John Wayles Eppes

John Wayles Eppes
John w eppes.jpg
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
March 4, 1817 – December 4, 1819
Preceded byArmistead T. Mason
Succeeded byJames Pleasants
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 14th district
In office
March 4, 1803 – March 3, 1811
Preceded byAnthony New
Succeeded byJames Pleasants
In office
March 4, 1813 – March 3, 1815
Preceded byJames Pleasants
Succeeded byJohn Randolph
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
In office
1801–1803
Personal details
Born(1773-04-19)April 19, 1773
Chesterfield County, Virginia
DiedSeptember 13, 1823(1823-09-13) (aged 50)
Buckingham County, Virginia
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Spouse(s)Mary Jefferson Eppes
Martha Burke Jones
ChildrenFrancis W. Eppes
Alma materHampden–Sydney College
ProfessionLawyer, planter, politician

John Wayles Eppes (April 19, 1773 – September 13, 1823) was an American lawyer and politician. He represented Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives (1803–1811, 1813–1815) and in the U.S. Senate (1817–1819), after serving in the Virginia House of Delegates (1801–1803). 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[edit]

Eppes was born at Eppington, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, the sixth child and only son of Elizabeth (née Wayles) and Francis Eppes on April 19, 1773. 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[edit]

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.

The couple had three children:[2]

  • An unnamed boy, born December 31, 1799, who lived only weeks
  • Francis W. Eppes (September 20, 1801 – May 30, 1881)
  • Maria Jefferson Eppes (February 15, 1804 – February 1806)

Mary died at Monticello on April 17, 1804, two months after the birth of Maria, and is buried there beside her mother. Two of her children are also buried there.[3]

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[edit]

After Mary's death in 1804, 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.[4][5] 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.[6] She named their daughter Frances,[4] a name traditional among men in the Eppes family.[5] She lived at Milbrook for the rest of her life,[7] and when she died in 1857, was buried next to John Wayles Eppes in the family cemetery there.[4][8]

Political career[edit]

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[edit]

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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b "Maria Jefferson Eppes", Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, Monticello website
  3. ^ "Mary "Maria" Jefferson Eppes". findagrave.com. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Jacques, Edna Bolling. "The Hemmings Family in Buckingham County, Virginia". buckinghamhemmings.com. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Betsy Hemmings", Hemings Family/People of the Plantation, Monticello, accessed February 14, 2011
  6. ^ Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello, New York: W.W. Norton, 2008, Frontispiece: "The Hemings Family Tree-1," pp. 127-128
  7. ^ "Betsy Hemmings: Loved by a Family, but What of Her Own?", Plantation & Slavery/Life after Monticello, Monticello, February 14, 2011
  8. ^ Laura B. Randolph, "THE THOMAS JEFFERSON/SALLY HEMINGS CONTROVERSY: Did Jefferson Also Father Children By Sally Hemings' Sister?" Archived 2012-01-19 at the Wayback Machine, Ebony, February 1999, accessed February 16, 2011

External links[edit]

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