Kurt's Historic Sites

Joseph Anderson

Joseph Inslee Anderson

Interment LocationVisitedSequence in Graves I Have Visited
Washington, D.C.August 15, 202229th President Pro Tempore visited

Photographed August 15, 2022.

Joseph Anderson was an attorney, enslaver, freemason, and Revolutionary War veteran who represented Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1797 to 1815. For the better part of 1805, Anderson was the president pro tempore — one of the highest positions in the Senate. During those months, he ranked below only Vice President Aaron Burr and his successor, Vice President George Clinton. For several decades — until Clinton’s exhumation — he and Anderson were buried in close proximity to one another at Washington’s Congressional Cemetery.

Anderson died in 1837, but the politician’s interment site is marked by a modern monument which contrasts starkly from the surrounding square memorials that commemorate his contemporaries. Anderson’s wife, who had the unique name Only Patience Outlaw, is not interred with him. She is buried at Forsyth City Cemetery in Forsyth, Georgia. Her gravestone is also not original to the era in which she and her husband lived.

Photographed August 15, 2022.
Photographed August 15, 2022.

During George Washington’s first term as president, Anderson wrote him to request an appointment as a judge in the Southwest Territory. Anderson worked in this capacity until 1797, when he was chosen by the Tennessee State Legislature to serve the remainder of William Blount’s Senate term, following Blount’s expulsion. When Anderson left the Senate 18 years later, he took on a new role, that of comptroller of the U.S. Treasury. He was the first person to hold this oversight position, and stayed on until 1836. These accomplishments are inscribed on Anderson’s tombstone.

A medallion attached to Anderson’s tombstone bears the seal of the Society of the Cincinnati. The organization was established in May 1783 by Continental Army officers of the American Revolution to perpetuate the memory of the fight for independence. Anderson was a founding member.

Photographed August 15, 2022.

Fast Facts

Born: November 5, 1757 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Spouse: Only Patience Outlaw Anderson (m. 1792-1837)

Military Rank: Brevet Major — Continental Army

Political Affiliation: Democratic-Republican Party

President Pro Tempore Term: 1805

Died: April 17, 1837 in Washington, D.C.

Age: 79

Interment: Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

"Although I formerly had the Honor, of being personally presented to your Excellency, when an officer of the army of the United States—I apprehend my Charecter was not Sufficiently distinguished; to entitle me to your recollection at this distant period—I must therefore rely on your Benevolence, to pardon the liberty I now take, in offering to introduce myself to your Excellencys notice and Patronage, as a Candidate for the office of the Judge that is yet to be appointed in the new Government lately formed South of the Ohio—as an apology for my present Presumption, I wou’d beg leave to Suggest, that from the Close of the late war until the present period—I have never ask’d any appointment either from the United States or any individual State[.]"
- Joseph Inslee Anderson
June 11, 1790, in a letter to George Washington


Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Anderson, Joseph. To George Washington from Joseph Anderson, 11 June 1790. Letter. From National Archives, Founders Online. Accessed January 27, 2023. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-05-02-0319.

bioguide.congress.gov. “Anderson, Joseph Inslee.” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed January 27, 2023. https://bioguide.congress.gov/search/bio/A000197.

Washington Post. “More than 1,800 congressmen once enslaved Black people. This is who they were, and how they shaped the nation.” Accessed January 27, 2023. https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/interactive/2022/congress-slaveowners-names-list/.

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