From youngest vice president to expulsion from the Senate – Kentucky State Quarter Coin

Today, the Kentucky State Quarter Coin remembers the events of the Senate 154 years ago.

The United States Congressional Serial Set published in 1893 included the motion and vote that expelled the Kentucky senator.


Senator from Kentucky from March 4, 1861, till December 4, 1861, when he was expelled.

December 4, 1861, a resolution was submitted that John C. Breckinridge be expelled from the Senate. It was amended by a preamble stating that he “had joined the enemies of his country,” and was agreed to.

The history of the case here given consists of a transcript of the proceedings of the Senate in relation thereto from the Journal of the Senate, 2d session 37th Congress.

Wednesday, December 4, 1861.

Mr. Chandler submitted the following resolution for consideration :

“Resolved, That John C. Breckinridge be, and he hereby is, expelled from the Senate.”

The Senate proceeded, by unanimous consent, to consider the resolution; and the same having been amended, on the motion of Mr. Trumbull, to read as follows:

“Whereas John C. Breckinridge, a member of this body from the State of Kentucky, has joined the enemies of his country, and is now in arms against the Government he had sworn to support : Therefore,

“Resolved, That said John C. Breckinridge, the traitor, be, and he hereby is, expelled from the Senate.”

On the question to agree to the resolution as amended, it was determined in the affirmative — yeas 37, nays none.

On motion by Mr. Trumbull, the yeas and nays being desired by one-fifth of the Senators present,

Those who voted in the affirmative are Messrs. Anthony, Browning, Carlile, Chandler, Clark, Collamer, Cowan, Dixon, Doolittle, Fessenden, Foot, Foster, Grimes, Hale, Harlan, Harris, Howe, Kennedy, King, Lane of Indiana, Lane of Kansas, Latham, McDougall, Morrill, Nesmith, Pomeroy, Rice, Sherman, Simmons, Sumner, Ten Eyck, Thompson, Trumbull, Wade, Wilkinson, Wilmot, and Wilson.

So the resolution as amended was agreed to, two-thirds of the Senators present having voted in the affirmative.

Thursday, December 5, 1861.

Mr. Rice stated that he was not in the Chamber yesterday when the vote was taken upon the resolution expelling John C. Breckinridge from the Senate, and asked unanimous consent to be allowed to have his vote recorded in the affirmative upon that question.


It was unanimously agreed that the name of Mr. Rice be entered upon the list of yeas and nays among those who voted in the affirmative upon the passage of the said resolution.


Prior to his joining the confederacy, Mr. Breckinridge had a distinguished career in serving his country in politics.

The South in the Building of the Nation: Southern Biography, published in 1909, included a brief synopsis of Mr. Breckinridge’s public life.


BRECKINRIDGE, John Cabell, Vice-President of United States: b. Lexington, Ky., Jan. 21, 1821; d. there May 17, 1875.

He was the son of Joseph Cabell Breckinridge, sometime secretary of state of Kentucky, and grandson of John Breckinridge, attorney-general in Jefferson’s cabinet.

He was graduated at Centre College, Danville, Ky., in 1839, and then studied law at Transylvania University Law School, Lexington, Ky.

He went to Burlington, Iowa, to practice, but soon returned to Lexington, where he opened an office.

He served in the Mexican War, and in 1849 was in the Kentucky legislature.

In 1851 he represented the seventh (Ashland) district in Congress and was reelected in 1853.

In 1856, with James Buchanan as president, Breckinridge was elected Vice-President, the youngest man ever elected to that office.

He was a candidate for the presidency in 1860, but was defeated by Abraham Lincoln.

In 1860 he was elected United States senator from Kentucky, but his defense of the Confederacy on the floor of the senate expelled him from that body, and he soon became a major-general in the Southern army, commanding the reserve at Shiloh, April 6, 1862.

He was at Murfreesboro, Chickamauga and Chattanooga, and in 1864 joined General Lee’s army, was defeated by General Sheridan in the valley of Virginia, and concluded his war career in the battle near Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 15, 1864.

In January, 1865, he became secretary of war in President Davis’s cabinet, and served until the end of the war.

He fled to Europe when the Confederacy fell, and remained there until 1868, when he returned to Kentucky and resumed the practice of law.


The Kentucky State Quarter Coin shows beside a colorized image of John C. Breckinridge when he served as Vice President.

Kentucky State Quarter Coin