Moment of Indiana History

Indiana’s Three Day Governor

US Senator and staunch Lincoln supporter Henry S. Lane may be best remembered for his three-day term as Indiana’s thirteenth governor.

Henry Lane's Crawfordsville Home

Photo: archive photo

Henry Lane's Crawfordsville home dates to 1845, and has operated as a museum since 1934.

In November 2012, Hoosier voters elected their state’s 50th governor. Some of the forty-nine men who have served in the office will be remembered for their accomplishments; others have already been consigned to dusty memory. Only Henry S. Lane, however, can lay claim to the unusual fact that he served as governor for three days.

Lane was born in Kentucky in 1811. In 1835, he moved to Crawfordsville, Indiana, and opened a law practice. Lane served Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1840 to 1843; fought as the Lieutenant Colonel of an Indiana regiment in the Mexican War; and was one of the founders of the state’s Republican Party in the 1850s.

In 1860, the party faced a choice for its gubernatorial nominee—Henry Lane or his equally promising rival Oliver Morton. Defeated in the 1856 elections, Republicans wanted to present a united ticket, and a behind-closed-doors deal was struck. Lane would top the state ticket for governor and Morton would run for lieutenant governor. If they were elected and if Republicans gained control of the legislature, Morton would become governor; Lane would be chosen by his party (direct voting for US Senators would not begin until 1913 with the ratification of the 17th Amendment) to serve as U.S. Senator.

Republicans won the governorship and control of the general assembly in 1860, and the state played an important role in the election of Abraham Lincoln as president. On January 14, 1861, Henry Lane gave his inaugural address to state legislators. Like most of his fellow Hoosiers, Lane wanted to preserve the Union, and in his speech he expressed hope that secession could be avoided. Two days later on January 16, Lane resigned as governor and was elected to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Both Senator Lane and now-Governor Oliver Morton would prove to be staunch supporters of Lincoln and his policies during the war years. Lane returned to Crawfordsville in 1867 when his term ended. He was active in the Republican Party until his death in 1881, but he remains best-known in the state’s history for his three-day term as Indiana’s thirteenth governor.

A Moment of Indiana History is a production of WFIU Public Radio in partnership with the Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations. Research support comes from Indiana Magazine of History published by the Indiana University Department of History.

Sources: James A. Woodburn, “Henry Smith Lane,” IMH 27 (Dec. 1931); James E. St. Clair, “Henry S. Lane,” in The Governors of Indiana, Linda Gugin and James St. Clair, eds. (2006).

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