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Lyman Trumbull (October 12, 1813 – June 25, 1896) was a United States Senator from Illinois during the American Civil War, and co-author of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Education and early career[]

Trumbull was born in Colchester, Connecticut, the son of historian Benjamin Trumbull.[1] He attended Bacon Academy and was a school teacher from 1829 to 1833. At 20, he was head of an academy in Georgia.[1] After studying law, he was admitted to the bar and practiced in Greenville, Georgia until moving to Belleville, Illinois in 1837.

Elected office[]

File:Schurz and Trumbull as Richard III and Gloucester.png

Political cartoon by Thomas Nast: Senators Schurz and Trumbull in a scene from Shakespeare's Richard III

By 1840, he was serving in the Illinois House of Representatives, and he served as Illinois Secretary of State from 1841-1843. From 1848 to 1853 he was a justice on the Supreme Court of Illinois. Although elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1854, he was elected to serve in the United States Senate before he could take his seat. He served from 1855 through 1873, during which time he claimed party affiliations with the Democrats, the Republicans, the Liberal Republicans, and finally the Democrats again. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee (1861-1872), he co-authored the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibited all kinds of slavery in the United States.

Johnson impeachment trial[]

During President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial, Trumbull and six other Republican senators[2] were disturbed by how the proceedings had been manipulated in order to give a one-sided presentation of the evidence.[3] Trumbull, in particular, noted:

"Once set the example of impeaching a President for what, when the excitement of the hour shall have subsided, will be regarded as insufficient causes, as several of those now alleged against the President were decided to be by the House of Representatives only a few months since, and no future President will be safe who happens to differ with a majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate on any measure deemed by them important, particularly if of a political character. Blinded by partisan zeal, with such an example before them, they will not scruple to remove out of the way any obstacle to the accomplishment of their purposes, and what then becomes of the checks and balances of the Constitution, so carefully devised and so vital to its perpetuity? They are all gone."

All seven broke party ranks and defied public opinion, voting for acquittal in a principled act of political suicide.[4] None was reelected.



Lyman Trumbull

During the December 1871 congressional debate on the creation of Yellowstone National Park, Senator Trumbull, whose son Walter Trumbull was a member of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition to Yellowstone in 1870, made this impassioned statement in support of the park idea:

"Here is a region of the country away up in the Rocky Mountains, where there are the most wonderful geysers on the face of the earth; a country that is not likely ever to be inhabited for the purpose of agriculture; but it is possible that some person may go there and plant himself right across the only path that leads to the wonders, and charge every man that passes along between the gorges of these mountains a fee of a dollar or five dollars. He may place an obstruction there and toll may be gathered from every person who goes to see these wonders of creation." [5]

Later career[]

In 1873, Trumbull set up a law practice in Chicago and remained in private practice except for a brief period when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor (as a Democrat) in 1880. He became a Populist in 1894, and defended the railway strikers in Chicago in the same year.[6]


During his explorations in the west John Wesley Powell named Mt. Trumbull (and now the Mt. Trumbull Wilderness) in northwestern Arizona after the senator. The Lyman Trumbull House is a National Historic Landmark.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Template:Cite Appleton's Lyman Trumbull is the subject of the second half of this article entitled with his father's name.
  2. These seven senators were William Pitt Fessenden, Joseph S. Fowler, James W. Grimes, John B. Henderson, Lyman Trumbull, Peter G. Van Winkle, and Edmund G. Ross.
  3. "Andrew Johnson Trial: The Consciences of Seven Republicans Save Johnson".
  4. "The Trial of Andrew Johnson, 1868".
  5. "The Founding of Yellowstone into Law and into Fact". John S. McDonald Jr.. Retrieved 5 January 2009. 
  6. Wikisource-logo "Trumbull, Lyman". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911. 

Further reading[]

  • White, Horace. The Life of Lyman Trumbull, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1913. OCLC 824101

External links[]

Template:Start box Template:S-off |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Stephen A. Douglas |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Illinois Secretary of State
1841 – 1843 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Thompson Campbell |- |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #cccccc" | United States Senate Template:U.S. Senator box |} Template:Illinois Secretaries of State Template:USSenIL

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