John Barker Church

John Barker Church
Member of Parliament
for Wendover
In office
1790  1796
Preceded by Robert Burton
Succeeded by John Hiley Addington
Personal details
Born 30 October 1748
Lowestoft, England
Died 5 February 1818(1818-02-05) (aged 69)
London, England
Resting place St. James, Piccadilly
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Angelica Schuyler
(m. 1777; her death 1814)
Children 8
Parents Richard Church
Elizabeth Barker

John Barker Church (October 30, 1748 – c. May 2, 1818) was an English born businessman and supplier of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He returned to England after the Revolutionary War and served in the House of Commons from 1790 until 1796. He was known for his marriage to Angelica Schuyler, of the prominent American Schuyler family, and being the brother-in-law of Alexander Hamilton, who died in a duel in 1804 with Aaron Burr, who Church had also had a duel with in 1799.[1]

Early life

John Barker Church was born on October 30, 1748 in Lowestoft, England, the son of Richard Church (1697–1774) of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk by Elizabeth Barker (1701–1800), daughter of John Barker.[1]


Church was originally set up in business in London by his mother's brother, a wealthy uncle named John Barker who was a director of the London Assurance Company. It was reported that speculation on the stock exchange and gambling were responsible for his bankruptcy in August 1774.[2]

To escape his creditors he went to America, where he became one of three commissioners appointed by the Continental Congress in July 1776 to audit the accounts of the army in the northern department.[1] He resigned his commission in September 1777,[3] and moved to Boston, Massachusetts. In Boston, he began a variety of businesses, including banking and shipping, and speculated in currency and land. In 1780, along with his business partner, Col. Jeremiah Wadsworth of Hartford, Connecticut, he secured a contract for provisioning the French forces in America, becoming Commissary General. Two years later, they were contracted as sole suppliers to the American army as well, and ended up making a fortune.[1]

Return to England

After the war in 1783, Church and his family returned to England. In 1788, the Church's bought the Verney property at Wendover so that he could run for Parliament, which he did in 1790, when he was elected a Member of Parliament for Wendover.[4] Prior to his election, he was involved with the Marquis de la Luzerne, the French ambassador in some unsuccessful stock speculation during the Nootka Crisis,[1] a dispute between Great Britain and Spain.[5]

Member of Parliament

In December 1790, during his time in Parliament, he voted to approve Prime Minister William Pitt’s plan to pay off the debts incurred in rearmament, after having previously been against the government on the Spanish convention. After his vote, he suggested the government should investigate the great amount of money held by trustees of public lands, himself included, not being utilized rather than interfere with unpaid Bank dividends. The Prime Minister thanked him for highlighting the issue. In 1791, William Curtis raised the issue again with a motion for inquiry into the trustees of Ramsgate harbour over their possession of funds. Church was appointed to the select committee as he supported the idea.[1]

In 1791, he voted in favor of the unsuccessful attempt to repeal the Test Act in Scotland. Also in 1791 and again in 1792, he voted with the opposition in the Oczakov debates concerning the Russian occupation of the Turkish port of Ochakiv on the Black Sea.[6] In 1793, he joined the Friends of the People and voted for Grey’s motion for inquiry into parliamentary reform, which did not achieve success until 1832. In December 1792, he voted against his fellow Whig, and party leader, Charles Fox’s Libel amendment, but opposed the French war. Thereafter, Church regularly voted with the Foxite minority for the rest of his parliamentary career.[1]

In 1795, Church was described part of "a party of English Jacobins" who if acted upon their statements, would be "compromised to the extreme," by Gouverneur Morris, the former American minister to France. In 1794, he tried with Fox, to stall discussions of an emigration bill in the House.[7] In 1795, Church defended the proceedings at the Middlesex County meeting that was called to petition against the proposed legislation that he deemed repressive. Church was known for his hospitality of French émigrés after the Reign of Terror, paying for Talleyrand’s journey and tour of America, and being involved in an attempt to free the Marquis de Lafayette from prison. By 1796, he sold his property at Wendover to the Right Hon. Robert, Lord Carrington,[4] and retired from the House of Commons.[1]

Return to the United States

The Churches returned to New York for the first time in 1797, for a visit, and then in 1799, they moved back permanently to America where he became a founding director of the Manhattan Company[8] and a director of the Bank of North America.[9] While in the U.S., John and Angelica Church befriended many French upper-class refugees from the French Revolution, helping them settle in Allegany County, New York and elsewhere throughout the United States.

