John Eager Howard

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John Howard
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
November 21, 1800 – November 27, 1800
President John Adams
Preceded by Uriah Tracy
Succeeded by James Hillhouse
United States Senator
from Maryland
In office
November 21, 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 John Eager Howard
(1752-06-04)June 4, 1752
Baltimore County, Maryland, British America
Died October 12, 1827(1827-10-12) (aged 75)
Baltimore County, Maryland, U.S.
Resting place Old Saint Paul's Cemetery
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Peggy Chew
Children 8, including George and Benjamin

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 Eager Street and Howard Street in Baltimore.

Early life and education[edit]

He was the son of Cornelius Howard and Ruth (Eager) Howard, of the Maryland planter elite and was born at their plantation "The Forest." 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.[2]

Military career[edit]

Commissioned a captain at the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, Howard rose in 1777 to the rank of colonel in the Continental Army,[1] 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,[1] during which he commanded the 2nd Maryland Regiment, Continental Army.[3] In September 1781, he was wounded in a bayonet charge at the Battle of Eutaw Springs.[4] 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."[5]

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

Political life[edit]

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, 1788 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 21, 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.[1]

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.[1]

After 1803, Howard returned to Baltimore, where he avoided elected office but continued in public service and philanthropy as a leading citizen.[6] He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1815.[7] In the 1816 presidential election, he received 22 electoral votes for Vice President[2] 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.

Marriage and family[edit]

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

Death and legacy[edit]

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.[1]

  • 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.[2][8]
  • 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 north from the north park of the circle up North Charles Street, Baltimore.[2]
  • Howard is one of several notable men of Maryland mentioned in the state song "Maryland, My Maryland" written in 1861 by James Ryder Randall; the phrase "Howard's war-like thrust" refers to him.
  • Three streets in Baltimore share his name: the diagonal-running John Street in the Bolton Hill area; the east-west running Eager Street; and the north-south running Howard Street.[citation needed]


  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 (Biographical Series). Retrieved August 22, 2014. 
  4. ^ Nancy Capace. Encyclopedia of Maryland. p. 81. 
  5. ^ Quoted in Lawrence E. Babits, A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 26.
  6. ^ American National Biography, John Eager Howard; online version consulted
  7. ^ "American Antiquarian Society Members Directory". American Antiquarian Society. Retrieved July 16, 2015. 
  8. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 162. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Jim Piecuch and John Beakes. Cool Deliberate Courage: John Eager Howard in the American Revolution (2009)
Political offices
Preceded by
William Smallwood
Governor of Maryland
Succeeded by
George Plater
Preceded by
Uriah Tracy
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
Succeeded by
James Hillhouse
U.S. 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
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jared Ingersoll
Federalist nominee for Vice President of the United States
Succeeded by
Richard Stockton