Signers of the Constitution
This information is scanned from Souvenir and Official Programme of the Centennial Celebration of George Washington’s Inauguration as First President of the United States, compiled and edited by John Alden; Published by Garnett & Gow, New York, copyrighted, 1889.
As has been conclusively shown in a preceding chapter, [not included in this electronic version] no body of statesmen ever assembled tinder conditions making more serious demands upon their patriotism, temperateness and unselfishness than those which confronted the members of the Constitutional Convention, which was called to order in the state-house at Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1787. Other centuries must come and go before even the most diligent and the most philosophical of historians can gain a comprehensive view of the results which have sprung from the labors of that convention. Those results, even at present writing, have extended far beyond the limits of our own continent. They are by no means confined in their beneficence to the English-speaking nations of the earth. India’s countless millions join with the natives of the Emerald Isle in demanding “those powers of local self-government which every State in the American Union possesses, and which Ireland does not possess. France is just beginning to see in a constitution analogous to ours a remedy for those evils which have been baffling her most disinterested statesmen ever since the First Directory. Every one of the South American republics has made our constitution its model rather than that great unwritten fundamental law of England, in spite of the fact that in reciprocal trade relations every one of those countries is closer to Great Britain than to the United States. Australia has united with the Dominion of Canada in requiring from the mother country almost absolute autonomy in local affairs. From Alaska to the Argentine Republic, and from Cape Colony to the Shetland Isles, is accepted our demonstration of the proposition that e pluribus unum means nothing but the only perpetuity practicable for the rightful powers of the many. This leaven is still working. What has been done we can imperfectly analyze. What is to be, is beyond our ken.
The men who forged this hammer which was to deliver mankind from oppression by breaking down forever the labyrinthine walls of that ancient superstition that law and order are incompatible with liberty, were excellent types of the American civilization of a hundred years ago. Of the lives of many of them, we have but little record. In some cases, dates of births are uncertain. In some, even the year of death is unknown. Often, the historian finds no trace of any public service performed outside of the convention. Some giants are noted, of course. Europe vies with America in honoring Franklin’s memory. Washington’s name adds lustre even to the work done at Philadelphia in 1787. No student of governmental development in general can ignore Alexander Hamilton; and Patrick Henry, though not a signer of the Constitution, divides with James Madison, its great exponent, the honor of having contributed most valuable suggestions while the convention was in session. Jay, too, though not a delegate, has a name inseparably associated with that momentous document. But the majority of the delegates are hardly should be. The following sketches are as full as the information that was at hand would warrant. They contain all know facts about the lives of the signers of the Constitution. Neither Washington nor Madison is included here, because biographical sketches of both will be found with those of other Presidents of the United States in another chapter.
It would be unfair not to mention here some of the most prominent members of the convention, who, for various reasons did not affix their names to the Constitution after it had been drawn up. The document was, of course, a compromise. Ideas of those who finally opposed it were conditions which is framers could not afford to overlook, and did not overlook. Divisions in the convention were on several different lines. Small States were jealous of large ones. Georgia and South Carolina were distrustful of New England Puritanism. New York had established a custom-house of her own, and had a direct selfish interest in keeping from the general government that power to regulate commerce, which was regarded as essential to it, by all the other States. Within each one of the commonwealths there was an issue between those who believed in absolute localization of power, and those who held to the theory of centralization. The latter difference was the one on which the division between Federalists and Republicans was based, and which may fairly be held to have been maintained as the real issue between great parties under various party names up to the present time. It is not just, therefore, to condemn the men who failed to sign the Constitution, and those who opposed it in the various State conventions. Patrick Henry was one of the foremost of its opponents in Virginia. A purer patriot never lived. Edmund Randolph, one of the most valuable members of the convention, refused to sign. Elbridge Gerry, of Massachusetts, did the same. He honestly believed that the rights of the people were inadequately guaranteed. George Mason, of Virginia, the intimate friend and neighbor of Washington, agreed with Gerry. Caleb Strong of Massachusetts, Oliver Ellsworth, of Connecticut, William Churchill Houston, of New Jersey, George Wythe and James McClurg of Virginia, John Francis Mercer, of Maryland, Luther Martin of New Jersey, Alexander Martin, of North Carolina, and William Richardson Davies, of South Carolina, and William Pierce William Houston, of Georgia, did not sign because they were not present on the last day of the convention.
