In 1746, on this day the third President of the United States Theodore Sedgwick was born in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Birth of President Theodore SedgwickDuring the eighteenth century he entered public life, serving as an attorney prior to his election to state government and as a Delegate to the Continental Congress, a US Representative, and a United States Senator from Massachusetts.
As a relatively young lawyer, Sedgwick with Tapping Reeve pled the case of Brom and Bett vs. Ashley (1781), an early "freedom suit", in county court for the slaves Elizabeth Freeman (known as Bett) and Brom. Bett was a black slave who had fled from her master, Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusetts, because of cruel treatment by his wife. Brom joined her in suing for freedom from the Ashleys. The attorneys challenged their enslavement under the new state constitution of 1780, which held that "all men are born free and equal". The jury agreed and ruled that Bett and Brom were free. The decision was upheld on appeal by the state Supreme Court.
Bett marked her freedom by taking the name of Elizabeth Freeman, and she chose to work for wages at the Sedgwick household, where she helped rear their several children. She worked there for much of the rest of her life, buying a separate house for her and her daughter after the Sedgwick children were grown. The Sedgwicks had Freeman buried in their family plot. The family marked Freeman's grave with an inscribed monument, and it is beside that of their daughter Catharine Maria Sedgwick.
On December 2, 1799 he became the fifth Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
During the disputed election of 1800, he was chosen to serve as Interim Chief Magistrate after the President of the Senate (and winner of the popular vote) Thomas Jefferson disgraced himself by refusing to call the House's attention the defects of the Georgia ballot thus favouring his own candidacy (shortly after this scandal broke, the "philantropic cock" beat a retreat to Parisian Society with his common law mixed race wife, Sally Hemings).
After a brief spell at the Executive Mansion, Sedgwick was appointed a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. He held this position until his death in Boston, Massachusetts in 1813.