In 1797, when his friend, Robert Morris, who he had loaned significant funds to, became bankrupt, Church took over Morris' claims and received 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) of land in western New York, in lieu of capital, from the United States.[10] To take possession of the land, his son Philip traveled to the area of what is today Allegany and Genesee counties, near the Pennsylvania border. Philip Church selected the specific acreage, along the Genesee River, with his surveyor Moses Van Campen.[11] The planned village was laid out with the plots and design to be reminiscent of Paris, France with a radial in the center and streets coming from it to form a star, featuring five churches situated around the circle. In the center of the circular drive is the village park. Philip named his planned village, Angelica, after his mother.[12] In 1800, Church was admitted as an honorary member of the New York Society of the Cincinnati.[13]

Burr-Hamilton duelling pistols

Church was an experienced duellist, and owned the Wogdon pistols used in the 1804 Burr-Hamilton duel. The weapons had already been used in an 1801 duel, in which Hamilton's son Philip was killed. Following the Burr-Hamilton duel, the pistols were returned to Church, and reposed at his Belvidere estate until the late 19th century.[14]

Later legend claimed that these pistols were the same ones used in a 1799 duel between Church and Burr, in which neither man was injured.[15] This makes sense according to the accepted rules of the 'code duello', in which the challenged (in this case, Church) had the right to choose the weapons.[16] However, the same rule was apparently ignored in the 1801 duel, where Philip Hamilton was the challenger and also supplied the weapons borrowed from his uncle. Also, Aaron Burr claimed in his memoir that he, not Church, supplied the pistols for his duel with Church, and that they belonged to him.[17] Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow accepts Burr's version of the story.[18]

Personal life

Mrs. John Barker Church, Son Philip, and Servant, oil on canvas, John Trumbull, c. 1785

In 1776, Church met Angelica Schuyler (1756–1814), a daughter of General Philip Schuyler, during a visit to her father's house, the Schuyler Mansion.[19] Knowing that her father would not bless their marriage because of his suspicions about Church's past, Angelica and John eloped in 1777. Together, they had:

Belvidere, the Church family estate in rural western New York,[10] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 as a prime example of Federal style architecture.[23]

After the death of his wife in 1814, Church returned to England. He died on 27 April 1818 in London after a short illness, [24] and was buried at St. James, Piccadilly. By this time, his estate was only worth a modest £1,500.[25]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "CHURCH, John Barker (1748-1818), of Down Place, Berks. | History of Parliament Online". Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  2. The Whig Club (1794), 120-1; Gent. Mag. (1774), 391.
  3. Journals of Continental Congress ed. Ford, v. 612; vii. 327, 341; viii. 744.
  4. 1 2 Lipscomb, George (1847). The history and antiquities of the county of Buckingham. London: J. & W. Robins. p. 480. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  5. Pethick, Derek (1980). The Nootka Connection: Europe and the Northwest Coast 1790–1795. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre. p. 18. ISBN 0-88894-279-6.
  6. Naval wars in the Levant 1559-1853 - R. C. Anderson ISBN 1-57898-538-2
  7. Morris Diary, ii. 101; Harewood mss, Canning jnl. 17 Apr. 1794.
  8. Chernow, p.587
  9. Young, Alfred F. (December 1, 2012). The Democratic Republicans of New York: The Origins, 1763-1797. Durham, North Carolina: UNC Press Books. ISBN 9780807838204. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  10. 1 2 3 Clune, Henry W. (1963). The Genesee. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 9780815624363. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  11. John Niles Hubbard (1842), Sketches of border adventures: in the life and times of Major Moses Van Campen, retrieved October 20, 2016
  12. Minard, John S. "History of Angelica, New York". W. A. Fergusson & Co., Alfred, N. Y. (1896). Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  13. "HONORARY MEMBERS". The New York State Society of the Cincinnati. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  14. Robert Bromeley and Mrs. Patrick W. Harrington (August 1971). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Belvidere". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2009-06-14. See also: "Unfiled NHL Nomination Form for Villa Belvidere".
  15. Stewart, J. David (3 May 2012). "The Violent, Scandalous Origins of JPMorgan Chase". Bloomberg View. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  16. "The Code Duello: Rules of Dueling". The American Experience - The Duel. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  17. Burr, Aaron; Davis, Matthew Livingston (1837). Memoirs of Aaron Burr: With Miscellaneous Selections from His Correspondence, Volume 1. Harper & Brothers. p. 417. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  18. Chernow, p.590
  19. Mills, Weymer Jay (1902). Historic Houses of New Jersey. Philadelphia and London: J.B. Lippincott. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  20. "PHILIP CHURCH'S CAREER | One of the Most Prominent of Allegany's Early Settlers. | OF VERY DISTINGUISHED ANCESTRY | How the Famous Robert Morris Reserve Came into His Control and What He Did for Its Development.". The New York Times. June 23, 1895. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  21. Hamilton, Alexander; Syrett, Harold Coffin (1976). The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 230. ISBN 9780231089234. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  22. "National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution | Catalog of American Portraits". Retrieved 12 September 2016.
  23. National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  24. New York Evening Post, 19 June 1818
  25. Fisher, David R. (1986). "Church, John Barker (1748-1818), of Down Place, Berks.". In Thorne, R. The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Robert Burdon
John Ord
Member of Parliament for Wendover
With: Hon. Hugh Seymour-Conway
Succeeded by
John Hiley Addington
George Canning
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