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Nashville in Davidson County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

John Bell

1796 - 1869

 

— Congressman, U.S. Senator, 1860 U.S. Presidential candidate, iron industry entrepreneur —

 
John Bell Marker image. Click for full size.
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, February 7, 2021
1. John Bell Marker
Inscription.  Though largely forgotten today, John Bell was one of the last great American statesmen. He was born in Davidson County in 1796, the year Tennessee became a state. Bell was elected to the U.S. Congress defeating Felix Grundy, Bell's service, beginning in 1827, was the first of seven congressional terms. Bell's 1829 speech against the Cumberland Road bill was one of his best. He correctly denied the constitutionality of internal improvements paid by the U.S. government. The Constitution, Article I, Section 7, only permits the U.S. government to construct post roads. Bell could see that if the U.S. Constitution was not strictly interpreted, it was a “delusion.” Northern states increasingly looked to the U.S. government to pay for internal improvements. Most U.S. revenue was derived from tariffs on Southern trade with Great Britain and France. The fact that Northern states were the voting majority did not alter the fact that the Constitution was designed to protect the minority, which in this case, was the minority of states correctly adhering to the strict interpretation that such improvements were unconstitutional. Bell could see a
John Bell Marker image. Click for full size.
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, February 7, 2021
2. John Bell Marker
majority rule democracy was destructive to the union of free states. His appeal for “a great constitutional party” was prophetic.

In 1860, the Constitutional Union party was organized, and John Bell was its candidate for the U.S. presidency. Bell finished second in popular votes, to John Breckinridge, in the Southern States. Bell won Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. Lincoln was not on the ballot in Tennessee or nine other Southern states, yet won the election with 42% of the total vote. His election triggered the secession of seven states. Lincoln was inaugurated in March 1861. Bell visited him and had the impression he would do nothing to provoke war. Bell returned to Nashville in April and was dismayed to learn Lincoln had ordered U.S. forces to resupply Fort Sumter. The fort was important as the U.S. intended to collect tariffs in Charleston, After the fort was fired on, Lincoln unconstitutionally ordered troops to invade the seceding states. Most Tennessee voters, including Bell, had voted against a secession convention on February 9th. The call for troops changed opinions overnight. A 70% majority, including Bell, voted to secede June 8th.

After U.S. forces invaded Tennessee, Bell and his wife fled to Alabama and later Georgia. He could not return to Nashville as he would have been imprisoned. An unconstitutional oath of allegiance to the U.S.
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might have brought release, but would have been unethical to Bell. Post-bellum the Bells returned and worked to rebuild their iron foundry in Stewart County.
 
Erected by General Joseph E. Johnston Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Cemeteries & Burial SitesGovernment & PoliticsWar, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Sons of Confederate Veterans/United Confederate Veterans series list.
 
Location. 36° 8.948′ N, 86° 44.083′ W. Marker is in Nashville, Tennessee, in Davidson County. Marker can be reached from Lebanon Pike. Marker is in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1101 Lebanon Pike, Nashville TN 37210, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Adolphus Heiman (within shouting distance of this marker); Hylan Leitus Rosser (within shouting distance of this marker); Thomas Benton Smith (within shouting distance of this marker); Mary Elizabeth Bradford Johns (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Mary Kate Patterson Davis Hill Kyle (about 300 feet away); William Brimage Bate (about 300 feet away); Caroline Meriwether Goodlett
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(about 300 feet away); Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Nashville.
 
More about this marker. Marker is part of Mt. Olivet Confederate Memorial Hall Trail.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 8, 2021. It was originally submitted on February 7, 2021, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 28 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on February 7, 2021, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
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Mar. 7, 2021