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Lyman Trumbull (October 12, 1813 – June 25, 1896) was a United States Senator from Illinoismarker during the American Civil War, and co-author of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Education and early career

Trumbull was born in Colchester, Connecticutmarker, the son of historian Benjamin Trumbull. He attended Bacon Academy and was a school teacher from 1829 to 1833. At 20, he was head of an academy in Georgia. After studying law, he was admitted to the bar and practiced in Greenville, Georgiamarker until moving to Belleville, Illinoismarker in 1837.

Elected office

By 1840, he was serving in the Illinois House of Representatives, and he served as Illinois Secretary of State from 1841-1843. From 1848 to 1853 he was a justice on the Supreme Court of Illinoismarker. Although elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1854, he was elected to serve in the United States Senate before he could take his seat. He served from 1855 through 1873, during which time he claimed party affiliations with the Democrats, the Republicans, the Liberal Republicans, and finally the Democrats again. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee (1861-1872), he co-authored the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibited all kinds of slavery in the United States.

Johnson impeachment trial

During President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial, Trumbull and six other Republican senators were disturbed by how the proceedings had been manipulated in order to give a one-sided presentation of the evidence. Trumbull, in particular, noted:

"Once set the example of impeaching a President for what, when the excitement of the hour shall have subsided, will be regarded as insufficient causes, as several of those now alleged against the President were decided to be by the House of Representatives only a few months since, and no future President will be safe who happens to differ with a majority of the House and two-thirds of the Senate on any measure deemed by them important, particularly if of a political character. Blinded by partisan zeal, with such an example before them, they will not scruple to remove out of the way any obstacle to the accomplishment of their purposes, and what then becomes of the checks and balances of the Constitution, so carefully devised and so vital to its perpetuity? They are all gone."

All seven broke party ranks and defied public opinion, voting for acquittal in a principled act of political suicide. None was reelected.


Lyman Trumbull
During the December 1871 congressional debate on the creation of Yellowstone National Parkmarker, Senator Trumbull, whose son Walter Trumbull was a member of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition to Yellowstone in 1870, made this impassioned statement in support of the park idea:

"Here is a region of the country away up in the Rocky Mountains, where there are the most wonderful geysers on the face of the earth; a country that is not likely ever to be inhabited for the purpose of agriculture; but it is possible that some person may go there and plant himself right across the only path that leads to the wonders, and charge every man that passes along between the gorges of these mountains a fee of a dollar or five dollars. He may place an obstruction there and toll may be gathered from every person who goes to see these wonders of creation."

Later career

In 1873, Trumbull set up a law practice in Chicagomarker and remained in private practice except for a brief period when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor (as a Democrat) in 1880. He became a Populist in 1894, and defended the railway strikers in Chicago in the same year.


During his explorations in the west John Wesley Powell named Mt. Trumbull (and now the Mt.marker Trumbull Wildernessmarker) in northwestern Arizonamarker after the senator. The Lyman Trumbull Housemarker is a National Historic Landmark.


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