Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Charles Goldsborough (1765-1834)
MSA SC 3520-1447

Governor of Maryland, 1819

The following essay is taken from Frank F. White, Jr., The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970 (Annapolis:  The Hall of Records Commission, 1970), 75-76.

"CHARLES GOLDSBOROUGH. Maryland’s last Federalist governor and wealthy landowner, was born at 'Hunting Creek,' Dorchester County, on July 15, 1765, the son of Charles and Anna Maria (Tilghman) Goldsborough. After he had received his early education at home, he attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1784. Three years later, he received his Master’s degree from the same school, following which he studied law and was admitted to the Bar in 1790.

"Goldsborough was married twice. On September 22, 1793, he married Elizabeth Goldsborough, daughter of Judge Robert Goldsborough of 'Myrtle Grove,' Talbot County, by whom he had two daughters. Elizabeth evidently died shortly, for he married his cousin, Sarah Goldsborough of 'Horn Point,' Dorchester County, in 1804. They had fifteen children.

"Goldsborough began his political career as a member of the State Senate. In November 1791, when Gustavus Scott resigned, he was elected to fill the vacancy. He was not re-elected in 1796 when his term expired, but in 1799 when another vacancy occurred in that body, he was again selected to complete the unexpired term and served until 1801. He then retired from office and presumably, he again practiced law.

"Goldsborough was elected to Congress in 1804. He took his seat on December 2, 1805, and represented his district in the House of Representatives continuously until March 3, 1817. The highlight of his Congressional career was his vote against the declaration of war in. 1812, one of the three Maryland congressmen to have done so.

"Narrowly defeating Frisby Tilghman, he succeeded Charles Ridgely of Hampton as governor on January 8, 1819, just as the Federalist Party was disintegrating. Nationally, that Party’s opposition to the war and reaction to the secession resolutions passed by its leaders at the Hartford Convention, resulted in charges that the Party was disloyal. These charges subsequently led to its downfall. In Maryland, the Federalists were able to remain in power only through an inequitable system of apportionment, by virtue of which they held temporary control of the House of Dele- [p. 76] gates. In the ensuing election, that of the fall of 1819, the Republicans regained control of the Legislature, and because of this fact, Goldsborough would serve only one year in office.

“'The brief term of Governor Charles Goldsborough was the occasion for abortive efforts at electoral redistribution and a short-lived success in preventing enfranchisement of Maryland’s Jewish population.'1 The Goldsborough administration opposed this popular movement especially after a bill had been introduced on that subject, but the Federalists defeated it. Although the Jews would finally receive the franchise in 1824, Federalist action at that time in blocking it did nothing to endear it to its opponents and only hastened its decline.

"Goldsborough’s administration was also characterized by increasing demands to elect the governor and the legislature by popular vote. Having a majority, the Federalists refused to pass this as well as a reapportionment bill which would have increased Baltimore City’s membership in the House of Delegates from two to four members. The resulting dissatisfaction created increasing disgust with the Federalist-controlled legislature. Because the Party refused to adapt itself to the changing times, it was swept from power, never again to return, in the fall elections of 1819 when the Republicans captured control of the Legislature for the first time since 1811. In a contest characterized by charges of bribery and dishonesty as well as the reaction to Federalist opposition to meeting the growing needs of the people, the Republicans unseated Goldsborough.

"On December 20, 1819, after he had been succeeded by Samuel Sprigg, Goldsborough withdrew from public life and retired to his estate at Shoal Creek near Cambridge. He emerged briefly in 1820 and 1821 to challenge his successor Samuel Sprigg, but in both these efforts he was unsuccessful.

"He died on December 13, 1834 and was buried in the Christ P.E. Church Cemetery in Cambridge. Because the Dorchester County Inventories do not exist for this period, the value of his estate cannot be determined."

1.  James H. Fitzgerald Brewer, "The Democratization of Maryland, 1800-1837," in Morris L. Radoff, editor, The Old Line State (Hopkinsville, KY), 58.

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