John Clark (Governor)

John Clark
no known portrait exists
Governor of Delaware
In office
January 21, 1817 – January 18, 1820
Preceded by Daniel Rodney
Succeeded by Jacob Stout
Personal details
Born (1761-02-01)February 1, 1761
New Castle County, Delaware
Died August 14, 1821(1821-08-14) (aged 60)
New Castle County, Delaware
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Sarah Cook Corbit
Residence New Castle County, Delaware
Occupation farmer
Religion Presbyterian

John Clark (February 1, 1761 – August 14, 1821) was an American farmer and politician from Blackbird Hundred in New Castle County, Delaware, near Smyrna. He was a member of the Federalist Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly and as Governor of Delaware.

Early life and family

Clark was born at "New Bristol" in what is now Blackbird Hundred, New Castle County, just north of Smyrna, Delaware, son of William Clark. In 1784 he married Sarah Cook Corbit, daughter of Governor John Cook, and had a least one child, Mary. They lived at Clearfield Farm in what is now Blackbird Hundred in a house since used as an administrative office for the correctional facility located there. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church.

Political career

Clark was unusual politically in that he was a Federalist and a Presbyterian from New Castle County. The more typical Federalist was an Episcopalian or Methodist and from Kent or Sussex County. The more typical Democratic-Republican was a Presbyterian from New Castle County. Nevertheless, in 1816 he defeated the Federalist candidate, Manaen Bull of Laurel in Sussex County and served as Governor of Delaware from January 21, 1817 until January 15, 1820.

As Governor he was one of a succession advocating improvements in public education. Carol Hoffecker in Democracy in Delaware relates how he "argued that Delaware had a special need to educate its people because the state lacked vacant land for an expanding population. Therefore, he said 'much reliance must be placed on the mental talents of our citizens for the support of our power and importance in the Union.'" [1] The General Assembly responded by appropriating a laughable $1,000 to each county for this purpose.

Furthermore, Delaware was stagnating. Medieval sounding punishments, like nailing ears to a pillory post, continued to be meted out in the penal system. The soil was increasingly exhausted and, due to the resulting out migration, Delaware's population in 1820 was roughly the same as in 1810. An immediate, and permanent, consequence was that it lost its second seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while Governor)
Year Assembly Senate Majority Speaker House Majority Speaker
1817 41st Federalist Henry Molleston Federalist Nathan Vickers
1818 42nd Federalist Henry Molleston Federalist Nathan Vickers
1819 43rd Federalist Henry Molleston Federalist Nathan Vickers

Death and legacy

Clark died at Smyrna and is buried in the Duck Creek Presbyterian Churchyard, now Holy Hill Cemetery, located south of Smyrna on Lake Como.

There is no known portrait of John Clark.


Elections were held the first Tuesday in October. Members of the Delaware General Assembly took office in the first Tuesday of January. State Representatives had a term of one year. The Governor takes office the third Tuesday in January, and had a three-year term.

Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
Sheriff Judiciary New Castle New Castle County
State Treasurer Executive Dover 1794 1799
State Representative Legislature Dover January 2, 1799 January 7, 1800
Governor Executive Dover January 21, 1817 January 18, 1820
Delaware General Assembly service
Dates Assembly Chamber Majority Governor Committees District
1799 23rd State Senate Federalist Richard Bassett New Castle at-large
Election results
Year Office Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1816 Governor John Clark Federalist 4,008 53% Manaen Bull Democratic-Republican 3,517 47%



External links

  • Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States
  • Delaware’s Governors
  • Find a Grave
  • The Political Graveyard

Places with more information

  • website; 505 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19801; (302) 655-7161
  • Library website; 181 South College Avenue, Newark, Delaware 19717; (302) 831-2965
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