First governor of Indiana; Democratic-Republican
Served: Nov. 7, 1816-Sept. 12, 1822
Born: 1784; Hunterdon Co., N.J.
Hometown: Charlestown, Ind.
Died: July 26, 1834 (age 49-50); buried in Charlestown
Other offices held: Territorial delegate to Congress, 1809-1816; president of Indiana constitutional convention, 1816; U.S. Rep., 1822-1831
Accomplishments: As the first governor, Jennings began the process of making Indiana a full-fledged state by establishing a court system, organizing public schools, creating a state bank and planning road and other infrastructure improvements.
He was not entirely successful due to Indiana's limited financial resources and Hoosier opposition to taxes.
A slavery opponent, Jennings persuaded state lawmakers to prohibit the seizure of free black Hoosiers to sell into slavery, but he also endorsed heavy fines for people caught helping slaves escape to freedom in Indiana.
Lt. Gov. Christopher Harrison attempted to depose Jennings in 1818 after the governor was appointed by President James Madison to negotiate a land relinquishment treaty with the Miami Indians on behalf of the federal government. Harrison claimed the state constitution prohibited the governor from simultaneously holding federal office, and thus Jennings vacated his post.
The Legislature refused to consider the matter, and Jennings defeated Harrison in 1819 to win a second three-year term.
He resigned shortly before his term expired after being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he supported federal funding to improve roads and river navigation through Indiana.