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John Bell (Tennessee politician)
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John Bell (Tennessee politician)

John Bell (February 15, 1797September 10, 1869) was a United States politician. He was a wealthy slaveholder from Tennessee. Beginning his career as a Democrat, he eventually fell out with Andrew Jackson and became a Whig. He served in the House of Representatives from 1827 to 1841, serving as Speaker of the House from 1834 to 1835. He then served briefly as Secretary of War under William Henry Harrison and John Tyler in 1841, but then resigned along with the rest of the cabinet in protest at Tyler's vetoes of Whig bills. In 1847, Bell was elected to the United States Senate, and served until 1859. After the collapse of the Whig Party in the 1850s, Bell was among the leaders of the small group (mostly border state and middle state Whigs) who attempted to preserve the Whig Party in another form, and became Presidential candidate of the United States Constitutional Union Party. The party was formed from a group of southern Whigs who joined with nativists from border states like Tennessee. In the United States Presidential election of 1860, Bell won 39 electoral votes (13%) and 592,906 popular votes (13% of total, 39% of Southern popular votes). Bell carried Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, largely as a result of the division of Democratic votes between John C. Breckinridge and Stephen A. Douglas, but received less than 3% of the vote in Northern states.

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Preceded by:
Joel Roberts Poinsett
United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by:
John C. Spencer