This portrait of Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858 ) hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
Thomas Hart Benton was a major political figure in the antebellum period, serving as a Democratic senator from Missouri for thirty years. Politically, Benton helped implement "manifest destiny" with his wholehearted support of national expansion. He wrote in 1818; In a few years the Rocky Mountains "will be passed and the children of Adam will have marched west to the Pacific." To fulfill
this vision of America as a new Eden, Benton promoted homesteading, the western railroad, the Pony Express, annexation, and other measures. But his career foundered on the issue of slavery. A believer in the Union and an opponent of slavery, he voted against the Compromise of 1850, which deferred conflict on the slavery issue. Benton's intransigence outraged the Missouri legislature, and they replaced him with a proslavery Whig in 1850.-- National Portrait Gallery