John Dawson – Continental Congressman – Virginia


John Dawson (1762 – March 31, 1814) was an 18th-century and 19th-century politician and lawyer from Virginia.

Born in Virginia, Dawson graduated from Harvard University in 1782, studied law and was admitted to the bar.

Known for his stylish attire and red hair, “Beau” Dawson was a good friend of, and prolific correspondent with, James Madison, for Dawson’s stepfather Judge Joseph Jones raised Madison’s good friend (and sometimes political opponent) James Monroe after his father’s death. Dawson served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1786 to 1789, and was also elected a member of the Continental Congress in 1788 as well as a delegate to the Virginia Convention in 1788. Although that convension ratified the United States Constitution, Dawson opposed ratification, aligning himself with Monroe, Patrick Henry and George Mason. Dawson was elected privy councilor in 1789 and served in that executive branch capacity for several years.

In 1796, Dawson was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Democratic-Republican, and served from 1797 to his death in 1814. In 1801 President John Adams selected Dawson to transmit dispatches to the Government of France, and Dawson thus averted war with the one-time ally. Dawson became chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia from 1813 to 1814, as well as served as an aide to Generals Jacob Brown and future President Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. He died in Washington, D.C. on March 31, 1814 and was interred there at Congressional Cemetery.