Joseph L. White

Joseph Livingston White was a U.S. Representative from Indiana.


White was born in Cherry Valley, New York, probably in 1813 or 1814, though the exact date is not known. He was educated in Cherry Valley, attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, studied law in Utica, New York, and was admitted to the bar.

After becoming a lawyer, White moved to Madison, Indiana, where he began a practice. He was elected as a Whig to the Twenty-seventh Congress, and served one term, March 4, 1841 to March 3, 1843.

After leaving Congress White moved to New York City, where he practiced law and became involved in several business ventures.

In 1848 he opposed the Whig nomination of slaveholder Zachary Taylor for President, and was a delegate to the convention of antislavery Democrats and Conscience Whigs that formed the Free Soil Party and nominated Martin Van Buren to oppose Taylor and Democratic nominee Lewis Cass.

In the 1850s White was president of a company that included his brother David and Cornelius Vanderbilt, which received a contract from the government of Nicaragua to operate steamships and a railroad between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as constructing a canal between the oceans. To further his business interests, White became a supporter of William Walker's attempt to overthrow Nicaragua's government.

While in Corinto, Nicaragua on January 5, 1861 to lobby for an exclusive contract to produce rubber, he was shot by Jonathan Gavitt, a business rival who was also attempting to receive the rubber production contract. White lingered for several days, but succumbed to his wounds on January 12, 1861. He was interred in the Corinto City Cemetery.

Though testimony indicated that Gavitt asked a servant to retrieve his pistol from his hotel room while he sat with White, and that he aimed deliberately, Gavitt claimed his shooting of White was an accident, and he was acquitted.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Carr
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Thomas Smith
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