The action of Yates and Lansing, of New York, in withdrawing from the convention, met with a large amount of contemporaneous criticism. It left Hamilton alone, without a vote, and disfranchised New York absolutely. But the characters of the delegates who went out do nor warrant the theory that their motive was to flourish as demagogues on the sentiment in favor of keeping up New York’s custom-house at the expense of the permanent interests of the whole American people. It is more charitable to believe that, like Randolph and Mason and Gerry, they were sincere, though mistaken patriots. This course, however, led to the new combinations in the convention. On the question of delaying the abolition of the slave-trade, and of slave representation, Maryland, Delaware, South Carolina, and Georgia were on one side; Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were on the other. Virginia and North Carolina held the balance of power after New York was left without a vote. The former was controlled by men who were opposed to slavery on principle. The latter was divided. With New York’s vote in the affirmative, there is little doubt that the slave-trade would have been immediately abolished, and that each State would have had a representation based on its voting population. South Carolina and Georgia wanted a full representation of the slave population, and preferred no restriction of the trade. Virginia stood in the breach when New York had withdrawn. Her delegation, made up of men more devoted to the general interest than to the specific interest of Virginia, or of their own estates, men who commanded universal respect because of their talents as well as their unselfishness, were inclined to consent to nothing which could be expected to endanger the future of the republic, or to throw doubt upon the consistency of those who were advocating liberty for all men. So the compromise was secured, which gave Congress power to stop the slave-trade 1808, though it left to the States all action with reference to the institution of slavery within their borders.
It was decided, after much debate, not to leave the ratification of the Constitution to State Legislatures, because what one Legislature had accepted, another might, with equal propriety, reject. State conventions were to be called for the purpose of making such ratifications. Thus the people of each State, and not the State as a government entity, were to accept the Constitution.
Debates in the Convention covered a great range of topics, and involved dissension on small as well as great matters. But as a rule they were thoroughly dignified in their tone. Mason, the Virginian opponent of slavery, was one of the most earnest debaters on the issue of slave representation. He was opposed from the bottom of the Nation’s fundamental law. It is rather a curious fact that on this point he was met with the ironical opposition of Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, who thought any possible solution of this question better than anarchy.
Here are the signatures of members of the convention exactly as affixed to the Constitution:
RICHARD DOBBS SPAIGHT – NORTH CAROLINA
RICHARD DOBBS SPAIGHT was born at Newbern, North Carolina, in 1758. He was a son of wealthy parents and was sent abroad at the age of nine years to be educated. He did not return to his country until 1778 -two years after the Declaration of Independence had been signed and the Revolutionary war begun. He was then only twenty years of age, but his sympathies were strongly aroused on behalf of the colonies, and he at once repaired to the camp of Gov. Caswell and joined the army. He was made one of the Governor’s Aids and participated with distinction in the battle of Camden. From 1781 to 1783 he was a member of the State Legislature, and the latter year was elected a delegate to Congress. He served in Congress until 1786, and was then chosen as one of the delegates from North Carolina to the Constitutional Convention. Spaight was the youngest of all the delegates who took an active part in the deliberations of that body. He was in favor of a presidential term of seven years instead of four, and proposed the election of United States Senators by the Legislatures of the several States. Though not altogether suited by the form of Government at last determined upon, he supported it warmly both in and out of the convention. He failed, however, in his own State. After living for several years in the West Indies, in order to regain his health, he was Governor of his State for three years 1792 to 1795– and a member of Congress from 1798 to 1801. Beaten for reelection he was challenged by John Stanley, his successful competitor, and was mortally wounded in a duel on September 5th, 1802. He died before the day was over.
