Johnson, Thomas

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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Thomas Johnson was the first governor of Maryland. He served in the Maryland House of Delegates in the early 1780s and was chief judge of the Maryland General Court from 1790 to 1791. Johnson was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1791, where he served a brief and uneventful term before resigning because of poor health.

Johnson was born November 4, 1732, to Thomas Johnson and Dorcas Sedgwick Johnson, in Calvert County, Maryland. Johnson was one of twelve children, and he received no formal education as a child. His parents sent him to Annapolis, Maryland, to work as a registry clerk at the land office under Thomas Jennings. Following his apprenticeship, Johnson began to study law in the office of Stephen Bordley, an Annapolis attorney. He was admitted to the bar in 1760, and practiced law before entering politics.

In 1766 Johnson married Ann Jennings, the daughter of his former instructor at the Annapolis land office. They were married for twenty-eight years, until Ann died. They had eight children.

From 1762 to 1773, Johnson was a member of the Maryland colonial assembly. In 1765 he became famous for his strong opposition to the STAMP ACT, which was the first tax imposed on the colonists by Great Britain. Johnson was named a delegate to the Maryland convention in 1774, and a Maryland representative to the First CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, in Philadelphia. He also served on a committee that drafted a petition of grievances to King George III. Johnson formally nominated GEORGE WASHINGTON before the Continental Congress in 1775 for the

Thomas Johnson. ETCHING BY ALBERT ROSENTHAL. THE GRANGER COLLECTION, NEW YORK

position of commander in chief of the Continental Army.

"AMERICA[NS] WISH ? TO PRESERVE THE CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY ? HANDED DOWN TO US BY OUR ANCESTORS. IF OUR PETITION IS REJECTED BY ? OUR FRIENDS IN ENGLAND, WILL NOT OUR VERY MODERATE MEN ON THIS SIDE OF THE WATER BE COMPELLED TO OWN THE NECESSITY OF OPPOSING FORCE BY FORCE?"

?THOMAS JOHNSON

Johnson supported the Declaration of Independence, although he was not present in Philadelphia on the day it was signed. He voted for Maryland's independence on July 6, 1776, and contributed to the new state constitution that year. During the American Revolution, he served in the Maryland militia as first brigadier general. In 1777 Johnson led nearly two thousand men from Frederick, Maryland, to General Washington's headquarters in New Jersey. Also in...

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