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LYON, Matthew



LYON, Matthew, (father of Chittenden Lyon, great–grandfather of William Peters Hepburn), a Representative from Vermont and from Kentucky; born near Dublin, County Wicklow, Ireland, July 14, 1749; attended school in Dublin; began to learn the trade of printer in 1763; immigrated to the United States in 1765; was landed as a redemptioner and worked on a farm in Woodbury, Conn., where he continued his education; moved to Wallingford, Vt. (then known as the New Hampshire Grants), in 1774 and organized a company of militia; served as adjutant in Colonel Warner's regiment in Canada in 1775; commissioned second lieutenant in the regiment known as the Green Mountain Boys in July 1776; moved to Arlington, Vt., in 1777; resigned from the Army in 1778; member of the Vermont state house of representatives, 1779-1783; founded the town of Fair Haven, Vt., in 1783; was a member of the State house of representatives for ten years during the period 1783-1796; built and operated various kinds of mills, including one for the manufacture of paper; established a printing office in 1793 and published the Farmers' Library, afterward the Fair Haven Gazette; unsuccessful candidate for election to the Second and Third Congresses; unsuccessfully contested the election of Israel Smith to the Fourth Congress; elected as a Republican to the Fifth and Sixth Congresses (March 4, 1797-March 3, 1801); was not a candidate for renomination in 1800; convicted on October 9, 1798, of violating the Sedition Act of 1798; sentenced to Vergennes, Vt. city prison; moved to Kentucky in 1801 and settled in Caldwell (now Lyon) County; member of the house of representatives of Kentucky in 1802; elected to the Eighth and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1803-March 3, 1811); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1810 to the Twelfth Congress; was appointed United States factor to the Cherokee Nation in Arkansas Territory in 1820; unsuccessfully contested the election of James W. Bates as a Delegate from Arkansas Territory to the Seventeenth Congress; died in Spadra Bluff, Ark., August 1, 1822; interment in Spadra Bluff Cemetery; reinterment in Eddyville Cemetery, Eddyville, Caldwell (now Lyon) County, Ky., in 1833.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Vermont Historical Society

Montpelier, VT
Papers: 1777-1923, 0.5 linear foot. This collection includes five books, three of which were printed by James Lyon and two of which are about Matthew Lyon, and five folders of documents related to the lives of Matthew and James Lyon. Papers include: a bill of sale for a forge and related equipment signed by Matthew Lyon; both an original and a typed copy of a letter from Matthew Lyon to Andrew Selden, Esq. of Bennington, Vermont, in which Matthew criticizes the Sedition Acts and enumerates the reasons that the approaching war with England is a mistake; a photostat of Matthew Lyon's Revolutionary War pension file; a receipt for lottery tickets printed by James Lyon; and a copy of the Report of the Judiciary Committee of the 23rd U.S. Congress, in which the committee overturned Matthew Lyon's conviction under the Alien and Sedition Acts as unconstitutional, and refunded the fine levied against him to his heirs.
Papers: 1790-1850, 3 folders. This collection contains photocopies and transcriptions of 23 letters from Matthew Lyon of Vermont and Kentucky, or letters that are in some way related to Matthew Lyon, during the period 1790-1850. They were collected and transcribed by Mildred Rodgers Tandy of Marietta, Georgia. Many of the original letters are held by the Massachusetts Historical Society and the New-York Historical Society. One of the most frequent correspondents is Albert Gallatin.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

Springfield, IL
Papers: In the John Messinger papers, 1797-1878, 0.42 linear foot. Letters from Matthew Lyon (17) discuss the new territorial government and appointment of a governor, mail contracts, Illinois statehood, bounty lands in Illinois, trading in Arkansas, and Messinger's appointment as surveyor in Illinois.

Arkansas History Commission

Little Rock, AR
Papers: 1934, 2 items. The material relates to Matthew Lyon.

Boston Public Library

Boston, MA
Papers: 2 letters.

Detroit Public Library
Burton Historical Collection

Detroit, MI
Papers: In Benjamin Franklin Hawkins Witherell papers, 1781-1924. 5 volumes and 2 boxes. Includes leases, deeds, and other papers (1781-1797) of Lyon.

Filson Club Historical Society

Louisville, KY
Papers: In the Charles Lanman collection. Autobiographical or biographical sketch. Unpublished finding aid in repository.

