[Kentuckian Richard Mentor Johnson, Vice President, alleged killer of Tecumseh, 1842 Autograph Note Signed Twice.]
Johnson, who served one term under President Martin Van Buren, is noted for his interracial common-law marriage to an octaroon slave
1842 Autograph Note Signed twice by Kentuckian Richard Mentor Johnson, Vice President, alleged killer of Tecumseh
Two Autographs in One
This Autograph Note Signed by former U.S. Vice President Richard Mentor Johnson (1780–1850) doubly complies with the wishes of a young autograph seeker.
Johnson is remembered for being the only vice president elected under the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and for his interracial common-law marriage to Julia Chinn, an octaroon slave.
Johnson, who served under U.S. President Martin Van Buren as the country’s ninth vice president, both signs the note transmitting his autograph and adds his full signature below.
The note was likely written from Johnson’s home in Scott County, Kentucky where he retired after leaving office.
Addressing this note to his “…young friend Marion Tower…,” Johnson writes: “I now give him my autograph with my best wishes for his happiness & prosperity. Rt. M. Johnson of Ky 25th Octr. 1842”
Below this Johnson adds his full autograph signature: “Robert Mentor Johnson.”
Richard Mentor Johnson
Johnson enjoyed a long career of public service. He served first as U.S. Representative from Kentucky, allying himself with fellow Kentuckian, Henry Clay, in favor of war against Great Britain in 1812.
As colonel in the Kentucky militia in the War of 1812, Johnson commanded a regiment of volunteers and participated in the Battle of the Thames (1813). The DAB notes that “...in the fighting he killed an Indian chief, said by some to have been [Shawnee chief] Tecumseh.” Tecumseh’s death led to the crumbling of the Indian coalition. The battle was also a decisive victory for future president William Henry Harrison who commanded the American Army.
Johnson continued to serve in Congress, both in the House and as a Senator, until his election to the U.S. vice presidency. At the time this autograph note was written, Johnson had left national office and was serving in the Kentucky legislature.
From around 1812 on, it is believed that Johnson was the common-law husband of Julia Chinn (c.1790–1833), an octoroon slave and mother of his two daughters. Rumor had it that they were secretly married by a Baptist minister.
Although interracial marriages were illegal in Kentucky, Julia Chinn was respected as the head of Johnson’s household, even serving as hostess during the 1825 visit of the Marquis de Lafayette’s visit to Johnson’s farm.
During Johnson’s absences in Washington, D.C., Chinn managed Johnson’s affairs and saw to it that their two daughters married well-respected white men. The couple’s interracial relationship became a national issue in the election of 1836 at which time a racist cartoon attacking Julia and Democratic vice presidential candidate Johnson appeared in Harper’s Weekly.
Description: [Kentuckian Richard Mentor Johnson, Vice President, alleged killer of Tecumseh, 1842 Autograph Note Signed Twice.]
Likely Scott County, Kentucky, October 25, 1842. p. 12½ x 7½ inches. Autographed and signed twice in the top half of the sheet. One correction in pencil. Transmittal folds, near fine condition.