Solomon Foot

19 Nov 1802
28 Mar 1866
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Solomon Foot (November 19, 1802 – March 28, 1866) was a United States Senator from Vermont.

Foot was born on November 19, 1802 in Cornwall, Vermont. He was the son of Dr. Solomon and Betsey Crossett Foot, and his family lived across the road from William Slade.

Foot’s father died when he was nine years old, and he worked on local farms to help support his family.

He graduated from Middlebury College in 1826, and also received a master’s degree from Middlebury.

He was a tutor in Middlebury and Burlington, Preceptor of Castleton Academy, and a Professor of natural philosophy at the Vermont Medical School in Castleton.

While teaching he studied law. Foot attained admission to the bar in 1831, afterwards practicing in Rutland.

Foot served in the Vermont House of Representatives in 1833, and was a Delegate to the Vermont State Constitutional Convention in 1836. He served again in the Vermont House from 1836 to 1839, and was Speaker from 1837 to 1839.

He served as Rutland County State’s Attorney from 1836 to 1842.

Foot was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Whig in 1842 and served two terms, 1843 to 1847. As a Congressman Foot opposed extending slavery and the Mexican-American War.

He declined renomination in 1846. Returned to the Vermont House of Representatives, Foot was again chosen to serve as Speaker, holding the post from 1847 to 1848.

Foot was a Delegate to the 1848 Whig National Convention, and was Chairman of the Vermont delegation.

Abbott Lawrence of Massachusetts, who had worked diligently to obtain the Presidential nomination for Zachary Taylor, expected to be the Vice Presidential nominee, counting on the support of Thurlow Weed of New York and the southern delegates who had backed Taylor for the presidential nomination.

Northern and border state delegates, who had backed Henry Clay or Daniel Webster for President, threatened to run a northern Whig candidate in opposition to Taylor unless a northerner other than Lawrence was selected for Vice President.

Other delegates promoted the candidacy of Millard Fillmore of New York because they opposed the efforts of Weed and William H. Seward to control the party in that state. Believing that Weed was working to install Seward as Secretary of State in a Taylor administration, they backed Fillmore for Vice President.

In an era when the President, Vice President and cabinet were expected to reflect geographic balance, if Fillmore became Vice President, another New Yorker (Seward) could not be expected to claim a place in the cabinet.

Foot went to the convention as a supporter of Lawrence. Recognizing that the Whigs would likely collapse if Lawrence was nominated and northern delegates left the party, Foot agreed to support Fillmore. Lawrence’s support eroded, and on the first ballot Fillmore had 115 votes and Lawrence 109.

Fillmore won the nomination on the second ballot, and the ticket of Taylor and Fillmore went on to win the election.

Foot was elected to the United States Senate as a Whig in 1850. He became a Republican at the party’s founding and was reelected to the Senate in 1856 and 1862. He served from March 4, 1851, until his death.

In early 1861 Foot met the Vermont delegates to the Peace Conference which attempted to prevent the start of the American Civil War, sharing with them his view that the conference was a sham by secessionists who hoped to obtain additional time to plan for the withdrawal of their states from the Union.

Foot was also Chairman of the Senate committee responsible for the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in 1861.

Foot served as the Senate’s President pro tempore from 1861 to 1864. Because Vice President Hannibal Hamlin was often absent, Foot usually presided over the Senate during the war, and he was commended for his tact and fairness.

He was Chairman of the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds from 1861 until his death. In this capacity, he oversaw completion of construction on the United States Capitol.

Foot died on March 28, 1866, in Washington, D.C. Funeral services were held in the Chamber of the United States Senate.He is interred at Evergreen Cemetery, Rutland, Vermont.

Foot was a Trustee of Middlebury College and the University of Vermont. He received an honorary LL.D. degree from Middlebury in 1857.

Foot was married in 1839 to Emily Fay of Rutland. They had one daughter, Helen Eliza Foot. Emily died on May 2, 1842.

His second wife was Mary A. (Hodges) Dana Foot, who had a son, William Hodges Dana.

Foot’s brother, Jonathan (born October 31, 1804), graduated from Vermont Medical College in 1829. He settled in Whitby, Ontario, Canada, where he practiced medicine.

Solomon Foot’s mother lived with him in Rutland until her death in 1845.

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