Virgil Maxcy

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Virgil Maxcy
Lithograph of Virgil Maxcy, with Tulip Hill Estate in background
Maryland Governor's Executive Council (1815)
Maryland Senate (1817–21)
Maryland House of Delegates (1824–25)
Solicitor of the US Treasury (1830–37)
US Chargé d'Affaires, Belgium (1837–42)
Personal details
Born 5 May 1785
Attleboro, Massachusetts, USA
Died 28 February 1844 (age 58)
(at sea near) Ft. Washington, Maryland, USA
Spouse(s) Mary Galloway Maxcy
Alma mater Brown University

Virgil Maxcy (5 May 1785 – 28 February 1844) was an American political figure. He was born in Massachusetts, and spent his adult years in Maryland. He was killed in 1844 in a shipboard accident, when a cannon exploded aboard the USS Princeton.

Early life[edit]

The younger brother of Jonathan Maxcy, Virgil Maxcy was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts on May 5, 1785.[1][2][3] He graduated from Brown University in 1804, studied law with Robert Goodloe Harper and became an attorney in Baltimore, Maryland.[4][5]

Career as an author[edit]

In 1811 Maxcy authored The Laws of Maryland from 1692 to 1809, a multi-volume work that compiled Maryland's statutes, declaration of independence, constitution and amendments.[6]

Maxcy also prepared and distributed The Maryland resolutions, and the objections to them considered, an 1822 work which argued against proposals to appropriate public land for the building of schools and other purposes.[7]

In 1833 he delivered A discourse before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Brown University, a lecture that was published as a pamphlet.[8]

Political career[edit]

Originally a Federalist, Maxcy served on Maryland's Executive Council in 1815 and served terms in the Maryland Senate (1817–1821)[9] and the Maryland House of Delegates (1824–1825).[10][11][12]

Maxcy later became a Democrat and supported Andrew Jackson for President in 1824 and 1828. When Jackson won the 1828 election, Maxcy's friend John C. Calhoun attempted to have him appointed as Treasurer of the United States, but Jackson and Secretary of the Treasury Samuel D. Ingham decided for political reasons to offer the position to John Campbell.[13] Instead, Maxcy received appointment as Solicitor of the Treasury, where he served from 1830 to 1837.[14][15][16][17][18][19]

In 1837 President Martin Van Buren named William Haywood as US Chargé d'Affaires in Belgium. Haywood declined the appointment, and Van Buren then named Maxcy, who served until 1842.[20][21][22]

In February, 1844 Maxcy was considered for the position of Secretary of the Navy, but President Tyler appointed Thomas Walker Gilmer instead.[23] Gilmer was killed in the same accident that killed Maxcy.[24]

Death and burial[edit]

Main article: USS Princeton Disaster of 1844

Maxcy died near Fort Washington, Maryland on February 28, 1844 as a result of the explosion on board the USS Princeton, which also killed four others, including two members of President John Tyler's cabinet. Maxcy was struck by metal shards from the "Peacemaker" cannon, a large artillery piece made by the Hogg & Delamater Ironworks which was being fired as part of a demonstration for visiting dignitaries. According to published accounts, Maxcy lost both arms and a leg in the explosion and was killed instantly.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32]

Maxcy was originally entombed at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. He was subsequently reburied at Tulip Hill, a large estate near Annapolis, Maryland that was owned by his wife's family.[33][34]


Virgil Maxcy was married to Mary Galloway, a member of one of Maryland's most prominent families. He was thus a wealthy man, with most of his fortune consisting of slaves and land.[35][36]

The children of Virgil and Mary Galloway Maxcy included Ann (1813-1891), Mary (1812-1878), Cornelia (1815-1823), and Juliana (1816-1818).

Ann Maxcy was the wife of United States Representative George Wurtz Hughes.[37]

Mary Maxcy married Francis Markoe (1801-1872) in 1834. Their children included Francis Markoe (1840-1914), who married Maria Perry Thomas of Talbot County, Maryland and Emilie Maxcy Markoe (1852-1925), who married D. C. F. Rivinus.

