Ephraim H. Foster

Ephraim H. Foster, United States senator and early leader of the Whig Party, was born in Kentucky. Foster came to Davidson County with his family in 1797 and graduated from Cumberland College in Nashville in 1813. After serving as Andrew Jackson's personal secretary on the Creek and New Orleans campaigns, Foster studied law and soon established himself as a successful Nashville attorney. His prominence as a lawyer helped him win election to three terms in the Tennessee General Assembly; twice he was unanimously chosen as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Foster began his political career as a Jackson loyalist, but his disagreement with Jackson's fiscal policies, along with the president's opposition to Foster's 1833 candidacy for the Senate, led to his advocacy of Senator Hugh L. White's presidential candidacy in 1836 against Jackson's choice, Martin Van Buren. As the White movement developed into the Whig Party, Whigs in the legislature elected Foster to the U.S. Senate in 1838. He resigned fourteen months later, however, after a newly elected Democratic majority in the assembly instructed him to support the policies of Van Buren's administration. Despite the election of a Whig majority in 1841, the “Immortal Thirteen” controversy delayed Foster's return to the Senate until 1843. His most noted action in the Senate was his introduction of a plan for the admission of Texas as a state, but he ultimately voted against Texas's admission because the admission law failed to guarantee slavery in any new state that might be created out of Texas's lands. This vote damaged his popularity, and after the expiration of his term, his loss to Aaron V. Brown in the 1845 gubernatorial election further diminished his standing. As a result, Foster had little influence in his later years with either the state or national Whig leadership.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Ephraim H. Foster
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date May 23, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018