William H. Wells
|William H. Wells|
|United States Senator
May 21, 1813 – March 3, 1817
|Preceded by||James A. Bayard|
|Succeeded by||Nicholas Van Dyke|
January 17, 1799 – November 6, 1804
|Preceded by||Joshua Clayton|
|Succeeded by||James A. Bayard|
January 7, 1769|
Burlington, New Jersey
|Died||March 11, 1829
William Hill Wells (January 7, 1769 - March 11, 1829) was a lawyer and politician from Dagsboro, in Sussex County, Delaware. He was a member of the Federalist Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly and as U.S. Senator from Delaware.
Early life and family
Wells was born in Burlington, New Jersey. His family came to Sussex County when he was young, and his father began a successful mercantile business at Dagsboro, which the younger Wells continued. His marriage to Rachael Dagworthy, the daughter of Revolutionary War General John Dagworthy, greatly increased his wealth, as she had inherited large tracts of Sussex County timberlands. Meanwhile he studied the law, was admitted to the Delaware Bar in 1791, and practiced at Georgetown, Delaware, eventually expanding his practice to Dover, Delaware.
Professional and political career
Wells represented Sussex County for several years in the Delaware General Assembly, initially serving in the State House from the 1795 session through the 1799 session. He was then elected as a Federalist to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Joshua Clayton and served from January 17, 1799 until November 6, 1804. During this time he joined his Federalist colleagues in opposition to the Louisiana Purchase. He resigned before the completion of his term to seek his fortune in the oil business in northern Pennsylvania. He returned to the State House for the 1811 and 1812 sessions, and spent the 1813 session in the State Senate. He was again elected as a Federalist to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James A. Bayard, and served from May 28, 1813, to March 3, 1817. Finally, he served once more in the 1819 session of the State House.
Death and legacy
Wells died near Dagsboro, Delaware, and is buried in the Prince George’s Churchyard, near Dagsboro.
Elections were held the first Tuesday of October. Members of the Delaware General Assembly took office on the first Tuesday of January, with the State Senate serving a three-year term, and the State House a one-year term. The General Assembly chose the U.S. Senators, who took office March 4 for a six-year term. In this case he was initially completing the existing term, the vacancy caused by the death of Joshua Clayton, and later completing the existing term the vacancy caused by the resignation of James A. Bayard.
|Office||Type||Location||Began office||Ended office||notes|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 6, 1795||January 5, 1796|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 5, 1796||January 3, 1797|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 3, 1797||January 2, 1798|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 2, 1798||January 1, 1799|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 1, 1799||January 7, 1800|
|U.S. Senator||Legislature||Philadelphia||January 17, 1799||March 3, 1799|||
|U.S. Senator||Legislature||Washington ||March 4, 1799||November 6, 1804|||
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 1, 1811||January 7, 1812|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 7, 1812||January 6, 1813|
|State Senator||Legislature||Dover||January 6, 1813||January 5, 1814|
|U.S. Senator||Legislature||Washington||May 21, 1813||March 3, 1817|||
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 5, 1819||January 4, 1820|
|Delaware General Assembly service|
|1795||19th||State House||Federalist||Joshua Clayton||Sussex at-large|
|1796||20th||State House||Federalist||Gunning Bedford, Sr.||Sussex at-large|
|1797||21st||State House||Federalist||Gunning Bedford, Sr.||Sussex at-large|
|1798||22nd||State House||Federalist||Daniel Rogers||Sussex at-large|
|1799||23rd||State House||Federalist||Richard Bassett||Sussex at-large|
|1811||35th||State House||Federalist||Joseph Haslet||Sussex at-large|
|1812||36th||State House||Federalist||Joseph Haslet||Sussex at-large|
|1813||37th||State Senate||Federalist||Joseph Haslet||Sussex at-large|
|1819||43rd||State House||Federalist||John Clark||Sussex at-large|
|United States Congressional service|
|1797–1799||5th||U.S. Senate||Federalist||John Adams||class 2|
|1799–1801||6th||U.S. Senate||Federalist||John Adams||class 2|
|1801–1803||7th||U.S. Senate||Republican||Thomas Jefferson||class 2|
|1803–1805||8th||U.S. Senate||Republican||Thomas Jefferson||class 2|
|1813–1815||13th||U.S. Senate||Republican||James Madison||class 2|
|1815–1817||14th||U.S. Senate||Republican||James Madison||class 2|
- Scharf, J. Thomas (1888). History of Delaware 2. L. J. Richards. p. 1335.
- elected to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Joshua Clayton, seated February 4, 1799
- The U.S. Senate met at Philadelphia until May 14, 1800
- elected to fill vacancy caused by resignation of James A. Bayard in preceding Congress, seated June 10, 1813
- Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark: Roger A. Martin.
- Munroe, John A. (1954). Federalist Delaware 1775-1815. New Brunswick: Rutgers University.
- Wilson, W. Emerson (1969). Forgotten Heroes of Delaware. Cambridge, MA: Deltos Publishing Company.
- Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Delaware’s Members of Congress
- Find a Grave
- The Political Graveyard
Places with more information
- Delaware Historical Society; website; 505 Market St, Wilmington, Delaware; (302) 655-7161
- University of Delaware; Library website; 181 South College Ave, Newark, Delaware; (302) 831-2965