John Wickham (attorney)
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John Wickham, drawing by Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin
|Born||June 6, 1763|
|Died||January 22, 1839(aged 75)|
|Alma mater||College of William and Mary|
|Spouse(s)||Mary Smith Fanning|
Elizabeth Seldon McClurg
John Wickham (June 6, 1763 – January 22, 1839) was an American Loyalist and attorney. He was one of the very few Loyalists to achieve any sort of national prominence in the United States after the American Revolution, and is best remembered for his role in the treason trial of former Vice President Aaron Burr in 1807.
Early life and family
John Wickham was the oldest son of John Wickham Sr. and his wife Mary Smith Fanning. Wickham was born in the colony of New York in the village of Cutchogue. His father was a minister in the Anglican Church and a Loyalist, while his uncle Parker Wickham was also a Loyalist, and was active in the local government.
After the American Revolution, Parker Wickham was banished from New York State under an act of attainder. Despite vigorously declaring his innocence, Parker Wickham was never granted a trial and was sentenced to death if he returned to New York. The unfairness of this bitter event gave John Wickham a lifelong appreciation of the sanctity of a person's legal rights, regardless of their political affiliation.
Although John Wickham was a first cousin of Revolutionary War hero Nathaniel Fanning, he was heavily influenced by his uncle Edmund Fanning, a colonel (later a general) in the British Army. Fanning raised a unit called the King's American Regiment, which Wickham served in as an ensign. While traveling through Virginia, Wickham was captured and put on trial as a spy, but acquitted.
After the Revolutionary War, Wickham earned a degree in law from the College of William and Mary, where he became a close friend of John Marshall, later fourth Chief Justice of the U.S.. Wickham moved to Richmond and experienced tremendous financial success helping British merchants collect debts from American businessmen. He married his first cousin Mary Smith Fanning and had two children. After her early death, he married Elizabeth Seldon McClurg and had seventeen more children. McClurg was the daughter of Dr. James McClurg, Richmond Mayor, U.S. Congressman, and a delegate to the Philadelphia Convention, which framed the Constitution of the United States in 1787.
In 1807, Wickham was lead counsel for Aaron Burr in his trial for treason. Although Thomas Jefferson took an active role in trying to have his former Vice President executed, Burr was found innocent. Wickham's old friend John Marshall was the presiding judge.
His interment was located in Richmond's Shockoe Hill Cemetery. Wickham's numerous descendants continued to be active in Virginia affairs. His grandson Williams Carter Wickham was a Confederate general, and served as the first president of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. His granddaughter Charlotte Wickham was married to William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, the son of General Robert E. Lee. Wickham's residence, Wickham House, is now part of the Valentine Richmond History Center.