Maxcy was a longtime friend of John C. Calhoun. They exchanged frequent letters, many of which have been published.[38][39][40]


Virgil Maxcy was the subject of a biography, 1981's A Federalist Converted: The Life of Virgil Maxcy of Maryland, 1785-1844, by Michael Cullen Reis.[41]

External Resources[edit]


  1. ^ Edwin L. Green, A History of the University of South Carolina, 1915, page 321
  2. ^ Eugene M. Wait, Adams vs. Jackson, 2001, page 92
  3. ^ Jonathan Maxcy, The Literary Remains of the Rev. Jonathan Maxcy, 1844, page 29
  4. ^ William Giles Goddard, The Political and Miscellaneous Writings of William G. Goddard, Volume 1, 1870, page 432
  5. ^ American & Commercial Daily Advertiser (Baltimore), public notice of law office opening, James M. Brown and Virgil Maxcy, September 28, 1809
  6. ^ The provincial councillors of Pennsylvania, by Charles Penrose Keith, 1883, p. 339
  7. ^ The Maryland resolutions, and the objections to them considered, by Virgil Maxcy, 1822, title page
  8. ^ A discourse before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Brown University, by Virgil Maxcy, 1833, title page
  9. ^ Virgil Maxcy entry, Archives of Maryland, Historical List, Maryland Senate Member Index, 1777-2000
  10. ^ Virgil Maxcy entry, Archives of Maryland Historical List, House of Delegates, Anne Arundel County (1790-1974)
  11. ^ Belgian-American diplomatic and consular relations 1830-1850, by John W. Rooney, 1969, Vol. 41, p. 84
  12. ^ Aggressive Nationalism: McCulloch v. Maryland and the Foundation of Federal Authority in the Young Republic, by Richard E. Ellis, 2007, p. 69
  13. ^ John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union: A Biography, by John Niven, 1993, p. 26
  14. ^ Poore, Benjamin Perley (1878). The political register and congressional directory: a statistical record of the Federal Officials...1776-1878. Boston: Houghton, Osgood and Co. p. 230. 
  15. ^ Niles' Weekly Register, 28 August 1830, p. 13
  16. ^ Who Was Who in America, published by Marquis Who's Who, 1963, p. 340
  17. ^ Report From Virgil Maxcy, Solicitor of the Treasury, on the Case of Francis Cazeau's Representatives, published by U.S. Senate, 1836, title page
  18. ^ The Political and Miscellaneous Writings of William G. Goddard, by William Giles Goddard, 1870, Vol. 1, p. 432
  19. ^ The New York Annual Register, by Edwin Williams, 1833, p. 366
  20. ^ The Papers of Henry Clay, by Henry Clay, edited by Robert Seager II and Melba Porter Hay, 1988, Vol. 9, p. 39
  21. ^ The literary remains of the Rev. Jonathan Maxcy, by Romeo Elton, 1844, p. 29
  22. ^ Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress at the Commencement of the First Session of the Twenty-Seventh Congress, published by US Dept. of State, 1841, p. 133
  23. ^ Detroit Free Press, Mr. Spencer has resigned the office of Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, February 3, 1844
  24. ^ James V. Marshall, The United States Manual of Biography and History, 1856, page 482
  25. ^ Potter's American Monthly, published by John E. Potter & Co., Philadelphia, 1876, Vol. 6-7, p. 111
  26. ^ The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln, by Sean Wilentz, 2006, p. 566
  27. ^ Congressional report: Accident on Steam-Ship "Princeton", US House of Representatives Committee on Naval Affairs, 1844, p. 1
  28. ^ Newspaper article, AWFUL CALAMITY!, Baltimore Sun, February 29, 1844
  29. ^ Newspaper article, Further Particulars, Baltimore Sun, 1 March 1844
  30. ^ Newspaper article, Heart Rending and Fatal Calamity, originally printed in New York Journal of Commerce, republished in Hartford Times, 9 March 1844
  31. ^ Newspaper article, Chronicle of Important Events During the Past Year, Baltimore Sun, 3 January 1845
  32. ^ Magazine article, "The beauty and chivalry of the United States assembled …", by Donald B. Webster, Jr., American Heritage magazine, Vol. 17, Issue 1, December 1965
  33. ^ This was Potomac River, by Frederick Tilp, 1987, p. 113
  34. ^ Wild Rose: The True Story of a Civil War Spy, by Ann Blackman, 2006, p. 131
  35. ^ Maryland Historical Magazine, published by Maryland Historical Society, 1965, Vol. 60, p. 383
  36. ^ Maryland -- A History, 1632-1974, by Maryland Historical Society, 1974, p. 259
  37. ^ The Leverett Letters: Correspondence of a South Carolina Family, 1851-1868, edited by Frances Wallace Taylor, Catherine Taylor Matthews and J. Tracy Power, 2000, page 481
  38. ^ Correspondence of John C. Calhoun, by John Caldwell Calhoun, 1900, Vol. 2, Part 2, p. 791
  39. ^ John C. Calhoun: American Portrait, Margaret L. Coit, 1950, p. 209
  40. ^ Community Leadership in Maryland, 1790-1840, by Whitman H. Ridgway, 1979, p.e 345
  41. ^ A Federalist Converted: The Life of Virgil Maxcy of Maryland, 1785-1844, by Michael Cullen Reis, published by George Washington University, title page
Legal offices
Preceded by
new position
Solicitor of the United States Treasury
Succeeded by
Henry D. Gilpin