Thomas Pratt (Maryland politician)

Last updated
Thomas George Pratt
Thomas Pratt, Brady photo portrait, circa 1848-1860, sitting.jpg
United States Senator
from Maryland
In office
January 12, 1850 March 4, 1857
Preceded by David Stewart
Succeeded by Anthony Kennedy
27th governor of Maryland
In office
January 6, 1845 January 3, 1848
Preceded by Francis Thomas
Succeeded by Philip F. Thomas
Member of the Maryland House of Delegates
In office
Personal details
Born(1804-02-18)February 18, 1804
Georgetown, Maryland, US
DiedNovember 9, 1869(1869-11-09) (aged 65)
Baltimore, Maryland, US
Political party Whig, Democrat
Spouse(s)Adelaide MacKubin Kent
Alma mater Georgetown University
ProfessionPolitician, lawyer

Thomas George Pratt (February 18, 1804 November 9, 1869) was a lawyer and politician from Annapolis, Maryland. He was the 27th governor of Maryland from 1845 to 1848 and a U.S. senator from 1850 to 1857.

Annapolis, Maryland Capital of Maryland

Annapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Maryland, as well as the county seat of Anne Arundel County. Situated on the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Severn River, 25 miles (40 km) south of Baltimore and about 30 miles (50 km) east of Washington, D.C., Annapolis is part of the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area. Its population was measured at 38,394 by the 2010 census.

Governor of Maryland head of state and of the executive branch of government of the State of Maryland, United States

The governor of the State of Maryland heads the executive branch of the government of the State of Maryland, and is the commander-in-chief of the state's National Guard units. The governor is the highest-ranking official in the state and has a broad range of appointive powers in both the state and local governments, as specified by the Maryland Constitution. Because of the extent of these constitutional powers, the governor of Maryland has been ranked as being among the most powerful governors in the United States.

United States Senate Upper house of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress which, along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C.


Early life and career

Pratt was born in Georgetown, Maryland (now a part of Washington, D.C.), completed preparatory studies, and attended Georgetown University. He is believed to have attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) at some point, but this has yet to be proven. He studied law, was admitted to the bar, and commenced practice in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, in 1823. Pratt married and had five children with Adeline MacKubin Kent, daughter of Maryland governor Joseph Kent, on September 1, 1835.

Georgetown University Private university in Washington, D.C., United States

Georgetown University is a private research university in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Founded by Bishop John Carroll in 1789 as Georgetown College, the university has grown to comprise ten undergraduate and graduate schools, among which are the School of Foreign Service, School of Business, Medical School, Law School, and a campus in Qatar. Located on a hill above the Potomac River, the school's main campus is identifiable by its flagship Healy Hall, a National Historic Landmark.

Princeton University University in Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. The institution moved to Newark in 1747, then to the current site nine years later, and renamed itself Princeton University in 1896.

Upper Marlboro, Maryland Town in Maryland, United States

Upper Marlboro, officially the Town of Upper Marlboro, is the seat of Prince George's County, Maryland in the United States. The population within the town limits was 631 at the 2010 U.S. Census, although Greater Upper Marlboro is many times larger.

Pratt served as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1832 to 1835, and as a presidential elector on the Whig ticket for William Henry Harrison in 1836. He was appointed president of the Governor's Council in 1836, serving until the position was abolished the following year. Pratt was elected a member of the Maryland State Senate, the first directly elected senator from Prince George's County, Maryland, and served from 1838 to 1843. In 1844, Pratt was nominated as a candidate for governor representing the Whig party. He campaigned with the promise of resolving the serious state debt, and defeated his opponent, James Carroll, by a margin of a mere 548 votes.

Maryland House of Delegates lower house of the Maryland General Assembly

The Maryland House of Delegates is the lower house of the legislature of the State of Maryland. It consists of 141 delegates elected from 47 districts. The House of Delegates Chamber is in the Maryland State House on State Circle in Annapolis, the state capital. The State House also houses the Maryland State Senate Chamber and the offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the State of Maryland. Each delegate has offices in Annapolis, in the nearby Casper R. Taylor Jr. House Office Building.

