Sen. Ambrose Hundley Sevier, Sr. (D-Ark)

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Ambrose Hundley Sevier, Sr.

Birthdate: (47)
Birthplace: Greene County, Tennessee, United States
Death: December 31, 1848 (47)
Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, United States (Declining health.)
Place of Burial: Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John "Black Jack" Sevier and Susannah Maloney
Husband of Juliette E. Sevier (Johnson)
Father of Anna Maria Churchill; Matilda J. Williams; Elizabeth Brown Sevier and Lt. Ambrose Hundley Sevier, Jr.
Brother of Henry Conway Sevier; Elizabeth Mariah Broyles (Sevier); Sarah Sparks Smith; Nancy Irwin; Narcissa Herring and 2 others
Half brother of William Conway Maloney and Thomas Fleming Maloney

Occupation: Lawyer-Politician-Governor, Represented Pres. Polk in the treaty between the U. S. And Mexico.
Managed by: Dale Edward Smith
Last Updated:

About Sen. Ambrose Hundley Sevier, Sr. (D-Ark)

Ambrose Hundley Sevier was born and raised in Greene County, Tennessee, however he moved to Arkansas in his adult years and married Juliette Johnson (Daughter of Federal Judge Benjamin Johnson). This gave him his start in his Political career because of the family connections of the Johnson/Connely power in the Arkansas Government at the time. He held the following positions in the Political arena; Arkansas Territorial House of Represenatives, 1823-1827, Speaker of Arkansas Territorial House of Represenatives, 1827, Delegate to U.S. Congress for Arkansas Territory, 1828-1836, U.S. Senator for State of Arkansas, 1836-1848. Ambrose and Juliette had four children during their marriage and one of their daughters (Anna M. Sevier) would later marry the Governor of Arkansas, from 1881-1883 (James Churchill).


Ambrose Hundley Sevier (November 4, 1801 – December 31, 1848) was a Democratic member of the United States Senate from Arkansas.

Ambrose Hundley Sevier was born near Greeneville, Tennessee in Greene County, Tennessee. Sevier moved to Missouri in 1820 and to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1821.

In Arkansas he became clerk of the Territorial House of Representatives. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1823. Sevier became a member of the House of Representatives and served from 1823 to 1827 and served as speaker of that body in 1827.

Sevier was elected as a Delegate to the Twentieth US Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Henry Wharton Conway. Sevier was reelected and served as delegate in three successive congresses from 1828 to 1836 when Arkansas was admitted to the Union. Sevier is known as the "Father of Arkansas Statehood".

In 1836 Sevier was elected as the first member of the United States Senate from Arkansas. He was reelected in 1837 and 1843. He resigned from office in 1848. During the twenty-ninth Congress he was allowed to hold the seat of President pro tem of the Senate for a day, though he was not actually elected to that post. During his tenure he served as chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs and was a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations.

In 1848 Sevier and Nathan Clifford, the Attorney General of the United States, were appointed ambassadors to Mexico by President James K. Polk to negotiate the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the end of the Mexican-American War.

Ambrose Hundley Sevier died on his plantation in Pulaski County, Arkansas. He was buried in the historic Mount Holly Cemetery. The State of Arkansas erected a monument in the cemetery in his honor.

Sevier was the grandnephew of John Sevier, first cousin of Representative Henry Wharton Conway, Governor James Sevier Conway, Governor Elias Nelson Conway, brother-in-law of Senator Robert Ward Johnson and father-in-law of Governor Thomas James Churchill.

Sevier County, Arkansas is named in his honor.


From the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture:

Ambrose Hundley Sevier (1801–1848)

Ambrose Hundley Sevier was a territorial delegate and one of the first U.S. senators from the state of Arkansas. Sevier was also one of the founders of a political dynasty which ruled antebellum Arkansas politics from the 1820s until the Civil War. His cousin Henry Wharton Conway founded the Arkansas Democratic Party, and his other cousin, James Sevier Conway, served as Arkansas’s first state governor, while yet another cousin, Elias Nelson Conway, was the state’s fifth chief executive. He also married into the powerful Johnson family, and his brother-in-law Robert W. Johnson rose to prominence in antebellum Arkansas politics.

Born on November 10, 1801, in Greene County, Tennessee, to John Sevier and Susannah Conway, he was the grandnephew of John Sevier, a Revolutionary War hero and the first governor of Tennessee.

