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Name:    Benton, Thomas Hart
Profession:  Politician
Category:  St. Louis and the West
Born/Started:    1782
Died/Ended:    1858
Description:    In the early party of the 19th century, Thomas Hart Benton was was one of the most powerful and influential men in the country. Named as one of the first U.S. senators from Missouri, he worked to set up the Pony Express, the telegraph, interior highways, the opening of the Oregon and Santa Fe Trails, and the and transcontinental railroads.

Senator Benton was born on March 14, 1782, in Harts Mill, NC. In 1799, he moved his family to a 40,000 acre tract near Nashville, bequeathed to him by his father, and set to work building a plantation, roads, mills, a school, and other buildings necessary to the town he founded there. Meanwhile, he finished his studies, was admitted to the Tennessee bar, and was soon active in state politics and military affairs. In the War of 1812, he raised a regiment of volunteers and served on the staff of future president General Andrew Jackson.

By 1815 he was settled in St. Louis, active in law and politics and editor of the Missouri Enquirer. When the famous Missouri Compromise of 1820 admitted Missouri to the Union, he was elected senator. He would subsequently be re-elected five times, becoming the first man to serve 30 years in the U.S. Senate. For most of those years, he virtually controlled Missouri as the "grand old man" of the Democratic Party. The development of the West was his greatest passion, and he focused his efforts on projects important to western interests. Senator Benton helped establish a liberal system of land distribution that discouraged speculators but enabled honest settlers to purchase public lands at low prices. When Andrew Jackson became president, Senator Benton supported his campaign against the United States Bank and paper currency, thereby acquiring his popular nickname, "Old Bullion."

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