David Holmes First and Fifth Governor of Mississippi: 1817-1820; 1826
When the constitutional convention met in July of 1817 to draft Mississippi’s first constitution, David Holmes was named president of the convention and was subsequently elected without opposition as the state’s first governor. The election of Governor Holmes, who had served as governor of the Mississippi Territory for several years, facilitated the transition of Mississippi from territorial status to statehood.
Holmes was born in York County, Pennsylvania, on March 10, 1769. His family moved to Virginia when he was young lad. At the time of his appointment as fourth governor of the Mississippi Territory in 1809, Holmes was serving in the United States Congress as a representative from Virginia, a position he had held since 1797.
Holmes was a popular choice for governor, and his appointment marked
the end of a long period of bitter factionalism in the territory. During
his administration the territorial capital was located at Washington,
Mississippi, a small town six miles east of Natchez.
Governor Holmes directed the affairs of the territory during some difficult times. Border incidents with Spanish adventurers below the thirty-first parallel sparked frequent violence along Mississippi's southern frontier and the War of 1812 incited numerous Indian raids in the eastern half of the territory.
Following the War of 1812, the Mississippi Territory grew rapidly and by 1817 it had reached the population required for statehood. Governor Holmes was inaugurated October 7, 1817, at Natchez, the new state capital, and Mississippi was formally admitted to statehood on December 10, 1817. Under Mississippi’s first constitution the governor served a two-year term and was allowed to succeed himself.
During Governor Holmes’s first administration the judicial system
was established and the state’s judges were appointed, the legislature
was organized, the militia was created, and the Choctaw Indian land cession
east of the Pearl River was organized.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Posted December 2003
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (1950), 1325.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912), 48.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi Comprising Sketches in Cyclopedic Form I. 878-887.
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