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John Eager Howard
John Eager Howard by Thomas Sully, 1834
Collection of the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property[1]
United States Senator
from Maryland

In office
November 30, 1796 – March 3, 1803
Preceded by Richard Potts
Succeeded by Samuel Smith
5th Governor of Maryland

In office
November 24, 1788 – November 14, 1791
Preceded by William Smallwood
Succeeded by George Plater
Personal details
Born June 4, 1752
'Belvedere', Baltimore County, Maryland
Died October 12, 1827(1827-10-12) (aged 75)
'Belvedere', Baltimore County, Maryland
Resting place Old Saint Paul's Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Peggy Chew
Children George Howard, Benjamin Chew Howard
Residence 'Belvedere', Baltimore County, Maryland
Profession Politician
Religion Anglican, Episcopalian

John Eager Howard (June 4, 1752 – October 12, 1827) was an American soldier and politician from Maryland. He was elected as governor of the state in 1789, and served three one-year terms. He also was elected to the Continental Congress, the Congress of the United States and the U.S. Senate.[2] He was born in and died in Baltimore County.[2][3] Howard County, Maryland, is named for him.[3]

Early life and education[]

He was the son of Cornelius Howard and Ruth (Eager) Howard, of the Maryland planter elite and was born at their plantation "Belvedere," which he inherited after their deaths. Howard grew up in an Anglican slaveholding family. Anglicanism was the established church of the Chesapeake Bay colonies.

Howard joined the Baltimore lodge of Freemasonry and eventually became a Brother.[3]

Military career[]

Commissioned a captain at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, Howard rose in 1777 to the rank of colonel in the Continental Army,[2] fighting in the Battle of White Plains and in the Battle of Monmouth. He was awarded a silver medal by Congress for his leadership at the 1781 Battle of Cowpens,[2] during which he commanded the 3rd Maryland Regiment, Continental Army.[4] In September 1781, he was wounded in a bayonet charge at the Battle of Eutaw Springs.[5]

John Eager Howard in Uniform, painted in 1782 by Charles Willson Peale

Political life[]

Following his army service, Howard held several electoral political positions: elected to the Continental Congress of 1788; Governor of Maryland for three one-year terms, 1789 through 1791; State Senator from 1791 through 1795; and Presidential Elector in 1792. He declined the offer from President George Washington in 1795 to be Secretary of War. He joined the Federalist Party and was elected to 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. He 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, Howard returned to Baltimore, where he avoided elected office but continued in public service and philanthropy as a leading citizen.[6] In the 1816 presidential election, he received 22 electoral votes for [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 one of several Federalists who received electoral votes for Vice President, ran as a candidate for the office.

Although Howard was offered an appointment as the Secretary of War in the administration of President George Washington, he declined it. Similarly, he declined a 1798 commission as Brigadier General during the preparations for the coming Quasi-War with France.[2]

Marriage and family[]

John Eager Howard married Margaret ("Peggy") Chew, daughter of the Pennsylvania justice Benjamin Chew.[3] Their first son, George Howard,[3] was born on November 21, 1789 in Jennings House during Howard's term as Governor. Howard developed the property "Waverley" at Marriottsville, Maryland for George. George Howard became a politician and was elected as governor forty years after his father's term, and four years after his death.[citation needed] Their second son, Benjamin Chew Howard, was also a prominent politician in Maryland, elected for four terms in the U.S. Congress.[3] A grandson, Francis Key Howard, was a notable figure in Maryland at the start of the American Civil War.

Death and legacy[]

John Eager Howard is buried at the Old Saint Paul's Cemetery, located between West Lombard Street and present-day Martin Luther King Boulevard in Baltimore.[2]

  • Howard County, Maryland, formed out of western Anne Arundel County and southeastern Frederick County in 1839 as the Howard District and officially as Howard County in 1851, was named for him.[3]
  • In 1904, the city commissioned an equestrian statue of Howard by the eminent French sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet and installed it at Washington Monument circle facing south overlooking at Washington Place Square of North Charles Street, Baltimore.[3]
  • Howard is one of several notable men of Maryland mentioned in the state song "Maryland, My Maryland" written 1861 by James Ryder Randall as "Howard's war-like thrust".


  1. Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series), John Eager Howard, Maryland State Archives
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 John Eager Howard at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved December 5, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 "Index to Politicians: Howard". The Political Graveyard. Lawrence Kestenbaum. Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  4. Barry, John W. (October 1916). "The Story of "Old Glory" -- The Oldest Flag". The Builder. Phoenixmasonry. Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  5. Nancy Capace. Encyclopedia of Maryland. p. 81. 
  6. American National Biography, John Eager Howard; online version consulted

Further reading[]

  • Jim Piecuch and John Beakes. Cool Deliberate Courage: John Eager Howard in the American Revolution (2009)

External links[]

Political offices
Preceded by
William Smallwood
Governor of Maryland
Succeeded by
George Plater
United States Senate
Preceded by
Richard Potts
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Maryland
Served alongside: John Henry, James Lloyd, William Hindman, Robert Wright
Succeeded by
Samuel Smith
Preceded by
Uriah Tracy
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
November 21, 1800 – November 27, 1800
Succeeded by
James Hillhouse
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jared Ingersoll
Federalist Party candidate
1816 (lost)
Succeeded by
Richard Stockton

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