Richard Mentor Johnson

Vice President to Martin Van Buren, 1837-1841


Richard Mentor Johnson, lithograph on paper by Charles Fenderich, 1840. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the Library of Congress. Accessed April 6, 2022.

See Thomas Brown White, “The Miscegenation of Richard Mentor Johnson as an Issue in the National Election Campaign of 1835-1836.” Civil War History, vol. 39 no. 1, 1993, p. 5-30.

American men of the antebellum era abhorred few, if any, things more than the danger of an ‘amalgamation’ of their race with African Americans through interracial sexual relations. But their concerns about miscegenation between whites and blacks were usually not a major factor in national politics. However, in the election of 1836, the Democratic candidate for vice president was Representative Richard Mentor Johnson of Kentucky, who was revealed to be a “practical amalgamator.” The opposition to the Democrats — an assortment of Antimasons, Whigs, and disaffected Democrats supporting three presidential candidates in different parts of the country — exploited Johnson’s candidacy to make the menace of amalgamation into a national political issue. (5)