James Garrard

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Date: 1936
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Biography
Length: 699 words
Content Level: (Level 4)
Lexile Measure: 1280L

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About this Person
Born: 1749 in Virginia, United States
Died: 1822
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Garrard, James (Jan. 14, 1749 - Jan. 19, 1822), governor of Kentucky and Baptist clergyman, was a native of Stafford County, Va., a member of a family of considerable local importance. His father, William, was county-lieutenant of Stafford County, and James in 1781 held the rank of colonel in the Stafford County regiment of the Virginia militia (W. P. Palmer, Calendar of Virginia State Papers, II, 1881, 43). How much actual fighting the young Garrard saw during the Revolution it is impossible to ascertain, but it is certain that his military life was interrupted by a year in the House of Delegates, 1779, when he represented Stafford County. In 1783, accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth Mountjoy Garrard, whom he had married on Dec. 20, 1769, and their seven children, he removed to Kentucky, where he settled on Stoner Creek in the present county of Bourbon, then Fayette. Here three years later he built his residence, "Mt. Lebanon," where he lived until his death. For many years after his removal to Kentucky Garrard's interests seemed to vacillate between religion and politics. He had been a member of the Baptist Church in Virginia, and soon after coming to Kentucky he helped organize, in 1787, the Cooper's Run church near Mt. Lebanon. For ten years he was one of the ministers of this church, and seems to have been active not only in his work here but also in the organization of Baptist congregations in other parts of Kentucky. In 1785 he was elected as representative of Fayette County in the Virginia House of Delegates. One apparent result of his second service in the Virginia legislature was the creation of Bourbon County out of Fayette and the establishment of Mt. Lebanon as the temporary county seat (W. E. Henning, The Statutes at Large, XII, 1823, 89-90). He also represented Fayette and then Bourbon County in the conventions which marked Kentucky's prolonged struggle for statehood, and was a member of the convention which made the first constitution, but he seems not to have played a leading part in any of these meetings.

In 1796 Garrard was one of four candidates for the governorship of Kentucky. He was chosen over Benjamin Logan by the electoral college on the second ballot, although Logan had received a plurality of the votes on the first. The doubtful constitutionality of this election caused considerable discontent and had its influence in bringing about a revision of the constitution a few years later (Charles Kerr, History of Kentucky, 1922, I, 316). Garrard's popularity with the Kentucky legislature was attested by the fact that his name was given to a newly created county; his popularity with the people was shown by his election as governor by popular vote at the conclusion of his first term in 1800. During his eight years as governor, however, he did not display unusual ability. As a Republican leader he followed Jefferson in denouncing the Alien and Sedition laws, and used his influence in securing the adoption of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. In one of his messages to the legislature he brought considerable ridicule on himself by advocating an increase of importations up the Mississippi as a measure for remedying the defective paper currency in Kentucky.

While governor, Garrard fell very much under the influence of his secretary of state, Harry Toulmin, a Unitarian. He came to have very pronounced Unitarian views and succeeded in spreading his ideas in his own congregation at Cooper's Run. As a result he was dropped from the church and from the Baptist Association in 1803. This act closed Garrard's ministry, and closed also his connection with the Baptist Church. His fellow Baptists seem always to have deplored his political ambitions but never lost faith in his integrity. In fact his popularity throughout Kentucky seems to have been due more to his probity than to his ability. After 1804 Garrard lived quietly at his home without holding or seeking further office. Upon his death the Kentucky legislature erected a monument in his honor at Mt. Lebanon. He was survived by twelve children, one of whom, James, played a prominent part in Kentucky history and is often confused with his father.


[The records of Stafford County were destroyed by fire and consequently very little is known of the Virginia branch of the Garrard family. Garrard's official journals and papers are preserved in the office of the secretary of state of Kentucky at Frankfort. For further reference see E. G. Swem and J. W. Williams, A Reg. of the Gen. Assembly of Va., 1776-1918 (1918); A. R. des Cognets, Gov. Garrard, of Ky.: His Descendants and Relatives (1898); Lewis and R. H. Collins, Hist. of Ky. (rev. ed., 1874), I, 366; Mann Butler, A Hist. of the Commonwealth of Ky. (1834), p. 295; J. H. Spencer, A Hist. of Ky. Baptists (1885), I, 133-34; Ky. Gazette (Lexington), Jan. 31, 1822.]


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Gale Document Number: GALE|BT2310013005