Daniel Sheffey (1770 – 1830): US Congressman

Daniel Sheffey was a Representative from Virginia; born in Frederick, Frederick County, MD. in 1770. He pursued classical studies while he was apprenticed as a shoemaker in his German émigré father, Johan Adam Scheffe’s, shop. He left his Maryland home and moved to Wytheville, VA., in 1791.

In Wytheville, he worked at his shoemaking trade and at the same time studied law, where he was admitted to the bar on 1 July 1802. He began his legal practice in Wytheville. He later moved to Abbeville, VA. and ultimately came to reside in Staunton, VA. where he continued the practice of law.

He was a member of the State house of delegates from 1800 to1804 and went on to be elected as a Federalist to the Eleventh Congress (and to the three succeeding Congresses). He served in Congress from 4 March 1809 to 3 March 1817.

He was opposed to the declaration of war against Great Brutain in 1812. A staunch patriot, he felt indignant at the injuries which US commerce had sustained on the high seas and the impressment of American sailors by the British. However, he thought that these issues might be best addressed by negotiation and that war, the last resort great nations, might be avoided. He painted, in vivid colours, the horrors of war and the blessings of peace. He spoke of the treasure which must be wasted, and the blood which would be shed; the danger to US civil institutions amidst the clangour of arms and the shout of victory, and implored his fellow citizens to pause before the country was plunged into irrevocable dangers. When war was declared, while he was privately opposed to it, he did not waver in defence of American honour. He remained a stalwart patriot.

He later served as a member of the State house of delegates in 1822 and 1823.

He died in Staunton, Augusta County, VA on 3 December 1830. His final resting place is Trinity Episcopal Churchyard, Staunton, Augusta County, VA. There is also a cenotaph bearing his name in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC.

By all accounts, Daniel was an independent thinker. He didn’t automatically toe the party line. He had the reputation of being an impassioned speaker and not afraid of a good political fight. While his intellect and bearing earned him respect from many, his heavy German accent didn’t make his entry into the social elite of his day an easy one. It is something that is commented on in contemporary official written accounts and personal correspondence.

He was the first of the German émigré Sheffeys in Virginia to own slaves. Of particular interest are the three places he lived: Wytheville, Abbeville and Staunton. These three locations were centres for generations of African-American Sheffeys from the 1790’s until the 1920’s/30’s.

As part of my research, I’m scouring online sources to see if his personal papers still survive and, if they do, if they’re part of publicly accessible collections.

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2 thoughts on “Daniel Sheffey (1770 – 1830): US Congressman

  1. Great info.. My family are Sheffey’s from Wytheville, VA and this is so interesting. My grandfather was Glen Sheffey, his father was Horace Sheffey, mother was Sara. If you have any information regarding them, please email me @ exavier23@yahoo.co, or check me out on FaceBook under TeResa Smith (Sheffey)

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