John Eager Howard
Oil painting of John Eager Howard
by Charles Willson Peale (1823)
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
November 21, 1800 – November 27, 1800
Preceded byUriah Tracy
Succeeded byJames Hillhouse
United States Senator
from Maryland
In office
November 21, 1796 – March 3, 1803
Preceded byRichard Potts
Succeeded bySamuel Smith
5th Governor of Maryland
In office
November 24, 1788 – November 14, 1791
Preceded byWilliam Smallwood
Succeeded byGeorge Plater
Member of the Maryland Senate
In office
Personal details
John Eager Howard

(1752-06-04)June 4, 1752
Baltimore County, Maryland, British America
DiedOctober 12, 1827(1827-10-12) (aged 75)
Baltimore County, Maryland, U.S.
Resting placeOld Saint Paul's Cemetery, (of Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church, cemetery at West Lombard Street and modern Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
Political partyFederalist
(m. 1787; died 1824)
Children9, including George, Benjamin, and William

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 1788, 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.[1] In the 1816 presidential election, Howard received 22 electoral votes for vice president on the Federalist Party ticket with Rufus King. The ticket lost in a landslide.

Howard County, Maryland, is named for him,[2] along with John Street, Eager Street and Howard Street in Baltimore. For seven days in November 1800, Howard was the President pro tempore of the United States Senate.

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 "The Forest."[3] Howard grew up in an Anglican slaveholding family. Anglicanism was the established church of the Chesapeake Bay colonies.

Howard joined a Baltimore lodge of Freemasons.[2]

Military career

Commissioned a captain at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), Howard rose in 1777 to the rank of colonel in the Maryland Line of the Continental Army,[1] fighting in the Battle of White Plains in New York State in 1776 and in the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey in 1778. He was awarded a silver medal by the Confederation Congress for his leadership at the 1781 Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina,[1] during which he commanded the 2nd Maryland Regiment, Continental Army.[4] In September 1781, he was wounded in a bayonet charge at the Battle of Eutaw Springs in South Carolina.[5] Southern Army commander Maj.Gen. Nathanael Greene wrote that Howard was "as good an officer as the world affords. He has great ability and the best disposition to promote the service....He deserves a statue of gold."[6]

At the conclusion of the war, Colonel Howard was admitted as an original member of The Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland when it was established in 1783.[7] He went on to serve as the vice president (1795–1804) and president of the Maryland Society (1804–1827), serving in the latter capacity until his death.[8]

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 Confederation Congress in 1788; fifth Governor of Maryland for three one-year terms (under first constitution of 1776), from 1788 through 1791; later as State Senator from 1791 through 1795; and Presidential Elector in the new 1787 Constitutional Electoral College set up in the presidential election of 1792. He declined the offer from first President George Washington in 1795 to be the second Secretary of War. He joined the newly organized Federalist Party and was elected to the 4th U.S. Congress from November 21, 1796, through 1797, by the General Assembly of Maryland (state legislature) to the upper chamber as United States Senator for the remainder of the term of Richard Potts, who had resigned. He was elected by the Legislature in Annapolis 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.[1] While in Congress, he was the sole Federalist to vote against the Sedition Act.[citation needed]

Although Howard was offered an appointment as the Secretary of War in the administration of President George Washington, he declined it. Similarly, he also later declined a 1798 commission as Brigadier General in the newly organized United States Army during the preparations for the coming naval Quasi-War (1798–1800) with the new revolutionary French Republic (France).[1]

After 1803, Howard returned to Baltimore, where he avoided elected office but continued in public service and philanthropy as a leading citizen.[9] He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1815.[10] In the 1816 presidential election, he received 22 electoral votes for Vice President[2] as the running mate of Federalist Rufus King, losing to the Democratic-Republican candidates of James Monroe and Governor Daniel Tompkins. No formal Federalist nomination had been made, and it is not clear whether Howard himself, who was one of several Federalists who received electoral votes for vice president, actually wanted to run as a candidate for the office.

Howard developed property in the city of Baltimore and was active in city planning. His house was constructed near the city, where he owned slaves.[11]

Marriage and family

Peggy Chew Howard and John Eager Howard Jr., portrait by Charles Willson Peale

John Eager Howard married Margaret ("Peggy") Chew (1760–1824), daughter of the Pennsylvania justice Benjamin Chew, in 1787.[2]

Death and legacy

John Eager Howard died in 1827. He is buried at the Old Saint Paul's Cemetery, located between West Lombard Street and present-day Martin Luther King Boulevard in Baltimore.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f United States Congress. "John Eager Howard (id: H000841)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Index to Politicians: Howard". The Political Graveyard. Lawrence Kestenbaum. Retrieved June 15, 2009.
  3. ^ "John Eager Howard (1752–1827)". Archives of Maryland. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  4. ^ "John Eager Howard (1752–1827)". Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series). Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  5. ^ Nancy Capace. Encyclopedia of Maryland. p. 81.
  6. ^ Quoted in Lawrence E. Babits, A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 26.
  7. ^ Metcalf, Bryce (1938). Original Members and Other Officers Eligible to the Society of the Cincinnati, 1783–1938: With the Institution, Rules of Admission, and Lists of the Officers of the General and State Societies Strasburg, VA: Shenandoah Publishing House, Inc., p. 168.
  8. ^ Metcalf, p. 22.
  9. ^ American National Biography, John Eager Howard; online version consulted
  10. ^ "American Antiquarian Society Members Directory". American Antiquarian Society. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
  11. ^ Papenfuse, Edward C. (April 24, 2018). "Remembering John Eager Howard and His Vision for Baltimore". Remembering Baltimore. Retrieved August 21, 2018. According to the 1820 census there were ... five slaves and seven free blacks.
  12. ^ "The Provost-Marshal and the Citizen (in the American Civil War)". Home of the American Civil War. February 15, 2002. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  13. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 162.
  14. ^ Hughes, William (December 2009). "'Cool Deliberate Courage: John Eager Howard in the American Revolution' Book Review". Media Monitors Network. Retrieved November 14, 2019 – via
  15. ^ maxjpollock (February 2, 2015). "Why "Eager" Street?". Baltimore Brick By Brick. Retrieved January 2, 2019.

Further reading

Political offices Preceded byWilliam Smallwood Governor of Maryland 1788–1791 Succeeded byGeorge Plater Preceded byUriah Tracy President pro tempore of the United States Senate 1800 Succeeded byJames Hillhouse U.S. Senate Preceded byRichard Potts U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Maryland 1796–1803 Served alongside: John Henry, James Lloyd, William Hindman, Robert Wright Succeeded bySamuel Smith Party political offices Preceded byJared Ingersoll Federalist nominee for Vice President of the United States 1816 Succeeded byRichard Stockton