James Shields is the answer to more than one trivia question.
He is best known for the duel he almost fought against Abraham Lincoln in 1842. Though I find that episode fascinating, there is much more to Shields than the near-duel.
Born in Ireland in 1810, he arrived in the United States around 1826. A decade later, his neighbors in Kaskaskia elected the Democrat to the Illinois State Legislature. His future law partner, James C. Conkling, described Shields in a letter to his girlfriend: “Pray don’t let the appellation Paddy convey to you the idea that he is a great, brawny, double fisted, uncouth Irishman. Quite the reverse. A person might possibly detect the place of his nativity by his looks, but his tongue is smooth as oil.”
By 1842, Shields was appointed state auditor of Illinois, a position that brought him into conflict with Lincoln, but the future president didn’t slow him down. The next year, Shields was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court. He also went on to serve in the Mexican War, where he was wounded in comabt. After the war, Shields returned to Illinois as a war-hero and was promptly elected the United States Senate.
Here's where the trivia begins:
When Shields took his seat in the Senate, members began questioning his eligibility. Article I, Section 3 of the U. S. Constitution is clear:
No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
Shields applied for citizenship in 1838, but his election to the Senate occurred just shy of the required nine years. Instead of pressing the issue, Shields “resigned” his seat and returned to Illinois.
The Governor of Illinois convened a special session of the state legislature in December, 1847 to fill the vacant Senate seat. Sidney Breese and John A. McClernand were candidates for the seat, but Shields again threw his hat into the ring. The special election had bought him just enough time to meet the nine-year rule.
Wouldn’t you know it…the legislature elected Shields to the U. S. Senate. To my knowledge, James Shields is the only person ever elected to the United States Senate twice in one year.
Shields later moved to Minnesota and in 1858 he was again elected to the U. S. Senate during Minnesota’s first year of statehood. James Shields was one of Minnesota’s first two members of the U. S. Senate.
But the trivia doesn’t stop there!
Though he supported John C. Breckinridge in the Election of 1860, when war broke out, President Lincoln appointed Shields brigadier general of volunteers on August 19, 1861. Though he was wounded at the Battle of Kernstown in March 1862, his troops were the only ones to hand Stonewall Jackson a tactical defeat during his famed Valley Campaign.
After the war, Shields moved to Missouri, where…you guessed it…he went on to serve in the U. S. Senate. James Shields is the only person to represent three different states in the United States Senate.