John Adair

John Adair
A man with salt-and-pepper hair wearing a black jacket, gold shirt, and white tie
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1831 – March 3, 1833
Preceded byJohn Kincaid
Succeeded byBenjamin Hardin
8th Governor of Kentucky
In office
August 29, 1820 – August 24, 1824
LieutenantWilliam T. Barry
Preceded byGabriel Slaughter
Succeeded byJoseph Desha
United States Senator
from Kentucky
In office
November 8, 1805 – November 18, 1806
Preceded byJohn Breckinridge
Succeeded byHenry Clay
4th Speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives
In office
Preceded byJohn Breckinridge
Succeeded byWilliam Logan
Member of the Kentucky House of Representatives
In office
In office
Personal details
Born(1757-01-09)January 9, 1757
Chester County, South Carolina
DiedMay 19, 1840(1840-05-19) (aged 83)
Mercer County, Kentucky
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Spouse(s)Katherine Palmer
RelationsFather-in-law of Thomas Bell Monroe
ResidenceWhite Hall
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchSouth Carolina Militia
Kentucky militia
RankBrigadier general
Battles/warsAmerican Revolutionary War
Northwest Indian War
War of 1812

John Adair (January 9, 1757 – May 19, 1840) was an American pioneer, soldier, and politician. He was the eighth Governor of Kentucky and represented the state in both the U.S. House and Senate. A native of South Carolina, Adair enlisted in the state militia and served in the Revolutionary War, during which he was twice captured and held as a prisoner of war by the British. Following the War, he was elected as a delegate to South Carolina's convention to ratify the United States Constitution.

After moving to Kentucky in 1786, Adair participated in the Northwest Indian War, including a skirmish with the Miami Chief Little Turtle near Fort St. Clair in 1792. Popular for his service in two wars, he entered politics in 1792 as a delegate to Kentucky's constitutional convention. Adair was elected to a total of eight terms in the state House of Representatives between 1793 and 1803. He served as Speaker of the Kentucky House in 1802 and 1803, and was a delegate to the state's Second Constitutional Convention in 1799. He ascended to the United States Senate to fill the seat vacated when John Breckinridge resigned to become Attorney General of the United States in the Cabinet of Thomas Jefferson, but failed to win a full term in the subsequent election due to his implication in a treason conspiracy involving Vice President Aaron Burr. After a long legal battle, he was acquitted of any wrongdoing; and his accuser, General James Wilkinson, was ordered to issue an apology. The negative publicity kept him out of politics for more than a decade.

Adair's participation in the War of 1812, and a subsequent protracted defense of Kentucky's soldiers against General Andrew Jackson's charges that they showed cowardice at the Battle of New Orleans, restored his reputation. He returned to the State House in 1817, and Isaac Shelby, his commanding officer in the War who was serving a second term as governor, appointed him adjutant general of the state militia. In 1820, Adair was elected eighth governor on a platform of financial relief for Kentuckians hit hard by the Panic of 1819, and the ensuing economic recession. His primary effort toward this end was the creation of the Bank of the Commonwealth, but many of his other financial reforms were deemed unconstitutional by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, touching off the Old Court–New Court controversy. Following his term as governor, Adair served one undistinguished term in the United States House of Representatives and did not run for re-election.

Early life

John Adair was born January 9, 1757, in Chester County, South Carolina, a son of Scottish immigrants Baron William and Mary [Moore] Adair.[1][2] He was educated at schools in Charlotte, North Carolina, and enlisted in the South Carolina colonial militia at the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.[3] He was assigned to the regiment of his friend, Edward Lacey, under the command of Colonel Thomas Sumter and participated in the failed Colonial assault on a Loyalist outpost at the Battle of Rocky Mount and the subsequent Colonial victory at the Battle of Hanging Rock.[4][5] During the British victory over the Colonists at the August 16, 1780, Battle of Camden, Adair was taken as a prisoner of war.[6] He contracted smallpox and was treated harshly by his captors during his months-long imprisonment.[6] Although he escaped at one point, Adair was unable to reach safety because of difficulties related to his smallpox infection and was recaptured by British Colonel Banastre Tarleton after just three days.[4] Subsequently, he was released via a prisoner exchange.[4] In 1781, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the South Carolina militia, and fought in the drawn Battle of Eutaw Springs, the war's last major battle in the Carolinas.[4] Edward Lacey was elected sheriff of Chester County after the war, and Adair replaced him in his former capacity as the county's justice of the peace.[5] He was chosen as a delegate to the South Carolina convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution.[3]

In 1784, Adair married Katherine Palmer.[7] They had twelve children, ten of them daughters.[7] One married Thomas Bell Monroe, who later served as Adair's Secretary of State and was appointed to a federal judgeship.[8] In 1786, the Adairs migrated westward to Kentucky, settling in Mercer County.[9]

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