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Robert Breckinridge McAfee (February 18, 1784 – March 12, 1849) was a Kentucky diplomat, historian and politician who was the seventh Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky serving from 1824 to 1828.

Robert B. McAfee
Member of the Kentucky Senate
In office
In office
5th United States Chargé d'Affaires, New Granada and Ecuador
In office
July 1, 1833 – June 20, 1837
PresidentAndrew Jackson
Preceded byThomas Patrick Moore
Succeeded byJames Semple
7th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
In office
August 24, 1824 – August 26, 1828
GovernorJoseph Desha
Preceded byWilliam T. Barry
Succeeded byJohn Breathitt
Member of the Kentucky House of Representatives
In office
In office
In office
Personal details
Robert Breckinridge McAfee

February 18, 1784
Mercer County, Kentucky
DiedMarch 12, 1849(1849-03-12) (aged 65)
Salt River, Kentucky
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Mary Cardwell
(m. 1807; his death 1849)
Alma materTransylvania University
Military service
AllegianceUnited States of America
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Battles/warsWar of 1812:
 • Battle of New Orleans
 • Battle of the Thames

Early lifeEdit

McAfee was born on February 18, 1784 in Mercer County, Kentucky. He was the son of Robert McAfee (1745–1795) and Anne (née McCoun) McAfee (1746–1794), who were distant cousins.[1] Among his siblings was Samuel McAfee, Mary Ann (née McAfee) Adams, Sarah (née McAfee) Curran,[2] and Anne (née McAfee) Cardwell. His brother Samuel and sister Anne both married Cardwell siblings.[1] McAfee spent much of his leisure time in childhood hunting squirrels.[3]

McAfee was orphaned in 1795 after his father, a pioneer of Kentucky, was killed in New Orleans, Louisiana. His guardian his father's friend and his namesake,[4] John Breckinridge, who later became the Attorney General of the United States under President Thomas Jefferson.[1]


McAfee attended Transylvania University, graduating in 1797, and after studying law with Breckinridge, was admitted to the bar in 1801 and opened a practice in Franklin County, Kentucky. In 1800, he was elected to represent Mercer County in the Kentucky House of Representatives and served there until he volunteered during the War of 1812.[1]

Military serviceEdit

During the War of 1812, McAfee served successively as sergeant, ensign and second lieutenant in the Army of the Northwest in its border campaign, then as quartermaster and lastly as captain of Richard Mentor Johnson's regiment in the expeditions against the Native Americans.[5] He was made General in the United States Army and commanded a troop raised by order of Gen. Andrew Jackson,[6] that took part in the Battle of New Orleans as well as the Battle of the Thames.[7] In 1816, his book, History of the War of 1812 was published.[8]

Political careerEdit

Following his military service, he lived in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and was reelected to the House in 1819. In 1821, he was elected a member of the Kentucky Senate and served in the Senate until resigning his seat in 1824 to run, successfully, for Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky. McAffee was elected as a Democratic-Republican and served from August 24, 1824 to August 26, 1828 under Governor Joseph Desha.[9] He cast a tie-breaking vote that prevented the abolition of the "New Court" during the Old Court-New Court controversy in 1825. After serving as Lt. Governor, he returned to the legislature in 1828 and remained active in Democratic politics, voting for the nomination of Andrew Jackson as president and Martin Van Buren as vice president at the 1832 Democratic National Convention in Baltimore.[1]

On February 9, 1833, President Andrew Jackson named him Chargé d'affaires to New Granada and Ecuador, which he served after presenting his credentials at Bogotá on July 1, 1833 until he presented his recall on June 20, 1837.[10]

After McAfee returned to Kentucky, he was again reelected twice more to the Kentucky Senate in 1837 and 1841. In 1842, he was appointed to the Board of Visitors (board of trustees) of the United States Military Academy at West Point and was elected its president in 1842.[1]

Later careerEdit

McAfee retired from politics in 1845, he returned to his farm and later the same year, he published his autobiography, The Life and Times of Robert B. McAfee and His Family Connections.[11]

Personal lifeEdit

On October 14, 1807, McAfee was married to Mary "Polly" Cardwell (1793–1850).[12] Polly was the daughter of James Cardwell and Sarah Salley (née Crockett) Cardwell. Together, they were the parents of:[4]

  • Nancy Cardwell McAfee (d. 1857), who married William Arthur Hooe (1818–1869) in 1841.[4]
  • Louisiana J. McAfee (1809–1853), who married Robert M. Alexander (1798–1869).[4]
  • James Cardwell McAfee (1817–1877), who married Sarah Ann Edelen (1826–1899).[4]
  • Evelyn Breckenridge McAfee (1832–1914), who married William Bruce Edelen (1827–1897).[13]

McAfee died on March 12, 1849 at his home at Salt River, Kentucky. He was buried in New Providence Churchyard in Harrodsburg, Kentucky.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kleber, John E. (1992). The Kentucky Encyclopedia. University Press of Kentucky. p. 589. ISBN 9780813128832. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  2. ^ The William and Mary Quarterly. Institute of Early American History and Culture. 1912. p. 47. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  3. ^ Jones, Karen (2016). A Cultural History of Firearms in the Age of Empire. Routledge. p. 32. ISBN 9781317188506. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e McAfee, John J. (1891). Robert McAfee: The Pioneer and the First Commodore on Three Principal Rivers of the West ... Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  5. ^ Chandler, Julian Alvin Carroll; Riley, Franklin Lafayette; Ballagh, James Curtis; Henneman, John Bell; Mims, Edwin; Watson, Thomas Edward; Mitchell, Samuel Chiles; Fleming, Walter Lynwood; McSpadden, Joseph Walker (1909). The South in the Building of the Nation: Southern biography, ed. by W. L. Fleming. The Southern historical publication society. pp. 125–126. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Andrew Jackson to Robert Breckinridge McAfee, January 14, 1843". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  7. ^ Miller, Joseph Lyon; Campbell, Effie Shelton (1912). The Descendants of Capt. Thomas Carter of "Barford", Lancaster County, Virginia, 1652-1912: with genealogical notes of many of the allied families. J. L. Miller. p. 188. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  8. ^ The Clay Family. J. P. Morton, printers to the Filson Club. 1899. p. 229. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  9. ^ Clift, Garrett Glenn (1942). Governors of Kentucky, 1792-1942. Hobson Press. pp. 171–172. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  10. ^ "Robert Breckinridge McAfee - People - Department History - Office of the Historian". Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs United States Department of State. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  11. ^ McAfee, Robert Breckinridge (1845). The Life and Times of Robert B. McAfee and His Family Connections. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  12. ^ McGhee, Lucy Kate (1986). Mercer County, Kentucky Marriages, 1785 to 1852. p. 102. ISBN 9785871451687. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  13. ^ Glenn, Allen (1917). History of Cass County, Missouri. Brookhaven Press. p. 379. Retrieved 11 April 2019.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
William T. Barry
Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
Succeeded by
John Breathitt
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Thomas P. Moore
United States Chargé d'affaires, New Granada
Succeeded by
James Semple