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Henry Tazewell

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Henry Tazewell
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
February 20, 1795 – December 8, 1795
Preceded byRalph Izard
Succeeded bySamuel Livermore
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
December 29, 1794 – January 24, 1799
Preceded byJohn Taylor
Succeeded byWilson C. Nicholas
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
from Williamsburg City
In office
October 21, 1782 – March 31, 1785
In office
October 4, 1779 – October 1, 1781
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
from Brunswick County
In office
October 7, 1776 – October 4, 1779
Member of the Virginia House of Burgesses
from Brunswick County
In office
June 1, 1775 – May 6, 1776
Personal details
Born(1753-11-27)November 27, 1753
Brunswick County, Virginia, British America
DiedJanuary 24, 1799(1799-01-24) (aged 45)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyAnti-Administration
SpouseDorothea Elizabeth Waller Tazewell
ChildrenLittleton Waller Tazewell
Sophia Ann Tazewell
Alma materThe College of William & Mary
OccupationLawyer, Politician, Judge

Henry Tazewell (November 27, 1753 – January 24, 1799) was an American politician who was instrumental in the early government of Virginia, and a US senator from Virginia.[1] He was a slave owner,[2][3] and served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate in 1795.

Early life[edit]

Born in Brunswick County, Virginia, Tazewell was the son of Littleton and Mary Gray Tazewell. He attended the rural schools and graduated from the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1770.

He married Dorothea Elizabeth Waller on January 13, 1774, who were the parents of Littleton Waller Tazewell,[4] who became a senator and governor of Virginia, and a daughter, Sophia Ann.


Coat of Arms of Henry Tazewell

Tazewell studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1773, and began his practice. During the American Revolutionary War, he raised and was commissioned captain of a troop of cavalry.[5]

A member of the House of Burgesses in 1775, Tazewell was also a delegate to the Fourth Virginia Convention of 1775 and the Fifth Virginia Convention of 1776, which wrote the state constitution. From 1778 to 1785, he was a member of the Virginia General Assembly.

In 1785, Tazewell became a judge of the Virginia General Court. Elevated to its chief justice, he served from 1789 to 1793.[5] He also served as a judge on the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, later renamed the Virginia Supreme Court, in 1793.

In 1794, Tazewell was elected to the US Senate to fill the vacancy that had been caused by the resignation of John Taylor. Re-elected in 1798, he served from December 29, 1794, to his death. He served as the president pro tempore of the Senate in 1795.

When Tennessee Senator William Blount was impeached on account of treason in 1797, Tazewell cast the lone dissenting vote against Blount's expulsion from the Senate.[6]: 321–2  Tazewell was one of four senators to vote against authorizing military force for the Quasi-War.[7]


Tazewell died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 24, 1799, and is interred at Christ Church Burial Ground.

Tazewell County, Virginia;[8] Tazewell, Virginia; Tazewell, Tennessee; New Tazewell, Tennessee; and possibly Tazewell County, Illinois are named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bioguide Search". bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved 2022-01-29.
  2. ^ Weil, Julie Zauzmer; Blanco, Adrian; Dominguez, Leo. "More than 1,700 congressmen once enslaved Black people. This is who they were, and how they shaped the nation". Washington Post. Retrieved 2022-01-29.
  3. ^ "Congress slaveowners", The Washington Post, 2022-01-27, retrieved 2022-01-29
  4. ^ "Henry Tazewell". Geni.com. 27 November 1753. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Henry Tazewell". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  6. ^ William Masterson, William Blount (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1954).
  7. ^ "TO PASS H.R. 119, (APP. 7/9/1798, 1 STAT 578), AN … -- Senate Vote #141 -- Jul 6, 1798". GovTrack.us. Retrieved 2023-09-07.
  8. ^ "Henry Tazewell". Intellectual Reserve, Inc. Retrieved 8 November 2013.

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 2) from Virginia
Served alongside: Stevens T. Mason
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by President pro tempore of the United States Senate
Succeeded by