George Washington Mount Vernon
Fred W. Smith National Library

Mount Vernon, VA
Papers: 1798, 3 pages. A letter from George Washington to Alexander White written on March 1, 1798. In the letter, Washington thanks him for passing on information about the memorial before Congress and debates concerning the "disgraceful topic" occupying House of Representatives [Representative Matthew Lyon's attack on Rep. Roger Griswold] -- he decries party feuds -- mentions trouble with France and how he had hoped they would unify Congress -- asks White what the general opinion of Col. Monroe's "view of the Conduct of the Executive of the United States" is.

Kentucky Historical Society
Special Collections

Frankfort, KY
Papers: 1813, 1 item. This letter, written at Eddyville, Kentucky, March 23, 1813, was sent by Matthew Lyon to Governor Isaac Shelby concerning protection of white settlers in that area. Lyon wrote this letter to Shelby seeking a guard in the area near the Cumberland River due to the settlers' alarm over the proximity of the Creek and Chickasaw Indians. He also complained that the state of Tennessee afforded greater protection to its citizens in the area than did Kentucky. Lyon wanted a share of the militia called out south of the Green River to be employed on the Kentucky side of the state line.

New-York Historical Society

New York, NY
Papers: 1795-1818. 14 letters. Finding aid in repository.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Austin, Aleine. Matthew Lyon: "New Man" of the Democratic Revolution, 1749-1822. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1981.

"Battle of the Wooden Sword." Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin 27 (January 1962): 28-32.

Campbell, Thom Walter. Two fighters and Two Fines; Sketches of the Lives of Matthew Lyon and Andrew Jackson. Little Rock, Ark.: Pioneer Publishing Company, 1941.

Carey, James. [Geoffrey Touchstone, pseud.] The House of Wisdom in a Bustle: A poem descriptive of the noted battle lately fought in Congress. Philadelphia: Printed for the author, 1798.

Fox, Loyal Stephen. "Colonel Matthew Lyon, Biographical and Genealogical Notes." Vermont Quarterly 12 (July 1944): 163-80.

Gragg, Larry. "Ragged Mat, The Democrat." American History Illustrated 12 (May 1977): 20-25.

Herrick, Hudee Z. "Matthew Lyon, The Vermont Years." Master's thesis, University of Vermont, 1952.

Kennedy, William Pierce. Matthew Lyon Cast the Deciding Vote which Elected Thomas Jefferson President in 1801. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1942.

Mayo, Bernard. "The Lyon of Democracy." North American Review 244 (Winter 1937/1938): 251-69.

McLaughlin, J. Fairfax. Matthew Lyon, the Hampden of Congress. New York: Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., 1900.

Montagno, George L. "Growing Pains of the New Republic; Congressional Cakewalk." William and Mary Quarterly 17 (July 1960): 345-49.

------. "Matthew Lyon's Last Frontier." Arkansas Historical Quarterly 16 (Spring 1957): 46-53.

------. "Matthew Lyon, Radical Jeffersonian, 1796-1801: A Case Study in Partisan Politics." Ph.D. diss., University of California-Berkeley, 1954.

U. S. Congress. House. The Testimony given before a Committee of the Whole of the House of Representatives of the United States, in relation to a report of their Committee of Privileges, on the 5th, 6th, and 8th of February 1798. Philadelphia: Joseph Gales, printer, 1798.

United States. Congress. House. Committee of Elections. Report of the Committee of Elections, to whom was referred the petition of Matthew Lyon, of the State of Vermont, complaining of an undue election and return of Israel Smith, to serve as a member of the House of Representatives, for the said state, in the fourth Congress of the United States: 27th January 1796, read, and Wednesday next assigned for consideration: 4th February 1796, farther consideration postponed until Monday next. [Philadelphia: Printed by Francis Childs, 1796].

White, Pliny H. (Pliny Holton). The life and services of Matthew Lyon. An address pronounced October 29, 1858, before the Vermont Historical Society, in the presence of the General Assembly of Vermont. Burlington: Times Job Office Print, 1858.

Williams, Robert P. By the Bulls that Redamed Me; The Odyssey of Matthew Lyon. Hicksville, N.Y.: Exposition, 1972.

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