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John Wales (July 31, 1783 – December 3, 1863) was an American lawyer and politician from Wilmington, in New Castle County, Delaware. He was a member of the Whig Party who served as U.S. Senator from Delaware.

John Wales
Senator John Wales.jpg
United States Senator
from Delaware
In office
February 23, 1849 – March 3, 1851
Preceded byJohn M. Clayton
Succeeded byJames A. Bayard, Jr.
Personal details
Born(1783-07-31)July 31, 1783
New Haven, Connecticut
DiedDecember 3, 1863(1863-12-03) (aged 80)
Wilmington, Delaware
Political partyWhig
ResidenceWilmington, Delaware
Alma materYale College

Early life and familyEdit

Wales was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and graduated from Yale College in 1801. He was admitted to the Connecticut Bar in 1801 and began practicing law in New Haven, and later, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After two years in Baltimore, Maryland, he moved to Wilmington, Delaware, in 1815.

Professional careerEdit

In 1814, Wales became a secretary for the Society for the Promotion of American Manufacturers, which was designed to promote and encourage Delaware's manufacturing industry. Wales drafted the by-laws of the Savings Bank in 1832, then served as the president of the Bank of Wilmington and Brandywine from 1824 to 1829.

Political careerEdit

Wales served as the Secretary of State for Delaware from 1845 to 1849, and was elected as a Whig to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy left when John M. Clayton resigned. Taking office on February 23, 1849, he served until March 3, 1851, having failed in his reelection bid.

An abolitionist, Wales served as a Delaware representative to the First National Convention of the Abolition of Slavery along with famous abolitionist Thomas Garrett. When Garrett was tried in 1848 for aiding the escape of a slave family, Wales served as his lawyer. He was also one of the founders of Newark College in Newark, Delaware, now the University of Delaware.

Death and legacyEdit

Wales died in Wilmington and is buried in the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery.


The General Assembly chose the U.S. Senators, who took office March 4, for a six-year term. In this case he was completing the existing term, the vacancy caused by the resignation of John M. Clayton.

Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington February 23, 1849 March 3, 1851
United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1847–1849 30th U.S. Senate Democratic James K. Polk class 1
1849–1851 31st U.S. Senate Whig Zachary Taylor class 1


Places with more informationEdit

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
John M. Clayton
U.S. Senator from Delaware
Succeeded by
James A. Bayard, Jr.