Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

George Howard (1789-1846)
MSA SC 3520-1453

Governor of Maryland, 1831-1833 (Whig)


The following essay is taken from Frank F. White, Jr., The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970 (Annapolis:  The Hall of
Records Commission, 1970), 101-104.

"GEORGE HOWARD, 'one of the best executives the state ever had,' was born on November 21, 1789, in the Governorís Mansion in Annapolis, the second son of John Eager and Peggy (Chew) Howard.1 He was the only governor to have been born there and the only son of a governor to have been elected governor. During his fatherís term he lived in Annapolis. Later, the family lived at 'Belvedere' in Baltimore County, where he was educated by tutors. Partly because of his fatherís political ideologies, George Howard should have adopted Federalist-type beliefs, but when he took office he did so as an Anti-Jacksonian.

"On December 26, 1811, he married Prudence Gough Ridgely, a daughter of Governor Charles Ridgely of Hampton. As a wedding gift from John Eager Howard, they received 'Waverly' a tract of land located near Woodstock in present day Howard County. They had a large family.

"George Howard appears not to have been too prominent in public affairs prior to his election as governor. Instead he led the life of a country gentleman and farmer. His only other public office was his membership on the Governorís Council to which he was elected in January 1831. Howard greatly admired his predecessor Daniel Martin, with whom he worked closely, and consequently, the two had become friends because of this association. When Governor Martin died in July 1831, Howard, as President of the Council, succeeded him, taking the oath of office on July 22 of that year, and accepting the office reluctantly even though he felt Martinís death imposed upon him duties which he did not feel at liberty to refuse. In his annual message to the General Assembly in 1831, he eulogized his predecessor in these words: 'Since your last annual session, a melancholy and unexpected event has devolved upon me, the discharge of the duties of chief magistrate of our state. His excellency, the late Governor Martin, at a period of life, where he might reasonably have anticipated a long career of usefulness, was, in the wisdom of providence, suddenly withdrawn from the distinguished station which he filled with great honor to himself and advantage to the public. No citizen deplored [p. 102] his loss more than myself. The virtuous and manly cast of his character was necessarily felt by all who approached him, and, especially appreciated, by those who, like his councillors, saw his true spirit in friendly and confidential intercourse. This bereavement imposed on me, public duties from the due execution of which I did not feel myself at liberty to retire, and I am sure that the indulgence and kindness of my countrymen will extend to me every allowance which so unexpected an occurrence demands.'2

"When Martinís unexpired term ended in January 1832, the General Assembly elected Howard for a full-year term. Of the eighty-two ballots cast, George Howard received sixty-four. Howardís first concern after his election was for the welfare of his family. In his letter of acceptance he reported 'that indisposition in my family prevents me from designating an earlier day than Wednesday the 11th instant for my appearance at the seat of government. I propose to be in readiness to qualify on that day.'3 He was not, however, sworn in until January 16 of that year.

"Howard accomplished much during his short governorship in the areas of internal improvements, African colonization, and public education even though his administration was marked by his bitter Anti-Jacksonianism. Howard advocated the establishment of a State Bank since 'the present Chief-Magistrate of our country having been re-elected by the voice of the people, his known and declared hostility to the Bank of the United States leaving the fate of that institution no longer doubtful, I deem it proper for the commercial purposes of Maryland, to point out some means of creating a substitute for the withdrawal of a large bank circulation.'4 Howard later reversed himself and supported the U. S. Bank. Even though he was an uncompromising opponent of Andrew Jackson, he did share the latterís opposition to nullification which he described as 'a wickedness only to be thought of by desperate men or unfortunate maniacs.'5 After South Carolina had transmitted its nullification document, he told the Legislature that he felt that ďthe doctrines of South Carolina, I conscientiously believe, will be rejected by the unanimous voice of people of Maryland. The doctrine of nullification, I hold to be perfectly untenable.'6

Howard was a foe of lotteries, feeling that they constituted 'a system of gambling which, although licensed, is extremely prejudicial.' He hoped there would shortly be an end ďto a system tending to demoralize the people, and which often offers an incentive to corruption and fraud.'7

"Howard took a deep interest in public education by urging the endowment of Maryland colleges. He further advocated 'the propriety of devoting part of the funds of the State to the ample endowment of a sufficient number of colleges for the education of our youth, thereby preventing [p. 103] the necessity of sending a vast quantity of treasure to other states for
the purpose.'8

"During his administration, Governor Howard noted the intense rivalry between the canal and the railroad in the area between Point of Rocks and Harperís Ferry. Had both of these internal improvement companies considered the needs of the State, there would have been a place for both of them in Frederick County, but they did not do so. Howard castigated the canal company officials for preventing the railroad from going though the locality where friction had developed. 'The Directors of the canal company . . . have thus thwarted the express wishes of the State, equally interested in both works,' he declared, 'and for no other evident reason, than from a determined hostility to another work which they have chosen to consider in the light of a formidable rival.' He went on to point out that he had not 'the slightest fear that the Rail-Road will not reach its ultimate destination.'9

"In 1832, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence died. The General Assembly adopted resolutions eulogizing him and commemorating his services and patriotism. In noting the event, Governor Howard extolled him as the last of the Revolutionary War patriots who had lived to see the nation 'engaged in a second war [with England] not only without tarnishing, but which resulted in greatly augmenting our national glory. . . . He had lived to see us marching with gigantic strides to the attainment of the legitimate objects of governmentóthe prosperity and happiness of the people.'10

"Howard held many slaves, but he was receptive to the movement to colonize free Negroes in Africa. He hoped that the plan would lead to favorable results. 'The prosecution of this system,' he told the Legislature, 'may probably at some distant day, tend to the restoration of the whole of our colored population, to the land of their forefathers.'11

"In his message of January 13, 1833, to the Legislature, he asked that he not be considered as a candidate for re-election. 'In making this declaration, I do it with deep humility. . . . I have not the vanity to suppose, that such a declaration would be necessary, but as custom seems to have fixed the period of re-election to the extent of the legal term of qualification, I may be allowed to think, that the partiality of some friends would wish my continuance in office. In taking leave of you, permit me to return you my thanks for the high honor you have conferred upon me, and condemn me for not saying, that throughout my administration, I have acted with a single eye to the advancement of the honor, dignity and prosperity of the state.'12

"Howard retired to 'Waverly' following the end of his term. He emerged only to serve as a presidential elector in 1836 as well as in 1840, [p. 104] when he supported the Whig candidate. He died at his home on August 2, 1846 at the age of fifty-seven. He was probably buried first in the family burial ground at Waverly, but later, his remains were removed to the Western Cemetery, and still later, his body was again removed, but its present resting place is unknown. Members of the Howard family believe him to have been buried in the Howard family vault in Old St. Paulís Cemetery where his father John Eager Howard is also buried.

"He left an estate valued at nearly $11,000, including twenty-two slaves."13


Notes on sources

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