John Wayles Eppes

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John Wayles Eppes
John Wayles Eppes, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left LCCN92512624.tif
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
March 4, 1817 December 4, 1819
Preceded by Armistead T. Mason
Succeeded by James Pleasants
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 14th district
In office
March 4, 1803 March 3, 1811
Preceded by Anthony New
Succeeded by James Pleasants
In office
March 4, 1813 March 3, 1815
Preceded by James Pleasants
Succeeded by John Randolph
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
In office
1801–1803
Personal details
Born(1772-04-00)April , 1772
Eppington, Virginia Colony, British America
DiedSeptember 13, 1823(1823-09-13) (aged 51)
Buckingham County, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s)
Children9, including Francis W. Eppes
Alma mater Hampden–Sydney College
ProfessionLawyer, planter, politician

John Wayles Eppes (April 1772 September 13, 1823) was an American lawyer and politician. He represented Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1803 to 1811 and again from 1813 to 1815. He also served in the U.S. Senate (1817–1819). His positions in Congress occurred after he served in the Virginia House of Delegates (1801–1803).

Contents

A member of the wealthy planter class, he was related through his mother to Martha Jefferson, the wife of Thomas Jefferson, with whom Eppes was close. [1]

Early life and education

Eppes was born at Eppington, in Chesterfield County in the Colony of Virginia, the sixth child and only son of Elizabeth (née Wayles) and Francis Eppes in April 1772. His father was a first cousin and his mother was a half-sister to Martha Jefferson. [2]

After being taught by tutors, Eppes attended the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia, and graduated from Hampden–Sydney College in Virginia in 1786. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1794, commencing practice in the state capital, Richmond.

Marriage and family

Eppes married his first cousin Mary Jefferson (known as "Polly" in childhood and "Maria" as an adult) on October 13, 1797 at Monticello. [1] They resided at Mont Blanco plantation in Chesterfield County, Virginia.

After several miscarriages and the death in January 1800 of a newborn baby girl, [3] Maria and John had two children: [2]

Mary died at Monticello on April 17, 1804, two months after the birth of Maria, and is buried there. [2] [4]

On April 15, 1809, Eppes married Martha Burke Jones, daughter of Willie Jones, a prominent North Carolina planter and politician. They had six children. [1]

Betsy Hemmings

After Mary's death, Eppes moved his household and slaves from Mont Blanco to another of his plantations called Millbrook in Buckingham County, Virginia. Among the slaves was Betsy Hemmings, the mixed-race daughter of Mary Hemings and granddaughter of Betty Hemings. [5] [6] According to her descendants, Hemmings became a concubine to Eppes in a relationship that began when he was a young widower. She bore his son, Joseph, likely named for her brother. [7] She named their daughter Frances, [5] a name traditional among men in the Eppes family. [6] She lived at Milbrook for the rest of her life, [8] and when she died in 1857, was buried next to John Wayles Eppes in the family cemetery there. [5] [9]

Political career

Eppes was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1801 to 1803. On March 4, 1803 he was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the Eighth United States Congress and the next three succeeding Congresses, so he was frequently away from his plantation. He chaired the Ways and Means Committee for the Eleventh Congress but failed to be elected to the Twelfth. He spent the next two years at his plantation, Milbrook.

He was elected to the Thirteenth Congress (March 4, 1813 – March 4, 1815) and chaired the Committee on Ways and Means again. After losing the election to the Fourteenth Congress, he was elected to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1817, until December 4, 1819, when he resigned because of ill health. He chaired the Committee on Finance during the second session of the Fifteenth Congress.

Retirement and death

Late in life Eppes suffered from various ailments. He died at Millbrook on September 13, 1823, and was buried in the Eppes family cemetery at the Millbrook.

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References

  1. 1 2 3 Looney, J. Jefferson and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography (April 14, 2016). "John Wayles Eppes (1772–1823)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 "Maria Jefferson Eppes", Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, Monticello website
  3. Kerrison, Catherine (2018). Jefferson's Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America. Ballantine Books. ISBN   978-1-101-88624-3.
  4. "Persons Buried at the Monticello Graveyard, 1773 - 1997". Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia - Monticello website. Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  5. 1 2 3 Jacques, Edna Bolling. "The Hemmings Family in Buckingham County, Virginia". buckinghamhemmings.com. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  6. 1 2 "Betsy Hemmings", Hemings Family/People of the Plantation, Monticello, accessed February 14, 2011
  7. Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello, New York: W.W. Norton, 2008, Frontispiece: "The Hemings Family Tree-1," pp. 127-128
  8. "Betsy Hemmings: Loved by a Family, but What of Her Own?", Plantation & Slavery/Life after Monticello, Monticello, February 14, 2011
  9. Laura B. Randolph, "THE THOMAS JEFFERSON/SALLY HEMINGS CONTROVERSY: Did Jefferson Also Father Children By Sally Hemings' Sister?" Archived January 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine , Ebony, February 1999, accessed February 16, 2011
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Anthony New
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 16th congressional district

March 4, 1803 – March 4, 1811
Succeeded by
James Pleasants
Preceded by
James Pleasants
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 16th congressional district

March 4, 1813 – March 4, 1815
Succeeded by
John Randolph
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Armistead T. Mason
U.S. senator (Class 2) from Virginia
March 4, 1817 – December 4, 1819
Served alongside: James Barbour
Succeeded by
James Pleasants