John Adair bigraphy, stories - Governor of Kentucky; statesmen; soldier

John Adair : biography

January 9, 1757 - May 19, 1840

John Adair (January 9, 1757 – May 19, 1840) was an American pioneer, soldier and statesman. 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. After Kentucky's separation from Virginia, 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, but failed to win a full term in the subsequent election due to his implication in the Burr conspiracy. After a long legal battle, he was acquitted of any wrongdoing, and his accuser, General James Wilkinson, was ordered to issue an apology, but 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 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 governor on a platform of financial relief for Kentuckians hit hard by the Panic of 1819. 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. He died May 19, 1840, at his farm in Harrodsburg. Three counties named "Adair" are named for him (in Kentucky, Missouri and Iowa), as are the cities of Adairville, Kentucky, and Adair, Iowa.

Controversy with Andrew Jackson

Jackson's official report blamed the Kentuckians' retreat for the collapse of the west bank defenses, and many Kentuckians felt it downplayed the importance of Adair's militiamen on the east bank in preserving the American line and securing the victory.Smith, p. 106Gillig, p. 179 Davis's men insisted the report was based on Jackson's misunderstanding of the facts and asked that Adair request a court of inquiry, which convened in February 1815 with Major General Carroll of Tennessee presiding.Smith, p. 109Gillig, p. 184 The court's report found that "[t]he retreat of the Kentucky militia, which, considering their position, the deficiency of their arms, and other causes, may be excusable," and that the formation of the troops on the west bank was "exceptional", noting that 500 Louisiana troops supported by three artillery pieces and protected by a strong breastwork were charged with defending a line that stretched only while Davis's 170 Kentuckians, poorly armed and protected only by a small ditch, were expected to defend a line over long.Smith, pp. 109–110 On February 10, 1816, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a resolution thanking Adair for his service at the Battle of New Orleans and for his defense of the soldiers accused by Jackson.Young, p. 126

Jackson approved the court's findings, but they were not the full refutation of Jackson's report that many Kentuckians – including Adair – had wanted. In a letter that was quickly made public, Adair – formerly one of Jackson's close friends – insisted that Jackson withdraw or modify his official report, but Jackson refused.Smith, pp. 111–112 This ended the matter until June 1815 when H.P. Helm, secretary to John Thomas, forwarded to a Frankfort newspaper remarks from "the general" that had been annexed to the official report. The remarks stated that the general was now convinced that the initial reports of cowardice by Davis's men "had been misrepresented" and that their retreat had been "not only excusable, but absolutely justifiable". The remarks – believed to be from Jackson in response to Adair's letter – were subsequently reprinted across Kentucky. "The general" referenced was General John Thomas, however; Jackson had never seen them. Helm claimed he sent a correction to the newspaper that published the remarks, but it was not printed.

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