DANIEL OF ST. THOMAS JENIFER – MARYLAND
DANIEL OF ST. THOMAS JENIFER was born in 1733. He was a native of Maryland, a colony which had been the first to accept those principles of religious equality upon which the new Constitution came to be so largely founded. Made up in large measure of English Catholics, upon whom the ban of proscription had been laid by a State Church, the colonists of Maryland had no desire to similarly persecute any other sect. Unlike the Puritans of Massachusetts, it cannot truly be said of them that they came to America in order to gain an opportunity of worshiping God in accordance with the dictates of their own consciences and of preventing other people from doing the same. Their logical liberality found a parallel only in that of Roger Williams, who had founded the Providence Plantations on exactly the same principles. In such a state of society, no secion of the people being barred out from participation in the front, and it is not remarkable that such men as Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer made themselves felt. In brilliant statesmen Maryland was not so rich as Virginia. But the men prominent in the politics of the former colony were remarkable for their God-fearing integrity. Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer was a man of liberal education, and had, even before the Revolution, been prominent in the politics of the colony. He served in Congress from 1778 to 1782, and was one of the most valuable members of that body. He was a regular attendant on the sessions of the Constitutional Convention. He died in 1790.
HUGH WILLIAMSON – NORTH CAROLINA
HUGH WILLIAMSON, of North Carolina, was born of Irish parents in Chester Co., Penn., in 1735. His early education was a thoroughly one, and after careful preparatory training he entered the College of Philadelphia, from which institution he graduated in 1757. He began at once the study Divinity, and secured a license to preach, but as near as can he learned from the fragments of his biography handed down to posterity, his work in the pulpit and in the parish was satisfactory neither to himself nor his friends. After much prayerful consideration of the subject he decided to study medicine, and carried out that resolve. In the work and the science of a physician he was more than ordinarily successful. Appointed Professor of Medicine in his own Alma Mater in 1760, he spent four years there and then went to Europe with the purpose of studying at Edinburgh, London and Utrecht. From the University in the latter city he obtained the degree of M. D. On his return to Philadelphia he soon secured an excellent practice, was chosen a member of the American Philosophical Society, and was one of the commissioners of that society to observe the transit of Venus in 1767. He visited the West Indies in 1772, and then went to London with the idea of procuring assistance for an Academy at Newark, N. J. While there in 1774 he was examined before the Privy Council on the subject of that famous “tea-party in Boston Harbor.” He settled at Edenton, North Carolina, in 1777, having gone there with a younger brother who was engaged in business. He was made Medical Director of the North Carolina forces in 1779, and was elected in 1782 to the House of Commons and afterwards to Congress, in which he served one term under the Constitution. He died in New York in 1819.
ROBERT MORRIS – PENNSYLVANIA
ROBERT MORRIS, of Pennsylvania, born in England, in 1734 and was brought to this country by his father when a child. They settled first in Maryland, but afterwards came to Philadelphia, when the boy entered the establishment of Charles Willing, a well known merchant, and was admitted to a partnership in 1754. The firm became the most prosperous importing house in the colonies and was not dissolved until 1793. No man made greater personal sacrifices than Robert Morris in helping to secure liberty for America. The largest of importers he opposed the Stamp Act and signed the non-importation agreement. He was vice-president of the Committee of Safety, until the dissolution of that body in 1776. Morris appears to have had some doubt as to the advisability of the Declaration of Independence. He voted against it first, and remained away from the session on July 4th, 1776. But on August 2, when the engrossed copy of the Declaration had been received, he affixed his signature, in order to show that he had not been actuated, in his reluctance by any motives of personal expediency. During the Revolution, an Italian historian has said, that the Americans owed as much to the financial operations of Morris as to the diplomatism of Franklin, or the arms of George Washington. He was made Superintendent of Finance in 1781, and in accepting the position, said, “The United States may command everything I have except my integrity.” He used his own funds freely for the public service. The Bank of North America was established by him. He was chosen United States Senator in 1788, having declined the Secretaryship of the Treasury. Speculation made him poor, and he spent three years in a debtors’ prison. He died in 1806.
WILLIAM SAMUEL JOHNSON – CONNECTICUT
ONE of the most scholarly members of the convention was WILLIAM SAMUEL JOHNSON, of Connecticut. Born at Stratford, in 1727, he was the son of a college President, who had resigned the management of King’s College, N. Y., and graduated himself Yale College, his father’s Alma Mater, in 1744. Johnson studied law, after his admission to bar distinguished himself by eloquence as a pleader, and effectiveness as a cross-examiner. His first official position was that of delegate in the Provincial Congress, to which he was elected in 1765. He lived in England as the agent of his colony from 1766 to 1771, was a judge of Connecticut’s Supreme Court from 1772 to 1774, and after the Revolution served in the Continental Congress from 1784 to 1787. In the Constitutional Convention, Mr. Johnson was the first to suggest the Senate, an independent legislative body, as a feature of the form of government to be adopted. He was a firm believer in the English theory, of a double-house Legislature, and his ideas were accepted. After the Constitution went into effect Mr. Johnson was made United States Senator from his State, and was one of the hardest workers in developing the bill upon which the whole of the judiciary system of the United States is founded. He was President of Columbia College for eleven years, from 1789 to 1800. He died at a ripe old age, on on Nov. 14, 1819.
