|Portrait by Gilbert Stuart c1808 (Museum Fine Arts Boston)|
|5th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives|
December 2, 1799 – March 4, 1801
|Preceded by||Jonathan Dayton|
|Succeeded by||Nathaniel Macon|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 1st, 2nd, 4th districts
March 4, 1789 – June 1796
March 4, 1799 – March 4, 1801
|United States Senator
June 11, 1796 – March 4, 1799
|Preceded by||Caleb Strong|
|Succeeded by||Samuel Dexter|
|President pro tempore of the United States Senate|
June 27, 1798 – December 5, 1798
|Preceded by||Jacob Read|
|Succeeded by||John Laurance|
May 9, 1746|
West Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||January 24, 1813
|Spouse(s)||Pamela Dwight (m. 1774–1807)
Penelope Russell (m. 1808–13)
|Alma mater||Yale College|
|Occupation||Attorney, politician and jurist|
|Battles/wars||American Revolutionary War|
Theodore Sedgwick (May 9, 1746 – January 24, 1813) was an American attorney, politician and jurist, who served in elected state government and as a Delegate to the Continental Congress, a US Representative, and a United States Senator from Massachusetts. He served as the fifth Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1802 and served there the rest of his life.
Early life and education
The younger Sedgwick attended Yale College, where he studied theology and law. He did not graduate, but went on to study law ("read law") under the attorney Mark Hopkins of Great Barrington (He was the grandfather of the Mark Hopkins who later became president of Williams College.)
Sedgwick was admitted to the bar in 1766 and commenced practice in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He moved to Sheffield. During the American Revolutionary War, he served in the Continental Army as a major, and took part in the expedition to Canada and the Battle of White Plains in 1776.
As a relatively young lawyer, Sedgwick and Tapping Reeve pled the case of Brom and Bett vs. Ashley (1781), an early "freedom suit", in county court for the slaves Elizabeth Freeman (known as Bett) and Brom. Bett was a black slave who had fled from her master, Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusetts, because of cruel treatment by his wife. Brom joined her in suing for freedom from the Ashleys. The attorneys challenged their enslavement under the new state constitution of 1780, which held that "all men are born free and equal." The jury agreed and ruled that Bett and Brom were free. The decision was upheld on appeal by the state Supreme Court.
Bett marked her freedom by taking the name of Elizabeth Freeman, and she chose to work for wages at the Sedgwick household, where she helped rear their several children. She worked there for much of the rest of her life, buying a separate house for her and her daughter after the Sedgwick children were grown. The Sedgwicks had Freeman buried in their family plot. The family marked Freeman's grave with an inscribed monument, and it is beside that of their daughter Catharine Maria Sedgwick.
A Federalist, Sedgwick began his political career in 1780 as a Delegate to the Continental Congress. He was elected as representative to the state house, and then as state senator. He was a charter member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1780.
In 1789 Sedgwick was elected as US Representative to the US Congress from the First District of Massachusetts, and over time also represented the Second districts, serving until 1796. That year he was elected as US Senator, and served until 1799. In 1799 he was re-elected as a Representative, this time from the Fourth District, and was elected the fifth Speaker of the House, serving until March 1801.
In 1802, Sedgwick was appointed a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. He held this position until his death.
Marriages and family
After his first wife died, Sedgwick married a second time on April 17, 1774 to Pamela Dwight of the New England Dwight family. She was born June 9, 1752 and died September 20, 1807, and was the daughter of Brigadier General Joseph Dwight of Great Barrington and his second wife, the widow Abigail Williams Sargent. Abigail was the daughter of Colonel Ephraim Williams, and half-sister of Ephraim Williams, Jr. the founder of Williams College.
- Elizabeth Mason Sedgwick, born April 30, 1775, married Thaddeus Pomeroy, and died October 15, 1827.
- A child died at birth on March 27, 1777.
- Frances Pamela Sedgwick, born May 6, 1778, married Ebenezer Watson and died June 20, 1842.
- Theodore Sedgwick II, born December 9, 1780, became a lawyer, and died 1839. He married Susan Anne Livingston (1788–1867). His wife, Susan Ridley, was the author, among other works, of "The Morals of Pleasure" (1829); "The Young Emigrants" and "The Children's Week" (1830); "Allen Pres-cott" (1835); "Alida" (1844); and "Walter Thornley" (1859). Their son Theodore Sedgwick (1811–1859) was a lawyer and author.
- Catherine Sedgwick, born July 11, 1782 and died March 4, 1783.
- Henry Dwight Sedgwick, born April 18, 1784 and died March 1, 1785.
- Henry Dwight Sedgwick, born September 22, 1785, married Jane Minot (1795–1859) and died December 23, 1831. Their grandson was also a lawyer, Henry Dwight Sedgwick III (1861–1957).
- Catharine Maria Sedgwick, born December 28, 1789, became one of the first noted female writers in the United States, and died July 31, 1867.
- Charles Sedgwick, born December 15, 1791, became clerk of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, married Elizabeth Buckminster Dwight (1801–1864), and died August 3, 1856. Their grandson was anatomist Charles Sedgwick Minot (1852–1914).
After Pamela's death, Sedgwick married his third wife Penelope Russell on November 7, 1808. The two remained married until Sedgwick's death in 1813.
While on his death bed, Sedgwick converted to Unitarianism with his daughter Catharine Maria and William Ellery Channing in attendance. On January 24, 1813, Sedgwick died in Boston, Massachusetts at the age of 66. He was buried in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. His grave is at the center of the "Sedgwick Pie".
- Benjamin Woodbridge Dwight (1874). The history of the descendants of John Dwight, of Dedham, Mass 2. J. F. Trow & son, printers and bookbinders. pp. 735–739.
- James M. Banner, Jr. "Sedgwick, Theodore"; American National Biography Online, February 2000.
- New Haven Colony Historical Society
- "Sedgwick Pie - Listing of Graves, Stockbridge, Massachusetts Cemetery", Sedgwick Website
- "Charter of Incorporation of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- "Sedgwick Genealogy North America: Theodore Sedgwick (1746 - 1813)". sedgwick.org. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- Kenslea, Timothy (2006). The Sedgwicks in Love: Courtship, Engagement, And Marriage in the Early Republic. University Press of New England (UPNE). p. 6. ISBN 1-584-65494-5.
- Damon-Bach, Lucinda L. ; Clements, Victoria, ed. (2003). Catharine Maria Sedgwick: Critical Perspectives. UPNE. p. XXXIV. ISBN 1-555-53548-8.
- "Sedgwick Genealogy North America: Kyra Sedgwick 1965". sedgwick.org. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
- Theodore Sedgwick at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Theodore Sedgwick at Find a Grave
- Theodore SEDGWICK II / Susan Anne Livingston RIDLEY