Cornelius P. Van Ness

Cornelius P. Van Ness
Collector of the Port of New York
In office
President John Tyler
Preceded by Edward Curtis
Succeeded by Cornelius Lawrence
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Spain
In office
December 9, 1829  December 21, 1836
Appointed by Andrew Jackson
Preceded by Alexander Hill Everett
Succeeded by William T. Barry
(died en route to Spain)
John Eaton
(next to act as Ambassador)
10th Governor of Vermont
In office
October 10, 1823  October 13, 1826
Lieutenant Aaron Leland
Preceded by Richard Skinner
Succeeded by Ezra Butler
United States Attorney for the District of Vermont
In office
President James Madison
Preceded by David Fay
Succeeded by Titus Hutchinson
Personal details
Born Cornelius Peter Van Ness
(1782-01-26)January 26, 1782
Kinderhook, New York
Died December 15, 1852(1852-12-15) (aged 70)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s) Rhoda Savage
Magdalena Allus
Education Washington Seminary
Profession Lawyer, judge, politician

Cornelius Peter Van Ness (January 26, 1782 – December 15, 1852) was an American politician and diplomat who served as the 10th Governor of Vermont from 1823 to 1836 and Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Spain from 1829 to 1836. Van Ness was a Democratic-Republican and later a Democrat.[1]

Early life

Van Ness was born in Kinderhook, New York on January 26, 1782 to a family of Dutch Americans.[2] His father was Judge Peter Van Ness (1734–1804), who owned most of the land which President Martin Van Buren later purchased for construction of the Lindenwald estate. Cornelius Van Ness was the brother of William P. Van Ness and John Peter Van Ness.


Cornelius Van Ness attended Washington Seminary, and in 1800 he began to study at his brother William's law office in New York City at the same time as Martin Van Buren. Van Ness was admitted to the bar four years later, and moved to St. Albans, Vermont in 1806. He relocated to Burlington, Vermont in 1809 when he was appointed United States district attorney for the district of Vermont. He was made collector of customs for the district of Vermont in 1813 and in 1816 President James Madison named Van Ness one of the federal commissioners who negotiated with commissioners from Great Britain to settle the northeastern boundary between the United States and Canada.

Initially a member of the Democratic-Republican Party and later a Democrat, he was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives in 1818. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Vermont from 1821 to 1823. In 1823 he became Governor of Vermont. After being twice re-elected, in 1826 he declined re-election and went back to practicing law until 1829 when he became envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the court of Spain. William T. Barry was appointed to the post in April, 1835, but died in Liverpool on August 30, without assuming his duties in Spain. President Jackson then appointed John H. Eaton, and Van Ness departed on December 21, 1836.[3]

From 1844 to 1845 Van Ness was Collector of the Port of New York.[4]

Personal life

He married twice. His first wife was Rhoda Savage (d. 1834) of Chatham, New York, with whom he had five children.[5][6] She died in 1834 while her husband was Minister to Spain.[7] Cornelius Van Ness later married a Spanish woman, Madalena (or Magdalena) Allus, who survived him.[8][9] Madalena Van Ness later filed a claim with Congress to reimburse the Van Ness family for fees Van Ness had not collected while he was Collector of Customs for Vermont during the War of 1812.[10] His children with Rhoda were:

Van Ness died at the Girard House hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 15, 1852 and is interred in Van Ness Mausoleum with his brother John P. Van Ness. The mausoleum originally stood on H Street, and was later moved to Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.[14]


  1. List of Vermont State Governors.
  2. "Kinderhook, New York". Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  3. The Political Graveyard. Entry for "Van Ness, Cornelius Peter".
  4. Newspaper article, The New York Custom House, Brooklyn Union-Argus, July 21, 1879, transcribed for the Brooklyn Genealogy web site by Kathy Jost-Shouse
  5. James T. White, The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Volume VIII, 1898, page 316
  6. Neil Broadhurst, The Savage Family of Shefford, 1992, page 100
  7. Neil Broadhurst, The Savage family of Shefford, 1992, page 100
  8. Robert Sobel, John Raimo, Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 17891978, Volume 4, 1978, page 1567
  9. Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Baltimore: Biography, 1912, page 533
  10. Congressional Globe, Madalena Van Ness, July 22, 1848, page 1848
  11. Salmon Portland Chase, John Niven, The Salmon P. Chase Papers: Correspondence, 1823-1857, 1995, Page 27
  12. William Arba Ellis, Norwich University, 18191911, Volume 2, 1911, page 245
  13. Charles Barney Whittelsey, The Roosevelt Genealogy, 16491902, 1902, page 51
  14. The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, by James Terry White, Volume 8, 1898, page 316

Legal offices
Preceded by
David Fay
United States Attorney for the District of Vermont
Succeeded by
Titus Hutchinson
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Skinner
Governor of Vermont
Succeeded by
Ezra Butler
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Alexander H. Everett
U.S. Minister to Spain
Succeeded by
William T. Barry
Government offices
Preceded by
Edward Curtis
Collector of the Port of New York
Succeeded by
Cornelius Lawrence
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