Downtown Madison, The Fair Play Fire Company No. 1, Benches and a walking path along the river - Photos Courtesy of Katrina Falk via Flickr's Creative Commons.
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Madison, Indiana

Jesse Bright House

Jesse Bright House

Jesse Bright House
National Park Service

Jesse Bright, Indiana’s most outspokenly pro-slavery United States Senator during the Civil War, lived in this 1837 Federal style home from 1840 to 1857. Bright grew up in Madison, became an attorney, and was elected County Probate Judge. Within a short time he was appointed the U.S. Marshall for Indiana, a position that allowed Bright to travel the State and build his political career. He served as a State Senator and as Lieutenant Governor during the early 1840s before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1844.

Even though he was the senior U.S. Senator (Democrat) after the South seceded from the Union and served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the 1850s, Bright was accused of disloyalty in 1862. When Federal forces captured Texas arms dealer Thomas Lincoln trying to cross into Confederate territory, they confiscated a letter from Jesse Bright addressed to “His Excellency Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederation of States.” In the letter Bright recommended Lincoln to Davis as “a gentleman of first respectability,” who was in possession of “great improvement in fire-arms.” Bright argued he was merely using the appropriate title for Davis and that he wrote the letter before the attack on Fort Sumter. The majority of the Senate did not believe Bright’s excuses and voted 52-14 to remove him from the Senate.

Bright returned to Indiana and unsuccessfully campaigned to fill the Senate seat from which he had been removed. He then relocated to Kentucky where he owned property and served in the state assembly from 1867 to 1871.

The two story brick house has a low pitch, side-gable roof with a wide cornice. Windows feature flat, bracketed hoods, and dressed stone lintels and sills. The Italianate details were added during the 1880s after Bright sold the property.

The Jesse Bright House contributes to the historic significance of the Madison Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark.

Plan your visit
The Jesse Bright House, a privately owned building, is located at 312 W. Third St. Click here for the Madison Historic District National Historic Landmark file: text. While the Jesse Bright House is not open to the public, it is easily viewed from the street.
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