Sevier left Tennessee in 1820, settling first in Missouri and then, finally, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) by 1821. That October, Arkansas’s second territorial legislature convened for the first time in Little Rock, and Sevier became clerk for the territorial House of Representatives. Two years later, he was admitted to the bar and won a seat in the territorial lower house representing Pulaski County. In 1827, his fellow legislators elected him as speaker of the Arkansas Territorial House of Representatives.

On September 27, 1827, Sevier married Juliette E. Johnson, the eldest daughter of Territorial Superior Court Judge Benjamin Johnson. With this marriage, Sevier entered another powerful political family. Judge Johnson’s older brother, Richard Mentor Johnson, served in both houses of the U.S. Congress from Kentucky and eventually became the vice president of the United States under President Martin Van Buren. Juliette Johnson’s, brother Robert Ward Johnson, represented Arkansas in both houses of the U.S. Congress and in the Confederate Congress.

Sevier and his wife had four children:

  • Annie M.,
  • Mattie J.,
  • Elizabeth, and
  • Ambrose H Sevier Jr.

Related by blood to the Conways and by marriage to the Johnsons, Sevier now became a central figure in "The Family," a dynasty which dominated Arkansas throughout the antebellum era, with members of these families and their relations holding office for an aggregate number of 190 years.

Sevier assumed leadership of the family after his cousin, Territorial Delegate Henry W. Conway, was killed in a duel in 1827. In December 1827, Sevier was elected territorial delegate in a special election, taking his seat in Congress on February 13, 1828. He quickly aligned himself with the Andrew Jackson, and his political faction evolved into Arkansas’s Democratic Party. It was Sevier who secured Arkansas’s bid for statehood, with President Andrew Jackson signing the bill making it the 25th state on June 15, 1836. Arkansas’s first legislature rewarded Sevier by electing him as one of the state’s first two U.S. senators.

At the pinnacle of his power in Arkansas, Sevier now became an important person in the Congress. According to historian Brian S. Walton, “Sevier entered the Senate in this, its age of glory, and conquered it.... He alone among Arkansas’ pre-Civil War senators achieved any prominence in the chamber.”

During his 12-year tenure, Sevier chaired two major committees, Indian Affairs and Foreign Relations. His views reflected those of many on the frontier; he backed Jackson’s Indian removal policy and labored unsuccessfully to give free land away in the West to American homesteaders. Manifest Destiny had the Arkansas’s senator’s approval as he supported demands to take all of Oregon from the British in the mid-1840s.

Sevier’s views on expansion were quite congruent with those of newly elected President James K. Polk. As Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee (1845–1848), he ushered the final Oregon Treaty through the Senate and vigorously supported the conflict with Mexico.

As Sevier’s power in the national capital waxed, his hold over Arkansas politics waned. As the Democrats controlled the General Assembly in 1842, Sevier easily won reelection to the Senate, yet within weeks, the Arkansas Legislature censured him for financial malfeasance regarding bonds associated with the failed Arkansas Real Estate Bank. Personal tragedy also struck when his wife died after a long illness on March 16, 1845.

In March 15, 1848, Sevier resigned his seat in the U.S. Senate at the request of President Polk to serve as a commissioner implementing the final peace treaty with Mexico. Sevier became ill in Mexico, resigned as commissioner in June, and was back in Washington by July 13; he returned to his plantation in Jefferson County (Pine Bluff) by the end of August.

Meanwhile, Solon Borland, the former editor of the state’s Democratic newspaper, had replaced him in the Senate. Borland was to hold the office until Sevier could reclaim it. Borland, however, built support for his own candidacy and stunned Sevier by defeating him by just four votes in the General Assembly election in November 1848. Already in poor health from his diplomatic stint in Mexico, Sevier never recovered from this political upset, and he died on December 31, 1848.

For additional information:

  • Bolton, S. Charles. Arkansas, 1800–1860: Remote and Restless. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1998.
  • Walton, Brian G. “Ambrose Hundley Sevier in the United States Senate, 1836–1848.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 32 (Spring 1973): 25–60.
  • White, Lonnie J. Politics on the Southwestern Frontier: Arkansas Territory, 1819–1836. Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1964.
  • Woods, James M. Rebellion and Realignment: Arkansas’s Road to Secession. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1987.

James M. Woods

  • Georgia Southern University
  • Last Updated 11/10/2011
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Sen. Ambrose Hundley Sevier, Sr. (D-Ark)'s Timeline

November 4, 1801
Greene County, Tennessee, United States
March 12, 1830
Age 28
Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, United States
March 22, 1836
Age 34
Pulaski County, AR, USA
March 1839
Age 37
Pulaski County, AR, USA
November 1, 1842
Age 40
Washington, D.C.
December 31, 1848
Age 47
Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, United States