James Gunn (senator)

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James Gunn
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
March 4, 1789 – March 3, 1801
Preceded by None (inaugural holder)
Succeeded by James Jackson
Personal details
Born March 13, 1753
Virginia, British America
Died July 30, 1801(1801-07-30) (aged 48)
Louisville, Georgia, U.S.
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch Georgia Militia
Years of service 1792–1801
Rank Brigadier general

James Gunn (March 13, 1753 – July 30, 1801) was a delegate to the Continental Congress and a United States Senator from Georgia.

Early life[edit]

Gunn was born in Virginia to John and Mary Gunn and became a lawyer. Gunn served in the 1st Continental Dragoons during the Revolutionary War.[1] He moved to Georgia after the war and became a significant political figure in his new home, establishing himself in short order as a planter, magistrate, state legislator, and militia officer, where he rose to brigadier general in the 1st Brigade of the Georgia militia in 1792.[2]

Political Life[edit]

Between 1782 and 1789, Gunn unsuccessfully challenged retired Gen. Nathanael Greene to a duel,[3] assailed Georgia Revolutionary War hero James Jackson in the press, and defeated Gen. Anthony Wayne for one of Georgia's First U.S. Senate seats in January 1789.[4] Gunn was selected as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1787 but never attended sessions.

In his first term as senator, between mid-May and late June 1789, Gunn moved from opposing the establishment of excise taxes to supporting them. He also opposed giving the president the power to remove heads of cabinet departments without the advice and consent of the Senate. In August 1790, the administration negotiated the Treaty of New York with the Creek Indians, which greatly angered many in Georgia. Gunn voted against the treaty. Like no other senator, Gunn impacted the internal processes in the Senate and the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of the newly formed government during his first term in office.[5]

Gunn's rivalry with James Jackson, which had originated in Georgia in the period between the end of the Revolution and the launching of the new federal government, heated up in the early 1790s. Gunn was a Federalist, and Jackson was a Jeffersonian.[6] Gunn supported the formation of the Georgia Company and the sale of the Yazoo lands. In the aftermath of the Yazoo sale, Gunn acted quickly to complete the transaction and protect it in Washington, while Jackson tried to block completion of the sale. On June 24, 1795, Gunn voted in favor of the Jay Treaty, one of only two southern senators to do so. James Jackson voted against it. Jackson resigned from the Senate and returned to Georgia to work against Gunn, who fell in public opinion due to the Yazoo land fraud.

Gunn was re-elected in 1795 and served out his second term until March 1801.

Death and legacy[edit]

Gunn died in Louisville, Georgia and is buried at the old State Capitol. A World War II Liberty ship, the SS James Gunn, ATS-0044 was built in 1942 and named for him.

See also[edit]

List of Liberty ships: G-Je


  1. ^ Smith, p. 297
  2. ^ Smith, p. 297
  3. ^ Siry, Steven E. (2006). Greene : Revolutionary General (1st ed.). Washington, D.C: Potomac Books. p. 95. ISBN 9781574889123. Retrieved 21 October 2016. 
  4. ^ Lamplugh, George R. (2010). "James Gunn: Georgia Federalist, 1789-1801". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 94 (3): 313. Retrieved 21 October 2016. 
  5. ^ Sollenberger, Mitchel A. (2009). "Georgia's Influence on the U.S. Senate: A Reassessment of the Rejection of Benjamin Fishbourn and the Origin of Senatorial Courtesy". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 93 (2). Retrieved 21 October 2016. 
  6. ^ Lamplugh, George R. (1996). "The Importance of Being Truculent: James Gunn, the Chatham Militia, and Georgia Politics, 1782-1789". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 80 (2): 229. JSTOR 40583434. 


  • Smith, Gordon Burns, History of the Georgia Militia, 1783-1861, Volume One, Campaigns and Generals, Boyd Publishing, 2000.

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Office created
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
Served alongside: William Few, James Jackson, George Walton, Josiah Tattnall, Abraham Baldwin
Succeeded by
James Jackson