Johnson, Thomas


Scarce 1780 MsDS as Maryland State Assemblyman, was 1st Maryland Governor 1777-79, US Supreme Court Associate Justice 1791-93, helped lay out the National Capital


Autograph ID: 7101
Condition: Good, horiz. fold separation at top third has been carefully repaired as have two other small areas; some edge nicks
Description: “(1732-1819) 1st Governor of Maryland, delegate to the Continental Congress, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court 1791-93. His niece, Louisa Johnson, married John Quincy Adams. Admitted to the Maryland bar 1753, elected to the Provincial Assembly 1761. A delegate to the Continental Congress 1774 & 1775, he firmly favored separation from Great Britain. In Nov. 1775, Congress created a Committee of (Secret) Correspondence to seek foreign support for the war. Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, and Benjamin Harrison, were initially named to the Committee. He returned to the Maryland Assembly when the Declaration of Independence was signed. In 1775 he drafted the Declaration of Rights adopted by the Maryland Assembly, later in the 1st part of the state’s 1st constitution, adopted in 1776. He was a brigadier general in the Maryland militia. The legislature elected him the state’s 1st Governor in 1777, serving to 1779. He served in the State Assembly 1780, 1786, & 1787, attended the 1788 Maryland Convention and successfully urged ratification of the Constitution. In Sept. 1789, he declined President Washington’s nomination to be the 1st federal judge for the District of Maryland. He was senior justice in the Maryland General Court system 1790 & 1791. In Jan. 1791, Washington appointed him, David Stuart and Daniel Carroll, to the commission to lay out the federal capital in accordance with the Residence Act of 1790. In Sept. 1791, they named the federal city “The City of Washington” and the federal district “The Territory of Columbia”. On Aug. 5, 1791, Johnson received a recess appointment from Washington to the US Supreme Court after John Rutledge resigned. Formally nominated Oct. 31, 1791, confirmed by the Senate Nov. 7, received his commission that day, but not sworn in until Aug. 5, 1792. He wrote the Court’s 1st written opinion, Georgia v. Brailsford, in 1792. He served until Jan. 16, 1793, when he resigned, citing poor health and the difficulties of circuit-riding, having the shortest tenure (to date) on the Court. He suffered very poor health for many years, and so declined Washington’s 1795 offer to nominate him for Secretary of State as Thomas Jefferson recommended. He delivered a eulogy for George Washington at a birthday memorial service on February 22, 1800. On Feb. 28, 1801, President Adams named Johnson Chief Judge for the District of Columbia when first constituting that body.

Scarce interesting Maryland 4 ½ x 7 MsDS, (Annapolis), March 13 1780, ordering the Treasurer of the Western Shore to pay Elie Vallette 625 pounds due him for one month’s salary per act passed by the Auditor General. At the lower left is the signature of U(riah) Forrest, Auditor General of the Continental Army. On the verso is a March 14, 1780 ADS of Vallette acknowledging receipt and other docketing on a re-used address leaf for a letter to Governor Thomas Sim Lee, probably an economic use of paper. The “Th” of Johnson’s signature is written on paper covering wax seal. Nice association of several Maryland patriots!

ELIE VALLETTE (1724-1780) London-born member of a French Huguenot family, Register of Maryland’s Prerogative Court from 1765. In 1766, he became Deputy Commissioner of Anne Arundel County, Md. He wrote “The Deputy Commissary’s Guide Within the Province of Maryland” in 1774 to assist executors with legal requirements and procedures regarding estate and guardianship matters. THOMAS SIM LEE (1745-1819) Frederick County, Maryland planter and statesman, 2nd Md. Governor 1779-83, 1792-94. He also was a Maryland delegate to the Congress of the Confederation in 1783 and a member of the Maryland House of Delegates in 1787. URIAH FORREST (1756-1805) Maryland statesman and military leader, served in varying roles within the Maryland Line 1776-81. In Aug. 1779, he was a Lieut. Colonel with the 7th Maryland Regt., resigned Feb. 23, 1781. He lost a leg at the 1777 Battle of Brandywine then served in varied regiments before resigning as Auditor General within the Continental Army on Feb. 19, 1781. In 1780, the Assembly passed a bill on confiscation of loyalist property; Forrest was one of 3 commissioners, with Signer William Paca and Clement Hollyday. He served in the House of Delegates 1781-83, 1786-87, 1787-90, State Senator 1796-1800, State jurist 1799-1800. He represented St. Mary’s County thru most of the 1780s to the late 1789s when he represented Montgomery County; in the State Senate he represented the Western Shore. Forrest was a 1787 delegate to the Continental Congress and a Federalist in Congress March 1793-Nov. 1794, resigning after missing 79.6% of roll call votes. He was major general of the Militia’s 1st Division 1795-1801. On Oct. 13, 1790, he was one of the “original proprietors” of lands taken for Washington City, a major landholder who bought land, sold it to another speculator, ultimately to the Federal government. He was one of 15 landowners who dealt with George Washington to give the government land to create the new federal capital, Washington; in 1792, Forrest and James Williams bought land from Maryland then sold it to the federal government which became the National Mall. On March 29, 1791, he was Mayor of the Town of George, now Georgetown, when George Washington met with local landowners at Mount Vernon to negotiate purchase of land to build the new capital city. He was clerk of the District of Columbia circuit court 1800-05.”
Type: Document

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