James Pearce

Last updated
James Alfred Pearce
James Alfred Pearce, standing.jpg
United States Senator
from Maryland
In office
March 4, 1843 December 20, 1862
Preceded by John L. Kerr
Succeeded by Thomas H. Hicks
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from Maryland's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1835 March 3, 1839
Preceded by Richard B. Carmichael
Succeeded by Philip Thomas
In office
March 4, 1841 March 3, 1843
Preceded by Philip Thomas
Succeeded by Francis Brengle
Member of the Maryland House of Delegates
In office
Personal details
Born(1805-12-14)December 14, 1805
Alexandria, Virginia, US
Died December 20, 1862(1862-12-20) (aged 57)
Chestertown, Maryland, US
Political party Whig, Democrat
Alma mater College of New Jersey
Profession Politician, Lawyer
James A. Pearce, photograph by Mathew Brady Pierce - NARA - 528740.jpg
James A. Pearce, photograph by Mathew Brady

James Alfred Pearce (December 14, 1805 December 20, 1862) was an American politician. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing the second district of Maryland from 1835 to 1839 and 1841 to 1843. He later served as a U.S. Senator from Maryland from 1843 until his death in 1862.

United States House of Representatives lower house of the United States Congress

The United States House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the United States Congress, the Senate being the upper chamber. Together they compose the legislature of the United States.

United States Senate Upper house of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol, in Washington, D.C.

Maryland State of the United States of America

Maryland is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east. The state's largest city is Baltimore, and its capital is Annapolis. Among its occasional nicknames are Old Line State, the Free State, and the Chesapeake Bay State. It is named after the English queen Henrietta Maria, known in England as Queen Mary.



Early life

Pearce was in born Alexandria, Virginia, the son of Gideon Pearce and Julia Dick, and the grandson of Elisha C. Dick. [1] When he turned four years old, his mother died; his father moved to Louisiana to become a sugar planter, leaving his son in Alexandria to the care of grandparents. [2]

Alexandria, Virginia Independent city in Virginia, United States

Alexandria is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 139,966, and in 2016, the population was estimated to be 155,810. Located along the western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately 7 miles (11 km) south of downtown Washington, D.C.

Elisha C. Dick American physician

Elisha Cullen Dick, M.D. was a Virginia physician and political figure. He served as mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, and was the attending physician at George Washington's death.

Louisiana State of the United States of America

Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

Pearce attended a private academy in Alexandria and entered the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1819. He graduated in 1822 at the age of seventeen with honors and started studying law in Baltimore under Judge John Glenn and attorney David Hoffman (1784–1854), an American legal ethics pioneer and author of Fifty Resolutions in Regard to Professional Deportment (1836). There was a requirement for aspiring jurists set by the Maryland legislature for at least three years of legal studies under the guidance of practicing lawyers (in 1831 it was lowered to two years). [3] Ahead of time, in 1824, Pearce passed exams and was admitted to the Maryland Bar, commencing practice in Cambridge, Maryland for a year. In 1825, Pearce moved with his father in Louisiana, and briefly engaged in sugar planting business, then he returned to Kent County, Maryland, in 1828, where he started the practice of law in Chestertown.

Princeton University University in Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The institution moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later, and renamed itself Princeton University in 1896.

Cambridge, Maryland City in Maryland, United States

Cambridge is a city in Dorchester County, Maryland, United States. The population was 12,326 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Dorchester County and the county's largest municipality. Cambridge is the fourth most populous city in Maryland's Eastern Shore region, after Salisbury, Elkton and Easton.

Kent County, Maryland County in the United States

Kent County is a county located in the U.S. state of Maryland. As of the 2010 census, its population was 20,197, making it the least populous county in Maryland. Its county seat is Chestertown. The county was named for the county of Kent in England. The county is located on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Family life

In 1829, Pearce married Martha J. Laird; they were raising 3 children in Chestertown, Maryland until 1845, when Martha died. In 1847, Pearce remarried, his new wife became Matilda Cox Ringgold; they had one child. His son, James Alfred Pearce, Jr., became a judge for the Maryland Court of Appeals. [4]

Chestertown, Maryland Town in Maryland, United States

Chestertown is a town in Kent County, Maryland, United States. The population was 5,252 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Kent County.

James Alfred Pearce was an American lawyer, and was a judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals from 1897 to 1912.

Maryland Court of Appeals court of last resort for the State of Maryland, United States

The Court of Appeals of Maryland is the supreme court of the U.S. state of Maryland. The court, which is composed of one chief judge and six associate judges, meets in the Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building in the state capital, Annapolis. The term of the Court begins the second Monday of September. The Court is unique among American courts in that the judges wear red robes. The Maryland Court of Appeals joins the New York Court of Appeals in being the only two state highest courts to bear the name "Court of Appeals" rather than "Supreme Court".

Political career

From 1831 until 1835, Pearce was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. He was elected as a Whig to the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Congresses, serving from March 4, 1835 until March 3, 1839, but was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1838 to the Twenty-sixth Congress, losing to Philip Thomas. He was again elected to Congress in 1840, and served one term from March 4, 1841, until March 3, 1843.

Maryland House of Delegates lower house of the Maryland General Assembly

The Maryland House of Delegates is the lower house of the legislature of the State of Maryland. It consists of 141 delegates elected from 47 districts. The House of Delegates Chamber is in the Maryland State House on State Circle in Annapolis, the state capital. The State House also houses the Maryland State Senate Chamber and the offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the State of Maryland. Each delegate has offices in Annapolis, in the nearby Casper R. Taylor Jr. House Office Building.

