David Holmes (politician)

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David Holmes
5th Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 7, 1826 – July 25, 1826
LieutenantGerard Brandon
Preceded byGerard Brandon
Succeeded byGerard Brandon
United States Senator
from Mississippi
In office
August 30, 1820 – September 25, 1825
Preceded byWalter Leake
Succeeded byPowhatan Ellis
1st Governor of Mississippi
In office
December 10, 1817 – January 5, 1820
LieutenantDuncan Stewart
Preceded byHimself (as Governor of the Mississippi Territory
Succeeded byGeorge Poindexter
4th Governor of Mississippi Territory
In office
March 7, 1809 – December 10, 1817
Appointed byThomas Jefferson
Preceded byRobert Williams
Succeeded byHimself (as Governor of the State of Mississippi)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 4th district
In office
March 4, 1803 – March 3, 1809
Preceded byAbram Trigg
Succeeded byJacob Swoope
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1797 – March 3, 1803
Preceded byAndrew Moore
Succeeded byJames Stephenson
Personal details
Born(1769-03-10)March 10, 1769
Hanover, Province of Pennsylvania, British America
DiedAugust 20, 1832(1832-08-20) (aged 63)
Winchester, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyJacksonian
Other political
Alma materCollege of William and Mary

David Holmes (March 10, 1769 – August 20, 1832) was an American politician in Virginia and Mississippi. He served five terms as a US congressman from Virginia's 2nd congressional district, and later was important in Mississippi's development as a state. He was appointed by the federal government as the fourth and last governor of the Mississippi Territory. In 1817 he was unanimously elected as the first governor of the state of Mississippi. He served a term as US senator from Mississippi, appointed to fill a vacancy until elected by the legislature. Elected again as governor, he was forced to resign early due to ill health. He returned to Virginia in his last years.


Born near Hanover in York County, Province of Pennsylvania, Holmes as a child moved with his family to Frederick County, Virginia. He attended Winchester Academy, ultimately studying law and passing the bar. He started his practice in Harrisonburg, Virginia. By adulthood he considered himself a Virginian.[1] He served as U.S. Representative from Virginia's 2nd congressional district, serving a total of five terms from 1797 until 1809, as he was repeatedly re-elected.

Electoral history[edit]

  • 1797; Holmes was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia's 2nd congressional district, with 60.4% of the vote, defeating Democratic-Republican John Bowyer and Federalist John Steele.
  • 1799; Holmes was re-elected with 83.56% of the vote, defeating Federalist Robert Porterfield.
  • 1801; Holmes was re-elected over Federalist Alexander Sinclair.
  • 1803; Holmes was re-elected with 70.39% of the vote, defeating Federalist Isaac Van Meter.
  • 1805; Holmes was re-elected unopposed.
  • 1807; Holmes was re-elected unopposed.

Mississippi Territory[edit]

President Thomas Jefferson appointed Holmes as fourth governor of the Mississippi Territory. Holmes was very popular, and his appointment marked the end of a long period of political factionalism within the territory. European Americans were pressing to gain more land and encroaching on Native American territory of the Chickasaw and Choctaw people.

Holmes was the last governor of the Mississippi Territory, serving 1809–17. He was generally successful in dealing with a variety of matters, including expansion, land policy, Indians, the War of 1812, and the constitutional convention of 1817 (of which he was elected president).

Often concerned with problems regarding West Florida, he had a major role in 1810 in negotiations which led to the peaceful occupation by the United States of part of that territory. McCain (1967) concludes that Holmes's success was not based on brilliance, but upon kindness, unselfishness, persuasiveness, courage, honesty, diplomacy, and intelligence.[2]

Mississippi statehood[edit]

In 1817, Mississippi joined the Union as the 20th state, and Holmes was elected unanimously as the first governor of the State of Mississippi.[3] He took the oath of office in October 1817, though Mississippi did not officially become a state until December of that year. During his term, he established the state judicial system and the state militia. He also organized the land east of the Pearl River which the Choctaw people had ceded to the United States, under considerable pressure.

In 1820, he was appointed as a Democratic-Republican to fill the US Senate vacancy from Mississippi caused by the resignation of Walter Leake.[1] He was elected the same year by the state legislature (as was the practice then) as a Jackson Republican in August 1820, serving from 1821 until late 1825, when he ran for and was elected to another term as governor.[4] He resigned as senator. Due to his declining health, he was able to serve only six months as Mississippi's fifth governor. If both territory and statehood years are counted, he is Mississippi's longest-serving governor, at more than over 11 years of service (10 years, 9 months, 29 days the first tenure; and 6 months, 18 days the second tenure).

Holmes returned to near Winchester, Virginia, where his health continued to fail. He died in 1832 at Jordan White Sulphur Springs resort. He was buried in the Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Winchester. He was predeceased by his brother, Major Andrew Hunter Holmes, a casualty of the Battle of Mackinac Island during the War of 1812.


Holmes County, Mississippi, is named in honor of him.[5]


  1. ^ a b "HOLMES, David 1769–1832". US House of Representatives. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  2. ^ McCain 1967
  3. ^ "Our Campaigns - MS Governor Race - Sep 01, 1817".
  4. ^ "Our Campaigns - MS Governor Race - Aug 01, 1825".
  5. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 159.

Further reading[edit]

  • D.H. Conrad, "David Holmes: First Governor of Mississippi," Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Centenary Series, vol. 4 (1921), pp. 234–257.
  • Howard P. Hildreth, "David Holmes," Virginia Cavalcade, vol. 16, no. 4 (Spring 1967), pp. 38–40.
  • William D. McCain, "The Administrations of David Holmes, Governor of the Mississippi Territory, 1809–1817," Journal of Mississippi History, vol. 29, no. 3 (1967) pp. 328–347.
  • Jo Anne McCormick Quatannens and Diane B. Boyle (eds.), Senators of the United States: A Historical Bibliography. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1995; pg. 136.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Mississippi Territory
Succeeded by
as Governor of Mississippi
Preceded by
as Governor of Mississippi Territory
Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Gerard Brandon
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 1) from Mississippi
Served alongside: Thomas H. Williams
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by