Wallace, David

Born: 1799-04-24 Lewistown, Pennsylvania

Died: 1859-09-04 Indianapolis, Indiana

Indiana attorney, congressman, representative, and sixth governor of the state. Wallace emigrated in 1807 with his family from his native state to Miami County, Ohio. After the War of 1812, he and his parents moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Through his father's connections with William Henry Harrison, Wallace secured appointment to the U.S. Military Academy in 1817. He graduated in 1821. From 1821 to 1822, he served as an assistant professor of mathematics at West Point. He resigned his commission in 1822, joining his family in Brookville, Indiana, where he commenced reading law. In 1824, Wallace earned admission to the bar and began practicing law. He married Esther F. Test, with whom he had four sons, one of whom was Lew Wallace, a Civil War general and author of Ben Hur.

A supporter of Henry Clay and his "American System," Wallace entered Indiana politics in 1828, winning a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives. He remained in the House until 1831, when he won election as lieutenant governor. Indiana voters re-elected him in 1834. During his tenure, Wallace championed creation of a state bank and an extensive system of internal improvements, his oratory proving instrumental in the passage of a internal improvement bill in 1836. During this period, he moved his family to Covington, Indiana, where he opened a law practice. In 1834, tragedy struck Wallace when Esther Wallace died of consumption. In 1836, he wed Zerelda Sanders, with whom he had two daughters and a son. He moved his family to Indianapolis. In 1837, Wallace advanced to the governorship on the Whig Party ticket, winning election by a mere 9,000 votes. The Panic of 1837, which commenced shortly before Wallace assumed office, marred his tenure as governor. The economic downturn and huge public debts incurred by the previous administration scuttled plans for roads, canals, and railroads, and plunged the state into a financial crisis. Wallace enacted measures to slow the advance down the road to insolvency, to little effect. Blaming Wallace and other advocates of internal improvements for the state's financial distress, the Whigs refused to re-nominate Wallace for governor in 1840. He resumed the practice of law in Indianapolis. In 1841, Indiana voters elected Wallace to the U.S. House of Representatives. As a representative, Wallace continued to endorse Clay's American System and federal expenditures for internal improvements, scientific expeditions, and technological innovations. He cast the deciding vote in favor of a $30,000 appropriation for Samuel F. B. Morse to test and perfect the telegraph. Wallace's Whig policies cost him re-election in 1843, and he returned to his law practice in Indianapolis. In 1850, he represented Marion County at the Indiana Constitutional Convention.

Gravestone, Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, IN; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-2005 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2005), 2107; Ray E. Boomhower, "Wallace, David," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 22:528-29.