John Van Ness was a native New Yorker, born in Ghent [formerly Claverly] New York. He studied law at Columbia College [now Columbia University], was admitted to the New York State Bar, but he never practiced. He was elected as a Republican [some sources say Democrat] to the U. S. House of Representatives to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of John Bird. He served in the U. S. Congress for less than two years, from October 6, 1801 until January 17, 1803.
While he was in the U. S. Congress, President Jefferson offered him the office of major of the militia in the District of Columbia. He accepted the appointment, and as a result he had to become a resident of the District of Columbia. As a D. C. resident, he was no longer a resident of New York, and therefore had to give up his seat in the U. S. House of Representatives. In that same year, in 1803, he was also made the president of the Second Council.
He apparently relished the military appointment, possibly because it had been granted to him by President Jefferson. In 1805, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and became commandant of the first legion of the militia in the District of Columbia. Six years later, in 1811, he was again promoted to brigadier general, and in 1813, he reached the rank of major general of the first legion of the militia of the District of Columbia.
Later in his Washington residency, probably following his military career, in 1829, he entered a more political career, and was appointed to be an alderman of the city of Washington, D. C. A year later, in 1830, he became mayor of Washington, D. C., and served in that position until 1834. By this time he had approached the retirement age. Prior to the end of his mayoral career, he became the second vice president of the Washington National Monument Society. A year later, in 1834, he became the president of the Commissioners of the Washington Canal, and president of the branch bank of the Bank of the United States at Washington, D. C. Van Ness had also served as first president of the National Metropolitan Bank from 1814 until his death.
John Van Ness was born in 1770. He married Marcia Burns [1782-1832] in 1802. She was a very wealthy woman, who had acquired her fortune through an inheritance. She was a philanthropist and had great influence in the Washington area. Upon her early death, when she was only 50 years old, she was given a public funeral. She was the only woman, up to that time, to be given such an honor following her death. John Van Ness outlived his wife by 16 years. He passed away on March 7, 1846, at the age of 76. Both John Peter Van Ness and his wife Marcia are interred in a private mausoleum at Oak Hill Cemetery.
John Peter Van Ness [1770-1846], http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=V000049
John Peter Van Ness, http://famousamericans.net/johnpetervanness/
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