Born in Skippack, Montgomery County on July 2, 1789, the Honorable Phillip S. Markley was the son of John and Elizabeth (Schwenk) Markley of Norristown. Phillip’s father, a prominent figure in late eighteenth-century Montgomery County, served as sheriff and later evolved as a force in the local Republican Party. Son Phillip received a substantial education, read law, and joined the county bar in November 1808. He built a successful practice, entered politics, and received an appointment as an 1819 deputy state attorney. In October of the same year, Markley represented his district in the state Senate, a position he held through 1823. The award of simultaneous state offices prompted a charge by members for violation of the incompatibility law. Markley resigned the judiciary post in 1820, attained the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chair, and received the Speaker’s gavel in March 1821. Phillip chaired Governor Findlay’s (campaign) committee of correspondence, managing to become the unwitting enemy of rising gubernatorial candidate Nathaniel Boileau, who led the old Conventionist faction, opposed to anything Findlay. An intensive campaign, the issue of Boileau’s bolt from the “real Democratic party” to the 1817 Carlisle Convention of Independent Republicans surfaced as Nathaniel emerged as a frontrunner over Markley’s political benefactor. Phillip’s circular to prominent Democratic-Republicans appeared primarily responsible for discrediting Boileau’s treachery within the party and assured Findlay’s election. After service in the state Senate, Markley advanced to Congress, eventually deliberating in the U.S. House of Representatives during the formative years of the “Jackson Era,” 1823 through 1828. Markley, more a Jeffersonian than a “Jacksonite,” objected to Old Hickory’s reign of “mere military statesmanship” and opposed Jackson in 1828, in league with local political colleague U.S. Senator Jonathan Roberts and (ironically) former nemesis Boileau, the two eventually resigning their seats in protest of Jackson’s presidential victory. In the meantime, Phillip, Walter Lowrie, and William Marks proceeded to the Harrisburg Republican Convention, March 4, 1824, nominating rump Democratic-Republicans William H. Crawford and Albert Gallatin for president and vice president, to oppose Jackson and John Quincy Adams. After Crawford withdrew, Phillip joined a groundswell of support for high-tariff champion Henry Clay, and in Congress, fought Jackson during the election’s congressional runoff. Markley attempted to persuade U.S. Representative James Buchanan to exert Capitol Hill influence to promote U.S. House Speaker Clay’s appointment as secretary of state, after the former allegedly promised Adams the congressional presidential vote in trade for the position. Markley thus emerged as a principal character in the “bargain and corruption” controversy. The 1824 scandal marked the end of the Jeffersonian period, foreshadowed the last congressional nominating caucus, posed as the harbinger for an irreconcilable breach in the Democratic-Republican Party, and ushered the advent of the 1828 Jackson Democratic caucus. Markley received an 1829 appointment from Governor Shulze as Attorney General of the Commonwealth, leaving the position during the early days of the Wolf administration, then retiring to his Norristown law practice. Markley received a post as Philadelphia Port Naval Officer, thanks in part to U.S. Senator William Marks. On September 12, 1834, representing a client during an arbitration hearing at Spang’s Hotel, Markley suffered a “fit of apoplexy” and died instantly at 46 years old. The Honorable Phillip S. Markley was interred at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Norristown, survived by his wife, the former Anna Helena Amelia Plumstead.
History of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, vol. I, ed. Theodore W. Bean (Philadelphia: Everts and Peck, 1884), 507-509; Ibid., “Correspondence between distinguished politicians of Montgomery County,” September, 15, 1817; Kehl, Ill Feeling, 199; John Bassett Moore, The Works of James Buchanan, vol. I; 1813-1830 (New York: Antiquarian Press, 1960), 264; Portrait: Photo edited by Doug Gross, Senate of Pennsylvania, after “Philipp Markley, 1824” by Jacob Eichholtz, damaged portrait in possession of the Montgomery County Historical Society.