Col. John Eager Howard

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Col. John Eager Howard

Birthplace: Baltimore, MD
Death: Died in Baltimore, MD, USA
Place of Burial: Old St Pauls Cemetery, Baltimore, MD, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Cornelius Howard and Ruth Eager
Husband of Margaret Oswald Howard
Father of John Eager Howard, Jr.; Benjamin Chew Howard; William Howard; Julianna Elizabeth McHenry; James Howard and 4 others
Brother of Ruth Howard; James Howard; Rachel Howard; Philip Howard; George Howard and 5 others

Occupation: Revolutionary War hero and former Maryland Governor, United States Senatorfrom Maryland
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Col. John Eager Howard

A Patriot of the American Revolution for MARYLAND with the rank of LIEUTENANT COLONEL. DAR Ancestor # A058062

John Eager Howard

Following his army service, he held several political positions: member of the Continental Congress of 1788; Governor of Maryland for three one-year terms, 1789 through 1791; State Senator from 1791 through 1795; Presidential Elector in 1792; thereafter, he joined the Federalist Party and served in the 4th Congress from November 30, 1796, through 1797 as a United States Senator for the remainder of the term of Richard Potts, who had resigned; and was elected for a Senate term of his own in 1797, which included the 5th Congress, the 6th Congress of 1799-1801 during which he was President pro tempore, and the 7th Congress, serving until March 3, 1803.[2] After 1803, he returned to Baltimore, where he avoided elected office but continued in public service and philanthropy as a leading citizen.[5] In the 1816 presidential election, he received 22 electoral votes for Vice President[3] as the running mate of Federalist Rufus King, losing to James Monroe and Governor Daniel Tompkins. No formal Federalist nomination had been made, and it is not clear whether Howard, who was only one of several Federalists who received electoral votes for Vice President, actively ran for the office.

Although he was offered the Secretaryship of War in the Administration of President George Washington, he declined it, as well as a 1798 commission to Brigadier General during the preparations for the coming Quasi-War with France.


Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series)

John Eager Howard (1752-1827) MSA SC 3520-692 Governor of Maryland, 1788-1791 (Federalist)

Born: June 4, 17521 Father: Cornelius Howard2 Mother: Ruth (Eager) Howard3 Marriage: May 18, 1787 to Margaret (Peggy) Oswald Chew4 Children: George, John Eager, Jr., Benjamin Chew, Juliana Elizabeth, Charles, William, James, Sophia5 Education: received private tutoring6 Religious affiliation: Anglican7 Military service:

           Captain, Second Maryland Battalion, Flying Camp, 1776 
           Major, Fourth Maryland Regiment, 1777 
           Lieutenant Colonel, Fifth Maryland Regiment, 1778 
           Second Maryland Regiment, 1779 
           Colonel, 1781 
           Retired, 1783 
           Major General, Third Division, Maryland Militia, commissioned 1794 
           resigned by April 17958 

Positions held:

           Committee of Observation, Baltimore County, 1774 
           Justice, Baltimore County, 1785-1787 
           Justice, Orphans' Court, Baltimore County, 1786-1787 
           Maryland Senate elector, 1786 
           Governor of Maryland, 1788-1791 
           Maryland Senate, 1791-1794 
           President of the Maryland Senate, 1794, 1795-1796 (resigned to take his congressional seat) 
           Associate justice, 3rd District, 1792 
           Commissioner, Baltimore Town, 1792 
           Commissioner, Maryland Penitentiary, 1804 
           Committee of Supply, Baltimore City, War of 18129 

Died: October 12, 1827 at "Belvedere," in Baltimore10 Burial: St. Paul's Cemetery, Baltimore11


The following essay is taken from Frank F. White, Jr., The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970 (Annapolis: The Hall of Records Commission, 1970), 17-19.

"JOHN EAGER HOWARD, Maryland’s first Federalist Governor, military hero, politician, patriot, and public servant, was born at 'The Forrest,' in Baltimore County on June 4, 1752, the son of Cornelius and Ruth (Eager) Howard. His ancestor, Joshua Howard, had received a grant of land in Baltimore County about 1685, and his family had subsequently added to these holdings. His father was a man of sufficient wealth to enable the future governor to secure a good education under private tutors.

"When the Revolutionary War began, he was commissioned a captain in the 'Flying Camp.' While he was with this organization, he fought at White Plains, following which his term of service expired. Howard then became a major in the Fourth Regiment While he was with that unit, his troops performed superbly at the battle of Germantown in October 1777. In 1778, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Fifth Regiment and in the following year he transferred to the Second Regiment. Participating in the fighting at Camden, he gained a reputation for his ability, while for heroism at Cowpens, he received a silver medal and the grateful thanks of Congress. At Guilford Court House and Hobkirk’s Hill, he distinguished himself as an outstanding officer, and at Eutaw Springs on September 8, 1781, he was severely wounded, after which he resigned his commission and returned home, leaving his mark as an outstanding military leader.

