Herschel Vespasian Johnson

For the United States Ambassador to Brazil, see Herschel Johnson.
Herschel Vespasian Johnson
Confederate States Senator
from Georgia
In office
January 19, 1863  May 10, 1865
Preceded by John Lewis
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
41st Governor of Georgia
In office
November 9, 1853  November 6, 1857
Preceded by Howell Cobb
Succeeded by Joseph Brown
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
February 4, 1848  March 3, 1849
Preceded by Walter Colquitt
Succeeded by William Dawson
Personal details
Born (1812-09-18)September 18, 1812
Burke County, Georgia, US
Died August 16, 1880(1880-08-16) (aged 67)
Louisville, Georgia, US
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ann Polk Walker
Alma mater University of Georgia

Herschel Vespasian Johnson (September 18, 1812  August 16, 1880) was an American politician. He was the 41st Governor of Georgia from 1853 to 1857 and the Vice Presidential nominee of the Douglas wing of the Democratic Party in the 1860 US presidential election.

Early life

Johnson was born near Farmer's Bridge in Burke County, Georgia. In 1834, he graduated from the University of Georgia. He then studied at the private law school of Judge William T. Gould in Augusta, Georgia and was admitted to the bar. He moved to Jefferson County in 1839 and began to practice law in Louisville, Georgia. In 1844, he moved to the state capitol, Milledgville, and continued to practice law.

Political life

Herschel V. Johnson around the time he ran for Vice President.

He unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1843. In 1844 he was a presidential elector, and cast his ballot for James K. Polk and George M. Dallas. He ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 1847, and lost the Democratic nomination to George W. Towns; Towns won the general election, and in 1848 he appointed Johnson to the United States Senate seat vacated by the resignation of Walter T. Colquitt. Johnson served from February 4, 1848 to March 3, 1849, but was not a candidate for election to the seat. He returned to Georgia and served as a circuit court judge from 1849 to 1853. In 1853, he was elected Governor of Georgia, then re-elected in 1855. After he finished his term as governor in 1857,[1] Johnson County, Georgia was named in his honor. In 1860, when the Democratic Party refused to add the support of extending slavery to the western territories to its platform, the party split. To try to recapture some southern votes, Johnson was chosen as the northern Democrats' nominee as the running mate of presidential candidate Stephen A. Douglas.[2]

He was also a slave owner. In 1840, he owned 34 slaves in Jefferson County, Georgia.[3] In 1850, he owned 7 slaves in Milledgeville, Georgia.[4] He also owned 60 additional slaves in Jefferson County, Georgia.[5] In 1860, he owned 115 slaves in Jefferson County, Georgia.[6]

Civil War

In 1861 he served as a delegate to the state secession convention, and opposed secession from the Union. When it became clear that Georgia would secede, however, he acquiesced out of loyalty to his state and served as a Senator of the Second Confederate Congress from 1862 to the end of the war in 1865. In the Confederate Senate, he opposed conscription and the suspension of habeas corpus. After the Civil War, Johnson was a leader in the Reconstruction and was named head of the Georgia constitutional convention. Upon Georgia's readmission to the Union in 1866, he was chosen as a U.S. Senator, but was disallowed from serving due to his allegiance to the Confederate States of America. He again became a circuit court judge in 1873 and served until his death in 1880 in Louisville, Georgia.

See also


  1. Dixon, David T. (Fall 2010). "Augustus R. Wright and the Loyalty of the Heart". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 94 (3). Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  2. Wortman, Marc (2009). The Bonfire : The Siege and Burning of Atlanta. New York: PublicAffairs. p. 94. ISBN 9781586484828. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  3. 1840 United States Census, United States Census, 1840; District 85, Jefferson, Georgia;. Retrieved on 6 March 2016.
  4. "1850 United States Census, Slave Schedules", United States Census, 1850; Milledgeville, Baldwin, Georgia;. Retrieved on 6 March 2016.
  5. "1850 United States Census, Slave Schedules", United States Census, 1850; District 48, Jefferson, Georgia;. Retrieved on 6 March 2016.
  6. "1860 United States Census, Slave Schedules", United States Census, 1860; District 85, Jefferson, Georgia; page 464-465,. Retrieved on 6 March 2016.
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