Amos Kendall

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Amos Kendall

Amos Kendall (1789-1869), American journalist and politician, was postmaster general under President Jackson and a leading member of his "Kitchen Cabinet."

Amos Kendall was born in Dunstable, Mass., on Aug. 16, 1789. As a child, he worked long hours on his father's farm, attending the free public schools when he could. He graduated at the head of his class from Dartmouth College in 1811. He studied law for 2 years but, undecided about his future, traveled to Kentucky and spent a year as tutor in the family of Henry Clay. In 1816 he became editor of the Argus of Western America in Frankfort, Ky., demonstrating exceptional journalistic ability. He married Mary B. Woolfolk in 1818; she died in 1823, and in 1826 he married Jane Kyle.

In 1828 Kendall switched allegiance from Clay to work effectively for the election of Andrew Jackson. Following Jackson's victory Kendall went to Washington, D.C., to become fourth auditor of the Treasury. More importantly, he became the President's intimate adviser. He proved an able administrator and in 1834 became postmaster general, holding office until 1840.

Kendall suffered financial reverses in the early 1840s. He had founded an unsuccessful paper, Kendall's Expositor, and became tangled in litigation over earlier disputes with mail contractors. He was found guilty of refusal to pay debts, but he was exonerated in his appeal to the Supreme Court. In 1845 Kendall's fortunes improved. He was engaged as business manager by Samuel F. B. Morse to exploit Morse's newly invented telegraph, and during the next 15 years both men made fortunes.

Kendall retired in 1860 to live out his life as a philanthropist, contributing mainly to churches and establishing an institution for the deaf and dumb. He remained a Democrat during the Civil War but supported the Union. He died on Nov. 12, 1869.

Kendall's importance to American history rests on his labors as Jackson's assistant and his influence upon both the form and substance of Jacksonian Democracy. He wrote most of the President's annual addresses and drafted Jackson's veto of the bill to recharter the Second Bank of the United States. He also produced much of the newspaper material that appeared throughout the country to build support for Jackson's programs. Kendall left his mark upon American society in a crucial period of its development.

Further Reading

Kendall's son-in-law, William Stickney, edited the Autobiography of Amos Kendall (1872), which has much material on his life. Descriptions of Kendall and his work are in the writings of his contemporaries, such as that of journalist Ben Perley Poore, Perley's Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis (2 vols., 1886). Information on him is available in the voluminous literature on the Jacksonians. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., analyzes Kendall's career and influence in The Age of Jackson (1949). □

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Amos Kendall (kĕn´dəl), 1789–1869, American journalist and statesman, b. Dunstable, Middlesex co., Mass. He edited (1816–29) at Frankfort, Ky., the Argus of Western America, one of the most influential Western papers of the day. At first a supporter of Henry Clay, he shifted allegiance to Andrew Jackson and helped to build Jackson's political strength. In 1829 he went to Washington, D.C., and was appointed by President Jackson fourth auditor of the Treasury. His real importance was as one of the ablest and most influential members of the Kitchen Cabinet—a group of intimate advisers to President Jackson. He helped draft many of Jackson's more important state papers, was chief counselor to Jackson in the controversy over rechartering the Bank of the United States, and vigorously defended administration policies in the newspapers. He was appointed (1835) U.S. Postmaster General by Jackson, and he remained at the post under President Van Buren, thoroughly reorganizing a badly managed department. He became (1845) business manager for Samuel F. B. Morse and played an important role in the development of telegraph service. Kendall opposed secession and urged vigorous prosecution of the war against the South, although he was often critical of President Lincoln's policies.

See his autobiography, ed. by his son-in-law, William Stickney (1872, repr. 1949).