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Charles Fenton Mercer (June 16, 1778 – May 4, 1858) was a nineteenth-century politician, U.S. Congressman, and lawyer from Loudoun County, Virginia.

Charles F. Mercer
Charles F. Mercer.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 14th district
In office
March 4, 1823 – December 26, 1839
Preceded byJabez Leftwich
Succeeded byWilliam M. McCarty
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 8th district
In office
March 4, 1817 – March 3, 1823
Preceded byJoseph Lewis, Jr.
Succeeded byBurwell Bassett
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Loudoun County
In office
December 3, 1810 – March 3, 1817
Preceded byStephen C. Roszel
Succeeded byJoseph Lewis, Jr.
Personal details
Charles Fenton Mercer

(1778-06-16)June 16, 1778
Fredericksburg, Virginia
DiedMay 4, 1858(1858-05-04) (aged 79)
Howard, Virginia
Alma materPrinceton College
Military service
Allegiance United States
RankLieutenant colonel
Battles/warsWar of 1812


The youngest son of James Mercer and Eleanor Mercer,[1] Charles Mercer was the first cousin of Robert Selden Garnett and James Mercer Garnett, both also members of Congress.

Born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Mercer graduated from Princeton College in 1797, where he later took a postgraduate course and received his degree in 1800. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1802, commencing practice in Aldie, Virginia, a village that he founded in 1810, centering on Mercer's mill. He was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1810 to 1817 and was appointed a lieutenant colonel of a Virginia regiment in the War of 1812. Mercer was later promoted to major in command at Norfolk, Virginia, was inspector general in 1814, aide-de-camp to Governor James Barbour and brigadier general in command of the 2nd Virginia Brigade.

He was projector and first president of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Co. from 1828 to 1833 and was a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1829. Mercer was elected a Federalist, Crawford Republican, Adams Republican, Anti-Jacksonian and Whig to the United States House of Representatives in 1816, serving from 1817 to 1839. There, he served as Chairman of the Committee on Roads and Canals from 1831 to 1839.

Mercer was elected as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829-1830. In 1829, he was elected by the Convention to serve on the Committee of the Legislative Department. He was one of four delegates elected from the senatorial district made up his home district of Loudoun, and Fairfax County, alongside James Monroe.[2]

Like most Federalists and then Whigs, Mercer had no particular plan for eliminating slavery, even though by the beginning of the nineteenth century it had less economic importance to northern Virginia. Much of the soil had been depleted by years of mineral-leaching tobacco crops. He was one of the originators of the plan for establishing the Free State of Liberia, and in that context one of the founders of the American Colonization Society in 1816, dedicated to the problem he saw as the most pressing--how to rid the South and North of free blacks. They were, he stated, a dirty, dissolute, impoverished population, a burden to taxpayers, and a source of crime and disease. Their existence undermined the livelihood and dignity of Northern workingmen. Easily radicalized, they were a threat to the security of Southern communities. Free blacks inspired black slaves to think that they, too, could become free. Inferior racial aliens, they could never be assimilated.

By 1817 the American Colonization Society had a national presence. James Madison, Henry Clay, John Marshall, John Randolph, John Taylor, William H. Crawford, Daniel Webster, Francis Scott Key, and James Monroe, among other luminaries, became founding or early members. There were two troublesome questions: how many free blacks would voluntarily agree to be deported, and who would pay for it? Mercer [3]was vice president of the Virginia Colonization Society in 1836, and vice president of the National Society of Agriculture in 1842.

Mercer died at Howard,[4] near Alexandria, Virginia, on May 4, 1858 and was interred in Union Cemetery in Leesburg, Virginia.


  • Egerton, Douglas R., Charles Fenton Mercer and the Trial of National Conservatism. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1989).
  • Pulliam, David Loyd (1901). The Constitutional Conventions of Virginia from the foundation of the Commonwealth to the present time. John T. West, Richmond. ISBN 978-1-2879-2059-5.


  1. ^ TSHA Online - Texas State Historical Association
  2. ^ Pulliam 1901, p. 68, 80
  3. ^ LINCOLN and the ABOLITIONIST, by Kaplan, Fred, Harper Collins, 2017, pages 158-160
  4. ^ Garnett, James Mercer (1910), Genealogy of the Mercer-Garnett Family of Essex County, Virginia, Whittet & Shepperson, printers, p. 47

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