William Henry Harrison Ninth President of the United States

William Henry Harrison was an American military officer and politician who served as the ninth president of the United States in 1841. He died of typhoid, pneumonia or paratyphoid fever 31 days into his term, becoming the first president to die in office. His death sparked a brief constitutional crisis regarding succession to the presidency, because the Constitution was unclear as to whether Vice President John Tyler should assume the office of president or merely execute the duties of the vacant office. Tyler claimed a constitutional mandate to become the new president and took the presidential oath of office, setting an important precedent for an orderly transfer of the presidency and its full powers when the previous president fails to complete the elected term.

Prince Georges County, Maryland County in Maryland

Prince George's County is located in the U.S. state of Maryland, bordering the eastern portion of Washington, D.C. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 863,420, making it the second-most populous county in Maryland, behind Montgomery County. Its county seat is Upper Marlboro. It is one of the richest African American-majority counties in the United States, with five of its communities identified in a 2015 top ten list.

Governor of Maryland

Pratt immediately announced several long-term objectives, namely the immediate payment of the serious debt of the state. To raise state funds, Pratt put into effect direct taxes on the population by the government, an unpopular decision at the time, which nevertheless repopulated the state's treasury and allowed the repayment of the debt.

Thomas Pratt Thomas Pratt by Dieterich, 1904.jpg
Thomas Pratt

The most serious problems of Pratt's administration came with relations to the northern neighbor state of Pennsylvania, which refused to comply with the Fugitive Slave Law. In 1847, when Maryland requested the return of several escaped slaves, Pennsylvania's governor bluntly refused, and, with the support of his attorney-general, went as far as to declare certain acts issued by the Maryland General Assembly to be unconstitutional. Two more incidents of this nature occurred during Pratt's tenure as governor, one involving the death of a slaveholder who was ambushed in Pennsylvania by abolitionists as he and his party returned to Maryland with their re-captured slaves. It was during this time that Pratt began to move away from the Whig party and more towards the Democratic Party.

Pennsylvania U.S. state in the United States

Pennsylvania, officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a state located in the Northeastern, Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The Appalachian Mountains run through its middle. The Commonwealth is bordered by Delaware to the southeast, Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, Lake Erie and the Canadian province of Ontario to the northwest, New York to the north, and New Jersey to the east.

Maryland General Assembly legislative body of the State of Maryland, United States

The Maryland General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Maryland that convenes within the State House in Annapolis. It is a bicameral body: the upper chamber, the Maryland State Senate, has 47 representatives and the lower chamber, the Maryland House of Delegates, has 141 representatives. Members of both houses serve four-year terms. Each house elects its own officers, judges the qualifications and election of its own members, establishes rules for the conduct of its business, and may punish or expel its own members.

In terms of transportation, Pratt favored the extension of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad into Ohio, rather than supporting canals. Pratt also strongly encouraged peaceful and speedy resolution over the dispute between Great Britain and the United States regarding the Oregon Territory, stating that "no part of the Union would, in the event of war, be more exposed than Maryland".

Baltimore and Ohio Railroad former rail system in the United States of America

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was the first common carrier railroad and the oldest railroad in the United States, with its first section opening in 1830. Merchants from the city of Baltimore, which had benefitted to some extent from the construction of the National Road early in the century, wanted to continue to compete for trade with trans-Appalachian settlers with the newly constructed Erie Canal, another canal being proposed by Pennsylvania, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and the James River Canal (which directed traffic toward Richmond and Norfolk, Virginia At first the B&O was located entirely in the state of Maryland, its original line extending from the port of Baltimore west to Sandy Hook.

Canal Man-made channel for water

Canals, or navigations, are human-made channels, or artificial waterways, for water conveyance, or to service water transport vehicles. It can be thought as an artificial version of a river.