Whig Party (United States) Political party in the USA in the 19th century

The Whig Party was a political party active in the middle of the 19th century in the United States. Four presidents belonged to the party while in office. It emerged in the 1830s as the leading opponent of Jacksonian democracy, pulling together former members of the National Republican and the Anti-Masonic Party. It had some links to the upscale traditions of the long-defunct Federalist Party. Along with the rival Democratic Party, it was central to the Second Party System from the early 1840s to the mid-1860s. It originally formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic Party. It became a formal party within his second term, and slowly receded influence after 1854. In particular terms, the Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the presidency and favored a program of modernization, banking and economic protectionism to stimulate manufacturing. It appealed to entrepreneurs, planters, reformers and the emerging urban middle class, but had little appeal to farmers or unskilled workers. It included many active Protestants and voiced a moralistic opposition to the Jacksonian Indian removal. Party founders chose the "Whig" name to echo the American Whigs of the 18th century who fought for independence. The political philosophy of the American Whig Party was not related to the British Whig party. Historian Frank Towers has specified a deep ideological divide:

Philip Francis Thomas American politician

Philip Francis Thomas was an American lawyer and politician.

Pearce was again elected as a Whig to the United States Senate in 1843, and was re-elected in 1849, 1855, and 1861, the last time as a Democrat, and served from March 4, 1843, until his death in 1862. In the Senate, Pearce served for nineteen years as chairman of the Committee on the Library (Twenty-ninth through Thirty-seventh Congresses). [5] He also served in 1861 for two months as chairman of the Committee on Finance. In 1847-1862, he served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. [6] He was involved with the Coast Survey, which is among the U.S. governmental oldest scientific organizations, and the United States Botanic Garden.

Democratic Party (United States) political party in the United States

The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. Tracing its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's Democratic-Republican Party, the modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson, making it the world's oldest active political party.

United States Botanic Garden botanical garden in Washington, DC

The United States Botanic Garden (USBG) is a botanic garden on the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., near Garfield Circle. The U.S. Botanic Garden is supervised by the Congress through the Architect of the Capitol, who is responsible for maintaining the grounds of the United States Capitol. The USBG is open every day of the year, including federal holidays. It is the oldest continually operating botanic garden in the United States.

In the U.S. Senate, Pearce became known as an erudite and pragmatist. In 1850, he developed the so-called Pearce Plan, a part of Compromise of 1850. The Pearce Plan provided a solution for the boundary dispute between Texas and the Federal government. [7] Pearce wrote a bill that granted Texas $10 million in compensation for agreeing with the state borders charted by the government. After being approved by Congress, the bill was signed by President Millard Fillmore. [8]

In 1850, President Fillmore offered Pearce, first, to become a judge of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, and then, — Secretary of the Interior. Pearce chose to stay in the Senate. [9]

Political polarization caused by the issues of nativism, prohibition, and anti-slavery fragmented in 1852 the Whig Party, and in 1856, Pearce joined the Democratic Party, and supported James Buchanan's nomination for presidency. During the sectional crisis Pearce stood against the dissolution of the Union. However, he was hesitant to discuss the slavery issue being a slaveholder himself. [10] After the Civil War broke out, he did not resign. In March 1862, he appeared in the Senate for the last time. [11]

Pearce died in Chestertown on December 20, 1862, and is interred in New Chester Cemetery. His deathbed from the Hynson-Ringgold House was preserved and now exhibited in the historic Geddes-Piper House (c. 1770) in Chestertown, Maryland. [12]

See also

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  1. Ruth Lincoln Kaye (March–April 1994). "Cottage Farm". The Friends Sentinal. Alexandria Library Lloyd House Journal. VIII (2).
  2. Rodney P. Carlisle. Pearce, James Alfred. American National Biography Online, February 2000. Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  3. Michael Ariens. Lost and Found: David Hoffman and the History of American Legal Ethics. Arkansas Law Review, 2014, Vol. 67, p. 571-625.
  4. Horsey, Patricia J. O. Legendary Locals of Kent County. Arcadia Pub., 2015.
  5. Ostrowski, Carl. Books, Maps, and Politics: A Cultural History of the Library of Congress, 1783-1861. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2004.
  6. Appletons' annual cyclopaedia and register of important events of the year: 1862. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1863. p. 682.
  7. Compromise of 1850, Lone Star Junction, a Texas history resource.
  8. Boundary Dispute
  9. Steiner, Bernard. James Alfred Pearce. Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume 17 (March 1922), p. 33-47.
  10. U.S. Congress. Addresses on the Death of Hon. James A. Pearce: Delivered in the Senate and House of Representatives, on Tuesday, January 13, 1863. Washington: Govt. Print. Off., 1863, p. 14.
  11. Hubbell, John T, James W. Geary, and Jon L. Wakelyn. Biographical Dictionary of the Union: Northern Leaders of the Civil War. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1995, p. 397.
  12. Daniels, D S. Ghosts of Chestertown and Kent County. Charleston, S.C.: History Press, 2015.

Further reading

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Richard B. Carmichael
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Philip Thomas
Preceded by
Philip Thomas
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Francis Brengle
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
John L. Kerr
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Maryland
March 4, 1843 December 20, 1862
Served alongside: William D. Merrick, Reverdy Johnson, David Stewart,
Thomas G. Pratt, Anthony Kennedy
Succeeded by
Thomas H. Hicks
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert M.T. Hunter
Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee
Succeeded by
William Pitt Fessenden