Historical Highlights

Speaker of the House John Wesley Davis of Indiana

April 16, 1799
Speaker of the House John Wesley Davis of Indiana Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
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Before his election to Congress, Speaker of the House John W. Davis of Indiana practiced medicine in Carlisle, Indiana.
On this date, Speaker of the House John Wesley Davis of Indiana was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. A physician by trade, Davis entered politics when he was elected to the Indiana state house of representatives in 1831 and served as its speaker. Davis once told a vocal critic, “My friend, to save you trouble and me annoyance, I will say now that I endorse everything the Democratic party ever has done, and everything that it will ever do.” Party loyalty defined Davis’s career. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1834 to serve in the 24th Congress (1835–1837), Davis served four non-consecutive terms in Congress. Despite his inconstant terms in the House, the Congressman became Speaker of the House in the 29th Congress (1845–1847). After one term as Speaker, Davis declined to run for the 30th Congress (1847–1849). President James K. Polk, whom he had served with in the 24th Congress, appointed Davis Commissioner to China. At the completion of that appointment, President Franklin Pierce, another of Davis’s colleagues from the 24th Congress, appointed him Governor of the Oregon Territory in 1853. After a brief appointment to the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Davis passed away in Carlisle, Indiana, in August 1859.

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