Thursday, April 14, 2016

Signers: Pennsylvania

This is the week that I am in Pittsburgh for the Spring 2016 MARAC meeting, so it's only appropriate to look at the state in which the Continental Congress sat (albeit on the other side of the state from
where I am) and the signers from the Keystone State.

  • George Clymer (1739-1813), a merchant by trade was elected to the Congress in 1776 and served on the War Committee and was instrumental in bolstering George Washington and the Continental Army.
  • Benjamin Franklin - for Dr. Franklin see the entry on the Declaration Committee.
  • Robert Morris (1734-1806), also a merchant, like Clymer, formulated a plan for a National Bank and was appointed to serve as Financial Agent (the forerunner to the Secretary of the Treasury).  He went on to serve in the Pennsylvania Legislature, attended the Constitutional Convention, was appointed a Senator, and was later tapped by President Washington to serve as Secretary of the Treasury, which he declined, instead suggesting Alexander Hamilton.  Ironically, Morris died in relative poverty.
  • John Morton (1724-1777), was a judge immediately prior to being elected to the Continental Congress.  He was responsible for submitting a report on the proposed Articles of Confederation, dying shortly after the report was presented to Congress.
  • Benjamin Rush (1745-1813),was already a prominent physician in the Philadelphia area before becoming involved in the cause of American Independence.  One of the few blemishes on Rush's career was his criticism of a fellow doctor for the Continental Army.  The Congress and General Washington supported the other doctor and Rush resigned his commission.  He went on to serve as Treasurer of the US Mint.
  • James Smith (1719-1806), a lawyer, has one of the lowest profiles of the members of the Continental Congress, holding few offices after the Declaration and given the circumstances that his collection of papers in his officers were destroyed in a fire shortly before his death.
  • George Taylor (1716-1781), was an Ironmaster and was concerned with the production of iron for the majority of his life.
  • James Wilson (1742-1798), was a lawyer and judge in Pennsylvania.  He was committed to the cause of independence but represented a colony that was not for independence at the time.  After a delay, Pennsylvania's delegates were swayed and Wilson voted for independence.
And while he didn't sign the Declaration, I would be remiss if I didn't include anything about, "Gentlemen of the Congress, I say ye, John Dickinson."  A lifelong opponent of American Independence, when the time came to sign the Declaration, Dickinson announced "I'm sorry, Mr. President. I cannot, in good conscience, sign such a document. I will never stop hoping for our eventual reconciliation with England, but... because, in my own way, I regard America no less than does Mr. Adams, I will join the army and fight in her defense, even though I believe that fight to be hopeless." (1776).  Dickinson College stands as one of Dickinson's legacies.

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