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John Breckinridge (1805–1806) - Attorney General

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John Breckinridge was born in Augusta County, Virginia, on December 2, 1760, and received his education at William and Mary College. Breckinridge enjoyed an auspicious beginning to his political career, becoming the youngest elected member ever of the Virginia House of Burgesses at nineteen years of age (1780).Following a brief stay in the Virginia militia during the Revolutionary War and a decade of distinguished law practice, Breckinridge served as attorney general of Kentucky (1795-1797). He was elected to the Kentucky State House of Representatives (1798-1800), acting as Speaker in 1799 and 1800, and was a member of the state constitutional convention in 1799. His reputation firmly established, Breckinridge gained a seat in the United States Senate, serving from 1801 to 1805.

Breckinridge's senatorial career came to an end when he was appointed to President Thomas Jefferson's cabinet, assuming the duties of U.S. attorney general in 1805. Breckinridge died the next year, on December 14, 1806, near Lexington, Kentucky.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Peter Onuf

Professor Onuf is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Professor of History at the University of Virginia. His writings include:

Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood (University Press of Virginia, 2001)

Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance (Indiana University Press, 1987)

Origins of the Federal Republic: Jurisdictional Controversies in the United States, 1775–1787 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983)