JOHN LANGDON – NEW HAMPSHIRE
JOHN LANGDON, of New Hampshire, was 48 years of age when the Constitutional Convention met. A native of Portsmouth, he had only the advantage of a common-school education supplemented by a mercantile training that early made him one of the foremost men in the commercial circles of his own colony. He was also one of the first to espouse the Revolutionary cause. With John Sullivan he assisted in carrying off the military stores from Fort William and Mary in 1774. He was chosen a member of the Continental Congress one year later, but soon resigned to become a Navy Agent. Then he became speaker of the Colonial Legislature, and afterwards a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. Mr. Langdon was a close personal friend of Gen. Stark, and pledged his own property to raise money for the expedition which resulted in the victory at Bennington. He served himself in the army afterwards. In 1779 he was President of the State Constitutional Convention. He went back to Congress in 1783, and in 1785 was elected “President” of New Hampshire. After the document which made the United States a Nation had gone into effect, Mr. Langdon was made Temporary President of the first Federal Congress, and in that capacity notified Gen. Washington of his election to the Presidency. As Governor of New Hampshire, and then as United States Senator, he maintained his claim to the respect of his fellow citizens. He declined the Secretaryship of the Navy in 181, and the Vice-Presidency of the United States in 1812. He died on Sept. 18, 1819.
ROGER SHERMAN – CONNECTICUT
ROGER SHERMAN, of Connecticut, was a native of Newton, Massachusetts, and was born in 1721. He represented the wisdom of the common people rather than the knowledge of the upper classes in the Convention. Mr. Sherman was a shoemaker by trade and, because of the death of his father, had bee compelled, at an early age to assume the support his mother and of several younger children. The spirit of study and of self improvement led him to fit himself for the position of County Surveyor, which he he held for several years. He studied law long after he had reached middle life, and so great was his power of application, together with his natural capacity, that he rose to be a Judge of the Supreme Court. He was terse, not ornate, in speech; and a cogent thinker. Mr. Sherman was one of the signers of the- Declaration of Independence, a member of the Continental Congress during the war. His work in codifying the laws of Connecticut in 1783 was of lasting service to the State. He signed the Articles of Association of Congress and the Articles of Confederation, as well as the Declaration and the Constitution; and is said to be the only man whose name appears on all four of those documents. Jefferson used to say of Roger Sherman, that he never said a foolish thing in his life. Mr. Sherman died on July 23, 1793 at New Haven, Connecticut.
JAMES WILSON – PENNSYLVANIA
JAMES WILSON, of Pennsylvania, was born in 1740, and was a native of Scotland. He had had a thorough education in the greatest universities of his native country before he emigrated to America in 1761, at the age of twenty-one years. He went first to New York, but finding that his classical acquirements were not fully appreciated there he removed, after about five years, to Philadelphia, where, for a time, he served as tutor in the City College. He then studied law in the office of John Dickinson, and tried the practice of his profession in several smaller towns– Reading, Carlisle and Annapolis, without much success. He returned to Philadelphia and was admitted to the bar there in 1778. During and after the Revolution he was for six years a member of Congress. He was a brilliant orator. as well as a learned man, and in the Constitutional Convention made himself felt as one of the strongest men on the Pennsylvania delegation. In the State Convention called to ratify the Constitution Wilson was a most prominent figure. His influence is sometimes credited with having prevented the rejection of the document by that body. Appointed as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court by President Washington, in 1789, he resigned in 1790 to take charge of the Law Department in the University of Pennsylvania. He felt that no man’s energies could be better spent than in the instruction of youth. Like Robert Morris, James Wilson was reduced to financial ruin by land speculation. He was thrown into a debtor’s prison on the snit of Pierce Butler, who had served with him in the Constitutional Convention. For months he lay there, broken in body and in mind, and when Mr. Butler finally ordered his release he died before it could be accomplished. His death occurred in 1798.
