John Clark (governor)
|20th Governor of Delaware|
January 21, 1817 – January 18, 1820
|Preceded by||Daniel Rodney|
|Succeeded by||Jacob Stout|
February 1, 1761|
New Castle County, Delaware
|Died||August 14, 1821
New Castle County, Delaware
|Spouse(s)||Sarah Cook Corbit|
|Residence||New Castle County, Delaware|
John Clark (February 1, 1761 – August 14, 1821) was an American farmer and politician from Blackbird Hundred in New Castle County, Delaware, near Smyrna. He was a member of the Federalist Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly and as Governor of Delaware.
Early life and family
Clark was born at "New Bristol" in what is now Blackbird Hundred, New Castle County, just north of Smyrna, Delaware, son of William Clark. In 1784 he married Sarah Cook Corbit, daughter of Governor John Cook, and had a least one child, Mary. They lived at Clearfield Farm in what is now Blackbird Hundred in a house since used as an administrative office for the correctional facility located there. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church.
Clark was unusual politically in that he was a Federalist and a Presbyterian from New Castle County. The more typical Federalist was an Episcopalian or Methodist and from Kent or Sussex County. The more typical Democratic-Republican was a Presbyterian from New Castle County. Nevertheless, in 1816 he defeated the Federalist candidate, Manaen Bull of Laurel in Sussex County and served as Governor of Delaware from January 21, 1817 until January 18, 1820.
As Governor he was one of a succession advocating improvements in public education. Carol Hoffecker in Democracy in Delaware relates how he "argued that Delaware had a special need to educate its people because the state lacked vacant land for an expanding population. Therefore, he said 'much reliance must be placed on the mental talents of our citizens for the support of our power and importance in the Union.'"  The General Assembly responded by appropriating a laughable $1,000 to each county for this purpose.
Furthermore, Delaware was stagnating. Medieval sounding punishments, like nailing ears to a pillory post, continued to be meted out in the penal system. The soil was increasingly exhausted and, due to the resulting out migration, Delaware's population in 1820 was roughly the same as in 1810. An immediate, and permanent, consequence was that it lost its second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
|Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while Governor)
|Year||Assembly||Senate Majority||Speaker||House Majority||Speaker|
|1817||41st||Federalist||Henry Molleston||Federalist||Nathan Vickers|
|1818||42nd||Federalist||Henry Molleston||Federalist||Nathan Vickers|
|1819||43rd||Federalist||Henry Molleston||Federalist||Nathan Vickers|
Death and legacy
Clark died at Smyrna and is buried in the Duck Creek Presbyterian Churchyard, now Holy Hill Cemetery, located south of Smyrna on Lake Como.
There is no known portrait of John Clark.
Elections were held the first Tuesday in October. Members of the Delaware General Assembly took office in the first Tuesday of January. State Representatives had a term of one year. The Governor takes office the third Tuesday in January, and had a three-year term.
|Office||Type||Location||Began office||Ended office||notes|
|Sheriff||Judiciary||New Castle||New Castle County|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 2, 1799||January 7, 1800|
|Governor||Executive||Dover||January 21, 1817||January 18, 1820|
|Delaware General Assembly service|
|1799||23rd||State Senate||Federalist||Richard Bassett||New Castle at-large|
|1816||Governor||John Clark||Federalist||4,008||53%||Manaen Bull||Democratic-Republican||3,517||47%|
- Hoffecker, Carol E,. Democracy in Delaware., p. 76 Quotation from the Journal of the House of Representatives (1817), p. 181.
- Conrad, Henry C. (1908). History of the State of Delaware. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Wickersham Company.
- Hoffecker, Carol E. (2004). Democracy in Delaware. Wilmington, Delaware: Cedar Tree Books. ISBN 1-892142-23-6.
- Martin, Roger A. (1984). History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press.
- Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark, DE: Roger A. Martin.
- Scharf, John Thomas (1888). History of Delaware 1609-1888. 2 vols. Philadelphia: L. J. Richards & Co.
- Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States
- Delaware’s Governors
- Find a Grave
- The Political Graveyard
Places with more information
- Delaware Historical Society; website; 505 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19801; (302) 655-7161
- University of Delaware; Library website; 181 South College Avenue, Newark, Delaware 19717; (302) 831-2965