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Walker (Cropped)

Kentucky’s First Senator: The Life and Times of John Brown 1757–1837

Appearance Date: 10/29/2022

Kentucky’s first senator, John Brown, is almost unknown in the nation and in Kentucky. He was a son of colonial Virginia and a father of Kentucky statehood, but historians have often minimized his contribution, slurred him as a “Spanish conspirator,” or deliberately excluded him from the historiography. He was the only Kentuckian active in national politics before statehood (1792) and was a friend of James Madison, advisor to George Washington, and student of John Witherspoon, George Wythe, Edmund Randolph, and Thomas Jefferson. There is no book about John Brown, per se, and few works which place Kentucky’s settlement during that period in a global context.
Kentucky histories have tended to focus inwardly, whereas this work places the settlers in their contemporary, emerging, and developing setting. It was an atmosphere of threat, uncertainty, vulnerability, and change. Furthermore, the story is humanized by the original correspondence, ranging from family members to United States presidents. John Brown was a half step from the top rung of American power (he became president pro tempore in the Senate on two occasions) and as such belonged to an essential group of people who made things happen in the post-revolutionary federal period. This biography situates John Brown’s achievements by describing the factors affecting the development of Kentucky from early settlement, to its separation from Virginia, and its established statehood within the United States constitutional republic.

Meet the Author

Steven Walker
Steven Walker

From piloting fighter jets to commanding operations, Steven Walker led a career in defense and government while also pursuing a varied academic path. Along the way he gained degrees in archaeology and ancient history, management and research, defense and strategic studies, and cultural heritage. His PhD is in settler colonial history. One result of his love of heritage and the built environment is the antebellum home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, he now shares with his wife Lynn in Perryville, Kentucky. His previous work, the economic history Enterprise, Risk and Ruin: the Stage-coach and the Development of Van Diemen’s Land and Tasmania, was in part a result of his restoration of a c. 1833 Georgian sandstone coaching inn.