118 years ago today in 1896, William Hayden English died. English was a notable Hoosier politician, businessman, and author. English was born in Lexington, Scott County, Indiana on August 27, 1822. During his twenties, he worked in local and state politics, and held a federal appointment in DC. He won election to Congress in 1852 as a Democrat, and served in the House from 1853-1861. He is most remembered in his congressional career for authoring the controversial compromise measure known as the English Bill. In an attempt to politically resolve the violence in “Bleeding Kansas,” English’s bill offered federal lands to Kansans if they would ratify the pro-slavery, Lecompton constitution. Kansas voters rejected this compromise.
English chose not to run for re-election in 1860, and returned to Indiana. He settled in Indianapolis, and engaged in banking. Although a Democrat, he did support the policies of Morton and Lincoln during the Civil War. English re-emerged as a political candidate in 1880, when the Democratic National Convention nominated him as candidate for Vice President of the United States. Democratic Presidential nominee Winfield Scott Hancock, and English narrowly lost the election to James A. Garfield.
English had an incredible personal fortune, and financed the construction of two Indianapolis landmarks in the 1880s. The famous English Hotel, and English’s Opera House.
You can read more contemporary accounts about English in Chronicling America. Including checking out some of his obituaries linked in this post.