The Territory of Oregon was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 14, 1848, until February 14, 1859, when the southwestern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Oregon. Originally claimed by several countries, the region was divided between the UK and US in 1846. When established, the territory encompassed an area that included the current states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana. The capital of the territory was first Oregon City, then Salem, followed briefly by Corvallis, then back to Salem, which became the state capital upon Oregon's admission to the Union.

U.S. Senator and later life

Pratt's term as governor expired in 1848, and he briefly returned to practicing law in Annapolis, Maryland. The state legislature, however, nominated him in 1850 to assume the U.S. Senate seat left vacated by Reverdy Johnson, who had resigned to become Attorney General of the United States in the cabinet of President Zachary Taylor. He was reelected in 1851 and served from January 12, 1850, to March 4, 1857. As senator, Pratt supported Democrat James Buchanan in the 1856 presidential election, following the dissolution of the Whig party. The Silver Gray or Old Line faction of the Whigs, and the American Party, however, supported former President Millard Fillmore, who won in Maryland, [1] and the American candidate, Anthony Kennedy, succeeded Pratt as senator.

Reverdy Johnson American politician

Reverdy Johnson was a statesman and jurist from Maryland. He gained fame as a defense attorney, defending notables such as Sandford of the Dred Scott case, Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter at his court-martial, and Mary Surratt, alleged conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. A former Whig, he was a strong supporter of the Union war effort. At first he opposed wartime efforts to abolish slavery until 1864, and in 1865 supported the 13th Amendment banning slavery.

Zachary Taylor Twelfth President of the United States

Zachary Taylor was the 12th president of the United States, serving from March 1849 until his death in July 1850. Taylor previously was a career officer in the United States Army, rose to the rank of major general and became a national hero as a result of his victories in the Mexican–American War. As a result, he won election to the White House despite his vague political beliefs. His top priority as president was preserving the Union, but he died sixteen months into his term, before making any progress on the status of slavery, which had been inflaming tensions in Congress.

James Buchanan Fifteenth President of the United States

James Buchanan Jr. was the 15th president of the United States (1857–1861), serving prior to the American Civil War. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the United States Secretary of State and in both houses of Congress before becoming president.

When the American Civil War began, Pratt was eyed suspiciously by Maryland authorities, as he was staunchly pro-slavery, but mostly pro-South, and even gave a son to the Confederate Army. In 1863, Pratt tried to vote in the November election. He was not allowed to vote because he would not take a loyalty oath. Pratt and his secretary Col. Nicholson were arrested because of the refusal on November 21, 1863. He was imprisoned at Fort Monroe, [2] but was later released. He moved to Baltimore, Maryland, in 1864, resuming the practice of law. The same year, Pratt served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. In 1866, he attended the National Union Convention in Philadelphia. Pratt was one of the attorneys for Jefferson Davis during his trial at Fortress Monroe. [3] He was an unsuccessful candidate for election to the United States Senate in 1867, and died in Baltimore in 1869. He is interred in St. Anne’s Cemetery of Annapolis.


  1. Carl Sandburg (1954), Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, 1965 reprint, New York: Dell, Ch. 10, "The Deepening Slavery Issue", pp. 222-224.
  2. Pratt, Thomas George. "Thomas G. Pratt to Edwin M. Stanton, Saturday, November 28, 1863 (Pratt's treatment during recent elections in Maryland)." The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. November 28, 1861. (accessed December 11, 2012).
  3. Blackford, Charles M. The Trials and Trial of Jefferson Davis. Vol. XXIX, in Southern Historical Society, edited by R. A. Brock, 45-81. Richmond, VA: William Ellis, 1901, p. 62.

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Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Francis Thomas
Governor of Maryland
January 6, 1845 January 3, 1848
Succeeded by
Philip F. Thomas
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
David Stewart
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Maryland
January 12, 1850 March 4, 1857
Served alongside: James A. Pearce
Succeeded by
Anthony Kennedy