Alexander White (Virginia)
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 1st district
March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1793
|Succeeded by||Robert Rutherford|
|Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
from the Frederick County district
|Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
from the Berkeley County district
|Member of the House of Burgesses
from Hampshire County
Serving with James Mercer
|Preceded by||Abraham Hite|
|Succeeded by||Joseph Neville|
"White Hall," Orange County (now Frederick County), Colony of Virginia
|Died||September 19, 1804 (aged 66)
"Woodville," Frederick County, Virginia, United States
|Political party||Pro-Administration Party|
|Relations||Robert White (father)
Margaret Hoge (mother)
Francis White (nephew)
Robert White (nephew)
Robert White (great-great-nephew)
James Wood (brother-in-law)
|Alma mater||University of Edinburgh
Alexander White (1738 – September 19, 1804) was a distinguished early American lawyer and politician in the U.S. state of Virginia. White was the inaugural member to represent Virginia's 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives and also served as a member of both the House of Burgesses and Virginia House of Delegates. White served as a commissioner on a board responsible for the planning and construction of Washington, D.C. He was a member of the White political family of Virginia and West Virginia.
Early life and education
Alexander White was born in 1738 at "White Hall" in Orange County (later part of Frederick County following its creation that same year) to Robert White (1688–1752) and his wife, Margaret Hoge. Through his father, White was of Scottish descent and was raised in the Presbyterian faith. White was sent by his father to Scotland to receive his education where he studied at the University of Edinburgh at Edinburgh. White then studied jurisprudence in London, England, where he was admitted to the Inner Temple on January 15, 1762 and matriculated at Gray's Inn on January 22, 1763. White completed his law studies during the French and Indian War.
White returned to Virginia in 1765 where he began engaging in the practice of law and became a prominent lawyer in the Shenandoah Valley region. White served as deputy King's attorney for Frederick County in 1772. He engaged in a "distinguished career" as a lawyer with a "national reputation."
House of Burgesses
White was elected as a member of the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg from 1772 to 1773, representing Hampshire County. White served with Patrick Henry, where Henry reportedly never casted his vote without first consulting with White. White was an eloquent public speaker, and due to his Scottish Presbyterian background, White was strongly opposed to the colonial government's preferential support of the Church of England in Virginia. Because of this stance, White presented a resolution before the House of Burgesses regarding the separation of church and state. White is reportedly the first man in what is now the United States to present a resolution to a legislature regarding the freedom of religion. During his tenure in the House of Burgesses, White served alongside James Mercer, also representing Hampshire County. Following his term, White was succeeded in his seat by Joseph Neville. Upon the convening of the first court of Berkeley County on May 19, 1772, White also served as the King's attorney for the county. White served one term in the House of Burgesses until he was appointed the deputy King's attorney for the Colony of Virginia in 1773.
American Revolutionary War
While White did not engage in military service during the American Revolutionary War, he remained active in the practice of law in Winchester throughout the war's duration. According to tradition, White facilitated the release of Quaker and Hessian civilian prisoners held by American Revolutionary patriots in a building in the southern part of Winchester during the war. The Quakers and Hessians were imprisoned under the suspicion of their perceived support of British forces. The prisoners appealed to White to assist them with their release and paid him 100 Virginia pounds. Following the British evacuation from the Philadelphia campaign, White traveled to Philadelphia to negotiate with the "executive authority" there for their release to Pennsylvania, where public sentiment demanded their return. White successfully secured their release upon the condition that they affirm "they would henceforth live by their creed and be at peace with all men."
Virginia House of Delegates
From 1782 to 1786, White was elected annually and served in the Virginia House of Delegates representing Frederick County, and began his first term one month after the Virginia General Assembly began its first legislative session. He served another term in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1788. In 1788, White participated in the Virginia Ratifying Convention in which Virginia ratified the United States Constitution. During the American constitutional debates and ratification, White was known in the press by the pseudonym of "An Independent Freeholder." White served another term in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1799 to 1801, representing Berkeley County where he owned a significant amount of land.
United States House of Representatives
White served two terms as the inaugural member to represent Virginia's 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives during both the 1st United States Congress and the 2nd United States Congress (March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1793). White was the first person residing in West Virginia to occupy a seat in the United States Congress. During his tenure, White's congressional district spanned from Harpers Ferry to the Ohio River. As he was known in the House of Burgesses, White was reportedly one of the more eloquently spoken members in the first Congress and was known for his "remarkable punctuality."
White voted in favor of the Residence Act, the United States federal law that settled the question of locating the capital of the United States along the Potomac River in Maryland and Virginia. Three days after the Residence Act became law, the United States House of Representatives agreed upon the Funding Act as part of the Compromise of 1790, to address the issue of funding domestic debt. On August 9, 1790, the Funding Act became statute. White voted in support of the Funding Act, however, according to Thomas Jefferson, White's vote was the result of an argument that occurred at a dinner hosted by Jefferson, after which White and Richard Bland Lee changed their votes in favor of the Funding Act. Jefferson stated that White reluctantly supported the bill "with a revulsion of stomach almost convulsive." The votes of both White and Lee carried the Funding Act measure, making possible the enactment of the Residence Act.
White was re-elected to his seat in 1791 after defeating his opponents, William Darke and General James Wood. According to GovTrack, from May 1789 to March 1793, White missed 26 of 211 recorded votes (or 12.3%). White's voting participation was higher than the median of 14.6% among the lifetime records of representatives serving in March 1793. Following the adjournment of the 2nd United States Congress and the completion of his term in 1793, White retired from public life to his estate "Woodville" in Frederick County near Winchester.
