John Sitgreaves – Continental Congressman – North Carolina


John Sitgreaves (1757 – March 4, 1802) was a British-born American lawyer and jurist from New Bern, North Carolina. He was a delegate for North Carolina to the Continental Congress in 1785. He was Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1787-88, and a United States federal judge for many years thereafter.

Sitgreaves attended Eton College in England, and read law to enter the bar in North Carolina. He was in private practice in New Bern before joining the Continental Army, in which he was a Lieutenant. He was a clerk to the North Carolina State Senate from 1777 to 1779, a member of the Board of Auditors for Public and Private Accounts in 1779, and a commissioner at for Sale of Confiscated Properties in 1780. He was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons in 1784, serving as a Delegate from North Carolina to the Continental Congress from 1784 to 1785. He was a Special U.S. judge in admiralty at Williamsburg, Virginia in 1785, returning to the North Carolina House of Commons from 1786 to 1788. He served as a member of the Convention to ratify the United States Constitution, and was then appointed by President George Washington as the first United States Attorney for the District of North Carolina from 1789 to 1790.

On December 17, 1790, Washington nominated Sitgreaves to replace the late John Stokes as the United States district court judge for the United States District Court for the District of North Carolina. Sitgreaves was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 20, 1790, and received his commission the same day. The federal court serving the state of North Carolina was thereafter subdivided and reconstituted several times, being divided between Edenton, New Bern and Wilmington Districts on June 9, 1794, restored to a single court on March 3, 1797, and divided again into Albemarle, Cape Fear and Pamptico Districts on February 13, 1801. However, Sitgreaves remained the sole federal judge serving the state, and the individual courts into which it was subdivided, throughout this period. President John Adams nominated Sitgreaves to the newly created Fifth Circuit Court in 1801, but Sitgreaves declined the appointment, despite the Senate voting to confirm him, should he accept it. Sitgreaves instead served as the federal district court judge for North Carolina until his death, in Halifax, North Carolina, in 1802.

Sitgreaves’ wife was Martha Jones Green.