoxville with the Union troops in the fall of 1863, continuing to rail against the Confederacy and secession. In March 1865, Tennessee Unionists chose Brownlow to succeed Andrew Johnson as governor of Tennessee. After two terms as Tennessee's Reconstruction-era governor, Brownlow, in 1869, was chosen to represent the state in the U. S. Senate. He served only one term before returning to Knoxville, where he died on April 28, 1877.


Collection consists of one folder.

Acquisition Note

Purchased by Special Collections, August 14, 2006.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA