Tompkins, Daniel D. (b Fox Meadow [now Scarsdale, Westchester Co], 21 June 1774; d Tompkinsville, Richmond Co, 11 June 1825).
Governor and US vice president. Later known as the “farmer’s boy,” he was the son of Sarah Ann Hyatt and Jonathan Griffin Tompkins, a landowning Westchester Co farmer and patriot leader. After attending the Academy of North Salem, Tompkins was admitted to Columbia College as a sophomore and graduated as valedictorian in 1795. Two years later he was admitted to the bar and in 1798 married Hannah Minthorne, daughter of Mangle Minthorne, a wealthy Republican merchant and Tammany leader, whose influence contributed to Tompkins’s early political success.
Tompkins subsequently filled positions of increasing responsibility, including federal commissioner of bankruptcy (1800), member of the Constitutional Convention of 1801, assemblyman (1803), and member of the New York State Supreme Court (1804–7). Tompkins was elected governor in 1807, when he ran for the Clintonian sector of the Republican Party and defeated the incumbent Morgan Lewis. Tompkins, an ingratiating man who paid little heed to social distinctions, proved an ideal and enduring candidate. Subsequently he overcame three Federalist contenders: Jonas Platt (1810), Stephen Van Rensselaer (1813), and Rufus King (1816).
Though the Jeffersonian-backed Embargo of 1807 proved unpopular in New York State, Tompkins supported the Virginian-dominated tompkins, daniel d. 1564 tompkins county national party leadership while pushing for statewide reforms that attested a benevolent concern for poorer New Yorkers.He opposed the death penalty and condemned whipping as a punishment for petit larceny, a penalty that was dropped when the state’s laws were revised in 1813. The report of a commission that he appointed in 1811 led to the passage of laws that laid the foundations for a statewide education system reaching down to the town and school district level. Pointing out the cost and inadequacy of care for the mentally ill in rural areas, Tompkins also won legislation that enabled town officers to send individuals to New York Hospital in New York City. In 1817, at his request, the legislature rounded out New York State’s gradual emancipation statutes by providing that all slaves born before 4 July 1799 be freed by 4 July 1827. Mindful of the need for American Indian support in the event of hostilities with Great Britain, Tompkins tried, with little lasting success, to protect Iroquois property and land in New York State. In 1812, charging that lobbyists corrupted state legislators to vote for incorporating the Bank of America, he prorogued the state legislature for 55 days. Though the delay did not prevent the eventual chartering of the Bank of America, it did frustrate De Witt Clinton’s supporters in the legislature, who could not nominate him for president in a legislative caucus before Congress renominated James Madison, whom Tompkins supported. The breach between Tompkins and Clinton, long chafing under the governor’s popularity and deference to the Virginia leadership, had become complete.
Tompkins also proved a dedicated war governor, who sought to strengthen both the fortifications protecting New York City and the militia defending the state’s northern and western borders.
After the burning of Washington, DC, in 1814, a prowar legislature gave Tompkins the measures for which he called, including the order to raise 12,000 militia. Placed in command of the federal military district encompassing New York City, Tompkins took charge of its defenses and personally guaranteed defense loans. His gubernatorial war efforts prompted Madison to offer Tompkins the post of secretary of state in September 1814, a position he declined.
Later that year Tompkins was thrown from his horse while inspecting a Brooklyn Heights fort. He sustained injuries that likely impaired his health and judgment and perhaps contributed to his subsequent drinking problem.
After his 1816 electoral victory, Tompkins sought national prominence. Though New York State’s choice in the 1816 presidential contest, he wound up James Monroe’s vice president and surrendered the governorship, now easily taken by his rival Clinton. Tompkins, careless about money and now heavily in debt because of his investments in Staten Island real estate and transportation projects, eagerly sought recompense for his wartime financial services to New York State, which included personally backing loans, raising money, and handling government securities. Clintonians, under attack by their Bucktail foes and given scant patronage by the Monroe administration, in 1819 launched a pamphlet assault led by State Comptroller Archibald McIntyre, who denied the integrity of Tompkins’s financial accounts and sought to refute the vice president’s claim that the state owed him about $130,000. In spite of Martin Van Buren’s efforts to dissuade him, Tompkins accepted the Bucktail Republican nomination for governor in 1820. Narrowly defeated by Clinton but reelected vice president, Tompkins presided over the Bucktail-ordained Constitutional Convention of 1821. There he left a somewhat tangled record of support for modest changes, including the broadening of franchise for white males, the vesting of executive veto power in a vaguely defined council, and the retention of existing legislation to free slaves. Because of financial problems and frail health, Tompkins presided over the US Senate only for brief periods during 1819, 1822 and 1823, and 1824.
Meanwhile he struggled to hold on to his Staten Island home and farm. Some of the financial relief he continued to seek came from New York State legislation in 1821 and from federal legislation in 1824, two years after a federal court endorsed his claims against the United States. Out of office and drinking ever more heavily, he soon died at his Staten Island home.
Hammond, Jabez D. The History of Political Parties in
the State of New-York from the Ratification of the Federal
Constitution to December, 1840, 2 vols (Albany:
Van Benthuysen, 1842)
Irwin, Ray W. Daniel D. Tompkins: Governor of New York and Vice President of the United States (New York: New-York Historical Society, 1968)
Craig and Mary L. Hanyan
Peter Eisenstadt, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York State
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), [p. 1563-64].
© Syracuse University Press. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.