Kensey Johns (judge)

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Kensey Johns (June 14, 1759 – December 21, 1848) was a jurist from Delaware and father of Kensey Johns, Jr. and John Johns.

Early life and family[edit]

Johns was born in Maryland. His ancestral home, Sudley, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. In his early years, he participated as a minuteman in the American Revolution and studied law with Samuel Chase and George Read. After being a lawyer in private practice for over a decade, he was appointed an associate judge of the supreme court of Delaware. In 1784, Johns married Ann Van Dyke, the daughter of Nicholas Van Dyke, the Governor of Delaware. George Washington was a guest at the wedding, and the home in which they were wed is preserved as a museum house in New Castle. In 1792, he was a member of the Delaware Constitutional Convention.

Senate appointment[edit]

On September 18, 1793, Read resigned his seat in the United States Senate. The Delaware General Assembly deadlocked on the appointment of a replacement. Finally, with the state legislature still in session but still deadlocked, Governor Joshua Clayton appointed Johns to fill the seat on March 19, 1794. He presented his credentials to Congress on March 24, 1794. Less than a month before, the Republicans in the Senate had seen one of their favorites, Albert Gallatin, unseated as failing to meet the minimum nine years citizenship constitutionally required of a U.S. senator, and they took the opportunity for revenge. Johns's credentials were immediately questioned and referred to committee. The United States Constitution permitted a state governor to fill a vacancy, but only when the state legislature was in recess. Since this was not the case, the committee reported back two days later that Johns was not qualified to take a seat in the Senate, and two days after that, the full Senate agreed and denied Johns a seat.

Later career[edit]

When Read died in 1798, Johns succeeded him as chief justice of Delaware. He held that office until 1828 or 1830, when he became chancellor of Delaware. He held that post until the 1832 Constitution of Delaware became operative, at which point he was succeeded by his son, Kensey Junior.

Johns died in New Castle, Delaware in 1848.


Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
Chief Justice Judiciary Dover January 3, 1799 June 21, 1830 State Supreme Court
Chancellor Judiciary Dover June 21, 1830 June 18, 1832 State Chancery Court

See also[edit]


  • Butler, Anne M.; Wolff, Wendy (1995). "Case 2: Kensey Johns". Senate Election, Expulsion and Censure Cases from 1793 to 1990. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. pp. 6–7.