Benjamin Hardin, Jr., was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, on February 29, 1784. His parents were Benjamin Hardin, Sr., and his cousin Sarah (Hardin) Hardin. The family moved to the area around Springfield in Washington County (now Kentucky) in 1788. Hardin was educated initially by tutors and then studied law under his cousin Martin D. Hardin in Richmond and Felix Grundy in Bardstown. In 1806 he began his law practice in Elizabethtown; in 1808 he moved to Bardstown where he spent the rest of his life.
Hardin became one of the foremost trial lawyers in antebellum Kentucky, excelling particularly in criminal law. His political career began when he was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1810 where he also served in 1811, 1824, and 1825. He was also elected to the Kentucky Senate, serving from 1828 to 1832. He was a presidential elector in 1833 and again in 1845. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1815 to 1817, from 1819 to 1823, and from 1833 to 1837.
Hardin was appointed Secretary of State in 1844 by Governor William Owsley (1844-48), but he resigned in 1847 after a dispute with the Governor over patronage issues. This estrangement helped produce a split in the state Whig Party. Hardin was one of the leaders in the move to convoke a state constitutional convention in 1849, and he took a leadership role in its deliberations.
Hardin married Elizabeth Pendleton Barbour on March 31, 1807. The couple had three sons (James, Rowan, and William) and three daughters (Lucinda, Emily, and Kate).
Hardin died on September 24, 1852, and is buried in the family cemetery near Springfield.
Lewis Collins, "History of Kentucky, Vol. II," (1874), pages 645-46;
Samuel C. Elliott, "Illustrated Centennial Record of the State of Kentucky," (1892), page 44;
Robert M. Ireland, "Kentucky Encyclopedia," page 403;
Levin, ed., "Lawyers and Lawmakers," pages 196-98;
W. H. Perrin, "Kentucky, A History of the State, Vol. III," page 1134.