John Bell

JOHN BELL was born on his father’s farm near Nashville, Tennessee, on 15 February 1797; graduated from Cumberland College in 1814 at seventeen; was admitted to the bar and began practice in Franklin, Tennessee; was elected to the state legislature before reaching twenty-one; moved to Nashville to continue the practice of law, circa 1819; married Sally Dickinson and, following her death, Jane Yeatman; served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee, 1827–1841; served as Speaker of the House, 1834–1835, defeating James K. Polk who was also a candidate for the office; although originally a member of President Jackson’s party and a supporter of administration policies, opposed Jackson’s bank policy and selection of Van Buren as a successor; became the leader of the Whig party in Tennessee; served as Secretary of War in the Harrison and Tyler cabinets, 5 March 1841–13 September 1841; presided over the final stages of the Seminole War; returned to private life, 1841–1847; was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1847 and served to 1859; remained a nationally-minded Southerner in the Congress as sectional attitudes sharpened over the slavery issue; was the presidential candidate of the Constitutional Union Party in 1860; at first opposed secession and influenced Tennessee’s decision not to secede; after Fort Sumter, supported his state’s decision to join the Confederacy; moved to the lower South after Union troops entered Tennessee; returned home after the Civil War; died near Bear Spring Furnace, Stewart County, Tennessee, on 10 September 1869.

The Artist

Thomas Le Clear (1818–1882), portrait and genre painter, showed artistic aptitude in childhood: he sold his first work when he was twelve and engaged in portrait and decorative painting while yet in his teens. He was born at Owego, New York, and lived with his family in various locations in New York, Ontario, and Wisconsin before settling in New York City in 1839. From 1844 to 1860, he lived in Buffalo, then returned to New York City to continue his art career. Elected a National Academician in 1863, his work is represented in the collections of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.


Portrait, John Bell

W. H. Harrison and Tyler Administrations
By Thomas Le Clear
Oil on canvas (tondo), 29" x 24", 1874

page created 1 March 2001

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