City of Washington Board of Commissioners
On May 18, 1795, White was appointed by United States President George Washington to serve as one of the three commissioners responsible for supervising the raising of funds, planning, design, and acquisition of property and the erection of public buildings in the city of Washington and the federal district. White had been selected to replace Daniel Carroll on the board following Carroll's resignation. While on the board, White was paid a salary of $1,600 per year for his services devoted to the city's affairs. White continued to serve on the board until May 1, 1802 when it was abolished. He concurrently served as one of the directors of the Potomac Company, which made improvements to the Potomac River and improve its navigability for commerce.
Later life and death
White also served as a commissioner on a board charged with adjusting matters relating to the Northwest Territory. He continued to practice law throughout his political career. White died on October 9, 1804 at his estate “Woodville" in Frederick County, Virginia. He died without issue.
Personal life and family
White married Elizabeth Wood, the daughter of Colonel James Wood, founder of Winchester, Virginia, and his wife, Mary Rutherford. Colonel Wood was also the father of James Wood, an officer of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and the 11th Governor of Virginia. White's will was drafted on May 26, 1804 and proved on December 3, 1804 following his death. In his will, White left the bulk of his property and assets to his nephews and nieces. White's will also provided freedom for his slaves.
White owned "valuable lands" in Hampshire County, which enabled him to serve as a member of the House of Burgesses representing that county. On June 12, 1769, White and Angus McDonald purchased 297 acres (1.20 km2) on the Little Cacapon and North rivers and another 425 acres (1.72 km2) on the Little Cacapon River in Hampshire County. White also owned a significant amount of land in Berkeley County, which he represented in the Virginia House of Delegates.
In October 1776, White was named a trustee for the town of Bath after its conveyance from Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. In October 1786, White was also appointed a trustee for Charles Town.
In his The History of the Virginia Federal Convention of 1788 (1891), Virginia historian Hugh Blair Grigsby remarked of White, "Perhaps no member of the able and patriotic delegation which the West contributed to our early councils exerted a greater influence in moulding public opinion, especially during the period embraced by the treaty of peace with Great Britain and by the adoption of the Federal Constitution, than Alexander White, of Frederick."
White's descendant, Alexander White of Hardy County, West Virginia was named for him. White also had a Liberty ship named for him in 1942 during World War II. The SS Alexander White, MC hull 139, was laid down on October 11, 1942 and launched on December 7, 1942. It was scrapped in 1964.
- United States Congress. "WHITE, Alexander, (1738 - 1804)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Maxwell 1891, p. 740.
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- Bryan 1914, p. 256.
- GovTrack. "Rep. Alexander White, Former Representative from Virginia's 1st District". GovTrack. Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Bryan 1914, p. 255.
- Cartmell 1909, p. 290.
- Morton 1925, p. 60.
- Kangas 1983, p. 61.
- Sage 1939, p. 42.
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- Bordewich, Fergus (2009). Washington: The Making of the American Capital. New York City, New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061755545. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Bryan, Wilhelmus Bogart (1914). A History of the National Capital from Its Foundation Through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act, Volume 1. New York City, New York: The Macmillan Company. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Bunker, John (1972). Liberty Ships: The Ugly Ducklings of World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute Press. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Cartmell, Thomas Kemp (1909). Shenandoah Valley Pioneers and Their Descendants: A History of Frederick County, Virginia (illustrated) from Its Formation in 1738 to 1908. Winchester, Virginia: The Eddy Press Corporation. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Grigsby, Hugh Blair; Virginia Historical Society (1891). The History of the Virginia Federal Convention of 1788, With Some Account of the Eminent Virginians of That Era Who Were Members of the Body. Richmond, Virginia: Virginia Historical Society. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Jensen, Merrill; Gordon Roy DenBoer, Robert A. Becker (1984). Documentary History of the First Federal Elections, 1788-1790, Volume 2. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299095109. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Kangas, M. N.; D. E. Payne (1983), Frederick County, Virginia: Wills & Administrations, 1795-1816, Genealogical Publishing Company, ISBN 9780806310220, retrieved 2013-03-16
- Kelly, Gwendolyn Dunlevy (1901). A Genealogical History of the Dunlevy Family. Columbus, Ohio: Gwendolyn Dunlevy Kelly. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Kercheval, Samuel (1833). A History of the Valley of Virginia. Winchester, Virginia: Samuel H. Davis. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Lewis, Virgil Anson; West Virginia Department of Archives and History (1906), First Biennial Report of the Department of Archives and History of the State of West Virginia, Volume 1, Charleston, West Virginia: The Tribune Printing Company, retrieved 2013-03-16
- Maxwell, Hu; Howard Llewellyn Swisher (1897). History of Hampshire County, West Virginia: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present. Morgantown, West Virginia: A. Brown Boughner. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Morton, Frederic (1925). The Story of Winchester in Virginia: The Oldest Town in the Shenandoah Valley. Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books. ISBN 9780788417702. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- Munske, Roberta; Wilmer L. Kerns, The Hampshire County 250th Anniversary Committee (2004), Hampshire County, West Virginia, 1754-2004, The Hampshire County 250th Anniversary Committee, ISBN 978-0-9715738-2-6, retrieved 2013-03-16
- Sage, Clara McCormack; Laura Elizabeth Sage Jones, Genealogical Publishing Company (1939), Early Records, Hampshire County, Virginia: Now West Virginia, Including at the Start Most of Known Va. Aside from Augusta District, Genealogical Publishing Company, ISBN 9780806303055, retrieved 2013-03-16
- Tindall, William (1914), Standard History of the City of Washington from a Study of the Original Sources, H. W. Crew & Company, retrieved 2013-03-16
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Congressional profile at GovTrack
- Voting record at The Washington Post
- Alexander White at Find a Grave
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