James Sykes (governor)

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James Sykes
no known portrait exists
Governor of Delaware
In office
February 20, 1801 – January 19, 1802
Preceded by Richard Bassett
Succeeded by David Hall
Personal details
Born (1761-03-27)March 27, 1761
Dover, Delaware
Died October 18, 1822(1822-10-18) (aged 61)
Dover, Delaware
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Goldsborough
Residence Dover, Delaware
Profession physician
Religion Episcopalian

James Sykes (March 27, 1761 – October 18, 1822) was an American physician and politician from Dover, in Kent County, Delaware. He was a member of the Federalist Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly and as Governor of Delaware.

Early life and family[edit]

James Sykes was born near Dover, Delaware, the son of James and Agnes Sykes. His father was a member of the Delaware General Assembly and a delegate to the Continental Congress. James, Jr. studied medicine under Dr. Joshua Clayton and first practiced in Cambridge, Maryland. While there he married Elizabeth Goldsborough, daughter of Judge Robert Goldsborough. After four years they returned to Dover living on The Green. They had three children; James, Anna Matilda, and William, and were members of Christ Episcopal Church. Their house is now an office building.

Professional and political career[edit]

In 1791 the Delaware General Assembly appointed Sykes to help manage a lottery to raise one thousand pounds to defray expenses incurred in constructing a new state house. After serving as clerk for the State House in 1796, he was elected to the State Senate in 1793. He served one term for the 1794, 1795, and 1796 sessions. Returning a year later, he served six more terms from the 1798 session through the 1812 session. He was Speaker in 1801, and then in every session from 1804 through 1812.

On February 20, 1801, Governor Richard Bassett resigned following his appointment as U.S. Circuit Court Judge by U.S. President John Adams. As the Speaker of the State Senate, Sykes was next in line of succession and took office as Governor. He chose not to run for election in his right, and returned to the State Senate on January 19, 1802.

In the meantime, Sykes had become one of the state's most renowned surgeons. From his office at 45 The Green in Dover, he specialized in treating gallstones and yellow fever. In 1814 he moved his practice to New York City for six years, but then returned to the Dover practice with his son, James. In 1822 he became President of the Delaware Medical Society.

Death and legacy[edit]

Sykes died at Dover and is buried there in the Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery. His son, James, was a physician in Dover and his son, William, was the father of Major General George Sykes, a commander at Gettysburg in the American Civil War.

Almanac[edit]

Elections were held the first Tuesday of October and members of the General Assembly took office the first Tuesday of January. State Senators had a three-year term. The Governor takes office the third Tuesday of January and had a three-year term. However, Sykes served as State President only filling the vacancy caused by the resignation of Richard Bassett.


Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while Governor)
Year Assembly Senate Majority Speaker House Majority Speaker
1801 25th Federalist vacant Federalist Stephen Lewis
Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
State Senator Legislature Dover January 6, 1794 January 6, 1797
State Senator Legislature Dover January 6, 1798 January 6, 1801
State Senator Legislature Dover January 6, 1801 February 20, 1801
Governor Executive Dover February 20, 1801 January 19, 1802 acting
State Senator Legislature Dover January 6, 1802 January 6, 1804
State Senator Legislature Dover January 6, 1804 January 6, 1807
State Senator Legislature Dover January 6, 1807 January 6, 1810
State Senator Legislature Dover January 6, 1810 January 6, 1813
Delaware General Assembly service
Dates Assembly Chamber Majority Governor Committees District
1794 18th State Senate Federalist Joshua Clayton Kent at-large
1795 19th State Senate Federalist Joshua Clayton Kent at-large
1796 20th State Senate Federalist Gunning Bedford, Sr. Kent at-large
1798 22nd State Senate Federalist Daniel Rogers Kent at-large
1799 23rd State Senate Federalist Richard Bassett Kent at-large
1800 24th State Senate Federalist Richard Bassett Speaker Kent at-large
1801 25th State Senate Federalist Richard Bassett Speaker Kent at-large
1802 26th State Senate Federalist David Hall Kent at-large
1803 27th State Senate Federalist David Hall Speaker Kent at-large
1804 28th State Senate Federalist David Hall Speaker Kent at-large
1805 29th State Senate Federalist Nathaniel Mitchell Speaker Kent at-large
1806 30th State Senate Federalist Nathaniel Mitchell Speaker Kent at-large
1807 31st State Senate Federalist Nathaniel Mitchell Speaker Kent at-large
1808 32nd State Senate Federalist George Truitt Speaker Kent at-large
1809 33rd State Senate Federalist George Truitt Speaker Kent at-large
1810 34th State Senate Federalist George Truitt Speaker Kent at-large
1811 35th State Senate Federalist Joseph Haslet Speaker Kent at-large
1812 36th State Senate Federalist Joseph Haslet Speaker Kent at-large

References[edit]

  • Conrad, Henry C. (1908). History of the State of Delaware. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Wickersham Company. 
  • Martin, Roger A. (1984). A History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press. 
  • Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark, Delaware: Roger A. Martin. 
  • Munroe, John A. (1954). Federalist Delaware 1775-1815. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University. 
  • Scharf, John Thomas (1888). History of Delaware 1609-1888. 2 vols. Philadelphia: L. J. Richards & Co. ISBN 0-87413-493-5. 
  • Wilson, Emerson (1969). Forgotten Heroes of Delaware. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Deltos Publishing Company. 

External links[edit]

Places with more information[edit]