Robert Goodloe Harper

Robert Goodloe Harper (January 1765 – January 14, 1825), a Federalist, was a member of the United States Senate from Maryland, serving from January 1816 until his resignation in December of the same year. He also served in the South Carolina House of Representatives (1790–1795), the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina (1795–1801), and in the Maryland State Senate. He is best remembered for the phrase, "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute"[1] in connection with the XYZ Affair. The town of Harper, Liberia, is named after him.

Robert Goodloe Harper
Robert Goodloe Harper (1765-1825).jpg
United States Senator
from Maryland
In office
January 29, 1816 – December 6, 1816
Preceded bySamuel Smith
Succeeded byAlexander C. Hanson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 5th district
In office
February 9, 1795 – March 3, 1801
Preceded byAlexander Gillon
Succeeded byWilliam Butler
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
BornJanuary 1765 (1765-01)
Fredericksburg, Virginia Colony, British America
DiedJanuary 14, 1825(1825-01-14) (aged 59–60)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
Political partyFederalist
Military service
AllegianceUnited States United States of America
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
RankMajor General
Battles/warsWar of 1812

Early lifeEdit

Harper was born near Fredericksburg in the Colony of Virginia in January 1765. He was the fifth child and first son of Jesse Harper (b. 1733) and Emily Diana Goodloe (1734–1788) and moved with his parents to Granville, North Carolina around 1769. He received his early education at home and later attended grammar school.

At the age of fifteen, Harper joined a volunteer corps of Cavalry and served in the American Revolutionary Army. He made a surveying tour through Kentucky and Tennessee in 1783, and graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1785. He studied law in Charleston, South Carolina, teaching school at the same time, and was admitted to the bar in 1786.[2]


He commenced practice in the Ninety-Sixth District of South Carolina, moving back to Charleston in 1789. From 1790 to 1795, Harper was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, at which time he was elected from South Carolina to the Third Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Alexander Gillon. He was reelected to the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Congresses but was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1800 to the Seventh Congress, serving as a U.S Representative from February 9, 1795 to March 1801. While in Congress, he was the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means in the Fifth and Sixth Congresses. Harper was one of the managers appointed by the House of Representatives in 1798 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against William Blount.

Political career in MarylandEdit

Harper moved to Baltimore, Maryland, and engaged in the practice of law. He consorted with the men of the mob riots of Baltimore against the British in June 1812.[3] He served in the War of 1812, attaining the rank of major general. He assisted in organizing the Baltimore Exchange Co. in 1815 and was a member of the first board of directors. He then became a member of the Maryland State Senate, and was later elected from Maryland to the United States Senate for the term beginning March 4, 1815, serving from January 1816 until December 1816, when he resigned.[why?] He was an unsuccessful Federalist candidate for Vice President in the 1816 election. He also received one electoral vote for Vice President in the 1820 election.[4]

In 1815, Harper was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society.[5] and traveled extensively in Europe in 1819 and 1820. He took a prominent part in the ceremonies on the occasion of Lafayette’s visit to Baltimore in 1824.

Personal lifeEdit

On May 7, 1800, Harper married Catherine Carroll (1778–1861) in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Catherine was the daughter of Charles Carroll and Mary (née Darnall) Carroll. Her elder sister, Mary, married Richard Caton.[a] Together, they were the parents of at least four children who survived to adulthood, including:

  • Charles Carroll Harper (1802–1837), who married Charlotte Hutchinson Cheffelle (1807–1867) in 1827.
  • Mary Diana Harper (1803–1818), who died young.
  • Richard Caton Harper (1806–1815), who died young.
  • Elizabeth Hyde Harper (1809–1823), who died unmarried.
  • Emily Louisa Harper (1812–1892), who never married.
  • Robert Goodloe Harper, Jr. (1814–1854)

He died in Baltimore on January 14, 1825, and was initially interred in the family burial ground on his estate, Oakland in Roland Park, and later reburied in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore.[7]


Through his eldest son Charles, he was a grandfather of Emily Louisa Harper (1835–1908), who married William Clapham Pennington (1829–1913). Their son, Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington (1854–1920) was a prominent artist.[8]



  1. ^ Their daughters were Marianne Caton (wife of Robert Patterson (brother of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte) and, after his death, British statesman Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley); Elizabeth Caton (wife of Sir George Strafford, 8th Baron Strafford); Louisa Caton (wife of Col. Sir Felton Bathurst-Hervey, 1st Baronet and, after his death, Francis D'Arcy-Osborne, later the 7th Duke of Leeds); and Emily Caton (wife of John McTavish).[6]
  1. ^ 804. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746–1825). Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989
  2. ^ The Evils of Necessity: Robert Goodloe Harper and the Moral Dilemma of Slavery; Cox, Joseph.
  3. ^ Laura Rich. Maryland History In Prints 1743–1900. p. 42.
  4. ^ Champion of Southern Federalism: Robert Goodloe Harper of South Carolina. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1972.
  5. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  6. ^ Wake, Jehanne (2010). Sisters of Fortune. A Touchstone Book published by Simom & Schuster.
  7. ^ American National Biography Papenfuse, Eric.
  8. ^ Times, Special to The New York (July 11, 1913). "DIVORCE FOR ARTIST'S WIFE.; Mrs. R.G. Harper Pennington Obtains a Decree at Baltimore". The New York Times. Retrieved June 22, 2020.

External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 1) from Maryland
Served alongside: Robert H. Goldsborough
Succeeded by