Andrew Stevenson

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Andrew Stevenson
United States Minister to the United Kingdom
In office
July 13, 1836 – October 21, 1841
PresidentAndrew Jackson
Martin Van Buren
Preceded byAaron Vail (as chargé d'affaires)
Succeeded byEdward Everett
11th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
December 3, 1827 – June 2, 1834
PresidentJohn Quincy Adams
Andrew Jackson
Preceded byJohn W. Taylor
Succeeded byJohn Bell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 11th district
In office
March 4, 1833 – June 2, 1834
Preceded byJohn M. Patton
Succeeded byJohn Robertson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 9th district
In office
March 4, 1823 – March 3, 1833
Preceded byWilliam Lee Ball
Succeeded byWilliam P. Taylor
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 23rd district
In office
March 4, 1821 – March 3, 1823
Preceded byJohn Tyler
Succeeded byNone; district eliminated
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Richmond City
In office
January 1819 – December 3, 1821
Preceded byJohn Robertson
Succeeded byJacqueline B. Harvie
In office
December 4, 1809 – November 11, 1816
Preceded byWilliam Wirt
Succeeded byJohn Robertson
Personal details
Born(1784-01-21)January 21, 1784
Culpeper County, Virginia
DiedJanuary 25, 1857(1857-01-25) (aged 73)
Albemarle County, Virginia
Political partyDemocratic
Mary Page White
(m. 1809; died 1812)
Sarah Coles
(m. 1816; died 1848)
Mary Schaff
(m. 1849)
ChildrenJohn White Stevenson
Alma materThe College of William & Mary

Andrew Stevenson (January 21, 1784 – January 25, 1857) was a Democratic politician in the United States. He served in the United States House of Representatives representing Virginia, as Speaker of the House, and as Minister to the United Kingdom.

Early life[edit]

Andrew Stevenson was born in Culpeper County, Virginia on January 21, 1784. He was the son of James Stevenson (1739–1809) and Frances Arnette (née Littlepage) Stevenson (1750–1808).

He was educated at the College of William and Mary, studied law, and attained admission to the bar in 1809. Stevenson practiced in Richmond.[1]


Stevenson was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1809 to 1816 and 1818 to 1821. He served as Speaker of the House of Delegates from 1812 to 1815. In 1814 and 1816, he was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress.[1]

U.S. Congress[edit]

In 1820, Stevenson won election to the 17th U.S. Congress as a Democratic-Republican. When the party fragmented during the contentious 1824 presidential election, he first aligned himself with the Crawford faction during the 18th Congress, and then, for the remainder of his time in Congress, identified with the Jacksonians.[1] He was elected Speaker of the House on December 3, 1827, the opening day of the 20th Congress. Reelected three times (1829, 1831 and 1833) he served until his resignation on June 2, 1834.[2]

Minister to the United Kingdom[edit]

Sarah Coles, Stevenson's second wife

In June 1834, Stevenson resigned from Congress to accept appointment from Andrew Jackson as Minister to the United Kingdom. In June of that year, the United States Senate denied him confirmation by a vote of 23 to 22.[3] Jackson's opponents in Congress argued that Jackson had offered Stevenson the appointment in 1833, and that when Congress convened later that year, Stevenson had organized the House, including committee assignments and chairmanships, in accordance with Jackson's preferences. In the Anti-Jacksonian view, this amounted to a quid pro quo that allowed executive branch interference with the prerogatives of the legislative branch. Following his denial by the Senate, he returned to Virginia and resumed the practice of law and in addition, he presided over the 1835 Democratic National Convention.[1]

In February 1836, President Andrew Jackson renominated Stevenson for Minister to Great Britain. The second time around, he was confirmed 26 votes to 19, and served from 1836 to 1841.[3]

His term as Minister to the United Kingdom was marked by controversy: the abolitionist cause was growing in strength, and some sections of public opinion resented the choice of Stevenson, who was a slaveowner, for this role.[4] The Irish statesman Daniel O'Connell was reported to have denounced Stevenson in public as a slave breeder, generally thought to be a more serious matter than simply being a slaveowner.[5] Stevenson, outraged, challenged O'Connell to a duel, but O'Connell, who had a lifelong aversion to dueling, refused, and suggested that he had been misquoted. The controversy became public and the repeated references to slave breeding caused Stevenson a good deal of embarrassment; there was a widespread view that if O'Connell's charges were false Stevenson would have done better to simply ignore them rather than engaging in a public squabble.[6]

Later life[edit]

In 1846, Stevenson purchased the Blenheim estate in Albemarle County, Virginia.[7] Blenheim was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.[8]

Stevenson presided over the 1848 Democratic National Convention. In 1845 he was elected to the board of visitors of the University of Virginia. From 1856 to 1857, he served as the university's rector.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Stevenson married three times.[9] In 1809, he married Mary Page White, the granddaughter of Carter Braxton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.[10] She died during childbirth in 1812, giving birth to:[11]

In 1816, he married his second wife, Sarah "Sally" Coles (1789–1848), who was a cousin of Dolley Madison and a sister of Edward Coles, who served as Governor of Illinois. She died in 1848.[12] In 1849, he married for the third and final time to Mary Schaff.

Stevenson died at his Blenheim estate on January 21, 1857. He was buried at Enniscorthy Cemetery in Keene, Virginia.[13]


Through his son John, he was the grandfather of five, including: Sally C. (Stevenson) Colston, Mary W. (Stevenson) Colston, Judith W. (Stevenson) Winslow, Samuel W. Stevenson, and John W. Stevenson.[9][note 1]


  1. ^ Morton gives both Mary and John Stevenson's middle initials as "D." instead of "W." She also omits Samuel W. Stevenson from the list of children, including instead Andrew Stevenson of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She later writes that his son John White Stevenson was survived by six children, despite having previously listed only five names. Vaux (p. 14) lists sons Andrew and John, although he states that Andrew lives in Montana. Vaux also mentions three unnamed daughters.


  1. ^ a b c d e "STEVENSON, Andrew - Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  2. ^ "List of Speakers of the House". Washington, D.C.: Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Andrew Stevenson - People - Department History". Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs United States Department of State. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  4. ^ Geoghegan, Patrick M. Liberator- the Life and Death of Daniel O'Connell Gill and Macmillan 2010 Dublin p.202
  5. ^ Geoghegan pp.202-4
  6. ^ Geoghegan p.204
  7. ^ Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff (December 1975). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Blenheim" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-26. Retrieved 2013-05-17. and Accompanying photo Archived 2012-09-26 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  9. ^ a b c Owen 2004, p. 98.
  10. ^ Vaux 1886, p. 5.
  11. ^ John White Stevenson 1936.
  12. ^ Vaux 1886, p. 6.
  13. ^ Wayland, Francis Fry (1949). Andrew Stevenson: Democrat and Diplomat, 1785-1857. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 9781512820881. Retrieved 18 April 2018.


External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 23rd congressional district

March 4, 1821 – March 3, 1823 (obsolete district)
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 9th congressional district

March 4, 1823 – March 3, 1833
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 11th congressional district

March 4, 1833 – June 2, 1834
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
December 3, 1827 – March 3, 1829;
December 7, 1829 – March 3, 1831;
December 5, 1831 – March 3, 1833
December 2, 1833 – June 2, 1834
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Aaron Vail
(Chargé d'Affaires)
U.S. Minister to Britain
Succeeded by