Samuel Tredwell Sawyer
Sawyer was born in Edenton, North Carolina, in 1800. He attended Edenton Academy and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sawyer studied law, was admitted to the bar, and commenced practice in Edenton.
Sawyer was elected to the North Carolina State house of representatives, serving from 1829-1832. Sawyer was elected to the state senate in 1834.
He was elected in 1836 as a Whig to the Twenty-fifth Congress (March 4, 1837 - March 3, 1839), where he was chairman of the Committee on Expenditures on Public Buildings. Sawyer was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection to the Twenty-sixth Congress, moved to Norfolk, Virginia, and resumed the practice of law. He was editor of the Norfolk Argus for several years. He was appointed a collector of customs at Norfolk on May 16, 1853, serving until April 6, 1858. Sawyer moved to Washington, D.C.
As a young man, before he married, Sawyer had a relationship with an enslaved woman, Harriet Jacobs, who was seeking protection from her master, Dr. James Norcrom of Edenton. They had two mixed-race children together, Joseph and Louisa, who were enslaved at birth, according to law, which transferred the mother's status as free or enslaved to her children. After Jacobs went into hiding, she arranged with Sawyer to buy their children in order to protect them from a sale to masters further away. He promised to free them, but refused to do so, as North Carolina greatly restricted manumissions after the Nat Turner slave rebellion of 1831.
Sawyer later married Lavinia Peyton, with whom he had three additional daughters, Fannie Lenox, Sarah Peyton, and Laura. He moved to Washington, DC with his family when he served as a congressman.
Later Harriet Jacobs escaped from North Carolina, making her way to Philadelphia and then New York. She wrote her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and published it under a pseudonym, first in a serialized form in the newspaper. It was published as a book in 1861. By then, a friend had bought her freedom from her former mistress. After the war, she and her daughter Louisa worked with freedmen, particularly in Alexandria, Virginia, aiding their transition to a free life. Her daughter Louisa Jacobs set up a school and was long involved in education. She established a new relationship with her father Samuel Sawyer after the war.
Moving to the North, Sawyer died in Bloomfield, New Jersey in 1865.
- United States Congress. "Samuel Tredwell Sawyer (id: S000093)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
William B. Shepard
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 1st congressional district