John Sergeant (politician)

:"For other persons named John Sergeant, see John Sergeant (disambiguation)

John Sergeant (December 5, 1779 – November 23, 1852) was an American politician who represented Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives. He was born in Philadelphia to Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant and Margaret Spencer. He came from a family of American politicians, including his father, his grandsons, John Sergeant Wise and Richard Alsop Wise, and his great-grandson, John Crain Kunkel.

Private Life and Education

Sergeant was educated in the common schools and at the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. He graduated from Princeton College in 1795. He became a lawyer and, after being admitted to the bar in 1799, practiced law for fifty years.

Public Service

He also immediately became a politician. In 1800 he became deputy attorney general for Philadelphia and then commissioner of bankruptcy for Pennsylvania the following year. He was a member of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives from 1808 to 1810. He was elected as a Federalist to the United States House of Representatives to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Jonathan Williams. He was re-elected three times, serving from October 10, 1815 to March 3, 1823, and managed to reach the position of chairman of the United States House Committee on the Judiciary. Sergeant was a strong backer of Henry Clay's American System and the Second Bank of the United States in Congress, and even traveled to Europe to negotiate loans to the Bank. He was also a strong opponent of slavery who voted against the Missouri Compromise. He then retired (albeit temporarily) from Congress.

In 1825, he was president of the Pennsylvania Board of Canal Commissioners. The following year, he was an envoy to the Panama Congress, and then was returned to the U.S. House of Representatives for the term starting March 4, 1827. He failed re-election to the following term and left Congress for the second time on March 3, 1829. He then became legal counsel to the Bank of the United States.

After his Vice Presidential candidacy, he returned as president of the Pennsylvania constitutional convention in 1838, and then was elected as a Whig to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served this last time from March 4, 1837 until he resigned on September 15, 1841, and again was chair of the Committee on the Judiciary for the 1837 – 1839 term. He returned to his law practice, declining offers of a cabinet or diplomatic position from the new Whig administration.

Vice Presidential Candidate

Sergeant was Henry Clay's running mate on the National Republican ticket in 1832 but lost to Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren in a landslide and again retreated from public life. Sergeant was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery.


On June 23, 1813 he married Margaretta Watmough daughter of James Horatio Watmough and Anna Carmick. With Margaretta he fathered one child, a daughter, Sarah Sergeant (September 24, 1817October 14, 1850) who married Henry A. Wise.


*CongBio|S000246|John Sergeant
* [ The Political Graveyard]
* [] Accessed August 17, 2008
* [] Accessed August 17, 2008

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