"Howard, in the meantime, had begun courting Peggy Oswald Chew, the daughter of Chief Justice Benjamin Chew of Pennsylvania. They were married on May 18, 1787. The couple had a large family, all of whom distinguished themselves in Maryland affairs. One of these was the future governor, George Howard, who was born in the Government House in Annapolis during his father’s term of office.

"After the war, John Eager Howard entered politics. In 1785, he became a justice of the Baltimore County Court, holding the post for three years. In the following year, he was a senatorial elector from Baltimore County as well as a justice of the Baltimore County Orphans’ Court. During 1787 and 1788, he represented Maryland in the Continental Congress.

[p.26] "On November 21, 1788, he was elected Governor succeeding William Smallwood. Up to that time, no state governor had ever belonged to a political party, so Howard became a member of the Federalist party, and for the rest of his life, he would be a firm and staunch supporter of its principles. During his first term, the U. S. Constitution became operative and Maryland’s presidential electors cast their ballots for George Washington. During the session of November, 1788, the State ceded a ten-mile square tract of land to the newly formed national government for the site of a national capital. Another act of the same session provided for the granting of bounty lands to the west of Fort Cumberland to the former officers and soldiers who had served during the Revolution.

"Howard was re-elected to his second term on November 16, 1789. During his second year in office, Maryland ratified the Bill of Rights. In addition, Allegany County was erected out of Washington County, while another piece of legislation provided for the payment of the State debt within six years.

"He was re-elected to his third and last term on November 8, 1790, during which the General Assembly passed several important acts. One of these provided for Samuel Smith and others to establish the Bank of Maryland. Another granted Charles Ridgely Carnan permission to change his name to Charles Ridgely in accordance with Capt. Charles Ridgely’s will. A third act directed the time, place and manner of holding congressional elections and the choosing of presidential electors. A final act granted commissions to the justices of the county courts in each district. As the result, when George Plater succeeded Howard as governor on November 14, 1791, he saw the State government firmly in operation under the new Federal Constitution.

"Howard, however, did not end his political career when he vacated the gubernatorial office. In September 1791, just as his term was about to expire, he was chosen a member of the State Senate, and was re-elected in 1796. During this period, he was chosen a presidential elector casting his vote for George Washington and John Adams in 1792. In the following year, he became a Commissioner of the City of Baltimore, a position which involved the planning of the city stockyards and the purchasing of lands for a marketplace. In 1795, George Washington offered him the post of Secretary of War, but Howard felt it his duty to decline.

"In 1796, Richard Potts resigned his seat in the United States Senate, following which the General Assembly selected Howard to fill Potts’ unexpired term. In the following year, he was elected for a full term, continuing to serve until 1803, during which time he faithfully supported the policies and programs of the Federalist Party. During the difficulties with France in 1798, Howard was offered a commission as Brigadier General, but since the crisis had passed, he felt it unnecessary to accept the commission.

"After his senatorial term ended, he preferred retirement to private life. Yet, he continued to be active in public life. In 1804, he was appointed Commissioner of the State Penitentiary, a post which included the prepara- [p. 27] tion of a new prison. He was nominated three additional times for terms as governor, but the Legislature failed to elect him. He served on Baltimore’s Committee of Supply during the War of 1812, assisting in the raising of money and supplies for defense. Howard remained a force in the Federalist Party politics until 1816, when that party named him as its vice presidential candidate on the ticket with Rufus King. Both were soundly defeated following which the Federalists ceased to be a force in State politics.

"After his last unsuccessful political campaign, Howard retired to his home at 'Belvedere' which he had built in 1786, making it a center of hospitality, elegance, and grandeur. He spent his last years as a retired elder statesman, contributing land to the City of Baltimore for public purposes. Howard lived until 1827. However, his health had been failing for some time. Early in October of that year, he caught a severe cold and died on the twelfth. Many prominent leaders attended his funeral including President John Quincy Adams, all of whom accompanied his body to its burial in Old St. Paul’s Cemetery. In compliance with his will, no inventory was made of his estate.1 He further desired that his personal and real estate should be sold by his executors at a public or private sale, but he bequeathed his real property to his sons.

_______ 1. Baltimore County Wills 12, ff. 408-409. This information resource of the Maryland State Archives is presented here for fair use in the public domain. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: Rights assessment for associated source material is the responsibility of the user.

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Col. John Eager Howard's Timeline

June 4, 1752
Baltimore, MD
May 16, 1787
Age 34
June 25, 1788
Age 36
November 21, 1789
Age 37
Annapolis, MD, USA
November 5, 1791
Age 39
Baltimore, MD, USA
December 16, 1793
Age 41
May 3, 1796
Age 43
December 17, 1797
Age 45
March 6, 1800
Age 47
April 26, 1802
Age 49