John Bell (February 18, 1796 - September 10, 1869) was an American career politician from Tennessee. He served as Secretary of War and sat in both houses of Congress during his career and held the office of Speaker of the House in the 21st and 22nd Congresses. Among the first members of the modern Democratic Party, he left that party over Andrew Jackson's controversial 1832 campaign to destroy the Second Bank of the United States, earning Bell the derisive epithet "the Great Apostate" in Democratic circles. Bell spent most of the next twenty years with the Whig Party until that party went defunct in the mid 1850s. He then briefly aligned with the Know Nothings in the late 1850s before forming the Constitutional Union Party in the 1860 election, running for President with Edward Everett as his running mate. The Bell-Everett ticket targeted itself at conservative former Whigs who wanted to avoid disunion through inter-regional compromise. Bell carried the three states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia and finished third in the electoral college with 39 electoral votes but last of the four major candidates in the popular vote with 590,000 popular votes.
Following the election, and the secession crisis which it almost immediately precipitated, Bell met with Abraham Lincoln and promised to support his attempts to preserve the Union. He then went to Nashville to argue against secession to the Tennessee government. Initially he believed secession measures would be defeated, but when Tennessee seceded, Bell became depressed and withdrew from politics altogether. Though he did not support the Confederate States or consider himself a Confederate, he did not oppose it openly.