Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Daniel D. Tompkins (1817-1825)

Daniel D. Tompkins was born in Westchester County, New York, in 1774, and entered Columbia College (now Columbia University) in 1792. He graduated three years later and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1797. Tompkins was a member of the New York state constitutional convention in 1801 and joined the state assembly in 1803. In 1804, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives but resigned before he took his seat to accept an appointment as an associate justice of the New York Supreme Court.

Tompkins was first elected governor of New York in 1807 and was subsequently reelected in 1810, 1813, and 1816, serving until he became vice president in 1817. As governor, he was part of the Democratic-Republican Party. He stressed education and more humane treatment of prisoners. He also strongly supported President James Madison and his decision to fight in the War of 1812. Tompkins organized defenses for his state and used his own money to help fund state militias. Although he was widely praised for his dedication and leadership during the war, his commitment caused him problems in later life.

Initially Tompkins had aspirations to be President but soon realized that he was not widely enough known outside of New York. Still the Democratic-Republicans chose him to serve as vice president to add geographic balance to James Monroe of Virginia. Once in office, Tompkins lacked interest in overseeing the Senate as that body’s president. He missed many sessions, and many people noted his excessive drinking.

During his tenure as vice president, Tompkins exerted much of his time and energy to fight allegations that he had mishandled federal and state funds during the War of 1812. Although Tompkins kept incomplete records and commingled his personal funds with government money, he fought the charges that he had willfully misused public money. He was eventually cleared of wrongdoing, and the government, in fact, paid him a small amount of money. Still saddled with debt and maligned for his drinking, Tompkins left the vice presidency without a political future. He died in 1825, shortly after leaving office.