JOHN DICKINSON – DELAWARE
JOHN DICKINSON, of Delaware, was born in Maryland in 1732. His father was a man of wealth who had sent two older sons to be educated in England. Both had died there, and the father decided, for his youngest Son, to be satisfied with the educational institutions of the colonies. Soon after the birth of the latter. the family removed to Dover, Delaware. The son, after completing his scholastic training, studied law in the office of John Moland, at Philadelphia, and then went to England, where he spent three years at the Temple, in London to give himself greater familiarity with the common law. He returned to this country and began the practice of law in the city were he had first studied. He was sent to the Assembly of Pennsylvania in 1764 and in 1765 was a member of the general Congress which met in New York to protest against English tyranny. Two years later Dickinson published his “Farmer’s Letters ” on the illegality of British taxation, which were so widely read and produced so profound an impression that their author soon took rank among the most effective of American writers. They were translated into French, and were also published in England with a preface by Benjamin Franklin. In 1774 Dickinson became a member of Congress. He refused to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but took up arms in behalf of liberty in 1777, and was made a brigadier-general in the service of Pennsylvania by Gov. McKean. He went back to Congress in 1779, in 1780 was elected President of Delaware, and in 1782 was made President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. In 1785 he permanently removed to Delaware. His nine ” Fabius” letters in favor of the Constitution were very effective. He died in 1808.
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS – PENNSYLVANIA
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, of Pennsylvania, was born in Morrisania. N.Y., in 1752. He enjoyed the best education that the colonies afforded, and graduated with high honors from Columbia College at the age of sixteen years. Then he studied law in the office of Wm. Smith, a well-known barrister, who afterwards became Chief Justice of the Province of New York. At the age of nineteen years, in 1771, he was admitted to the Provincial bar. In 1775, after devoting a great deal of attention to public affairs, Mr. Morris was elected a member of the Provincial Congress, and three years later was sent to the Continental Congress. The delegates of New York were not empowered to sign the Declaration of Independence until after the meeting of the State Convention on July 9, 1776. On that day the convention having received a copy of the Declaration passed a resolution of approval, and directed Governeur Morris to write an answer notifying the delegates of this action. Mr. Morris was known as one of the earliest opponents of domestic slavery in New York State, and look a large part in drafting the Constitution of that State. In 1778, as a member of Congress, he was made a mem her of several committees on military supplies, and became a C1ose personal friend of General Washington. Deserted by his own family because of his zeal in behalf of the patriot cause, he made up his mind to take up a permanent residence in Philadelphia. He lost a leg because of an accident in 1780. He was Assistant Superintendent of Finance under Robert Morris for three and a half years. In 1788, he went to France, and was the only member of the diplomatic corps who remained in Paris. On his return to America he was elected a member of the United States Senate from New York, after again becoming a resident of Morrisania. He died in 1816.
WILLIAM LIVINGSTON – NEW JERSEY
WILLIAM LIVINGSTON, of New Jersey, was born in 1723, at Albany, New York. In company with a missionary, he spent some years of his boyhood life with the Mohawk Indians, but during that period his studies were not neglected, and at the age of a little over fifteen years, in 1737, he entered Yale College, immediately taking high rank in his class and graduating at its head. He studied law in the office of James Alexander in New York City. His circumstances were easy, and his law practice did not interfere with a great deal of literary work and political effort, for which Mr. Livingston was admirably adapted. He engaged in polemical controversies with the leading minds of his day, and his poems are among the most graceful, as well as the most spirited effusions of America’s earlier literature. He did not go into political life until after his removal from New York to New Jersey, where he was elected in 1784 to represented the latter State in the Continental Congress. In 1775 he was made a Brigadier-General in command of all the New Jersey forces, and in 1776 was elected Governor, in which capacity it is relate] that he refused the position of Postmaster to a certain applicant because the latter had refused to accept Continental money. During the Revolution the biting sarcasm of Livingston’s pen exasperated the Tories, and many unavailing efforts were made by British troops to seize his person. In 1785 he declined appointment by Congress as Minister to Holland. After 1787 he was again chosen Governor of New Jersey, and died in 1790 while holding that office.
JONATHAN DAYTON – NEW JERSEY
JONATHAN DAYTON, of New Jersey, was born in 1760, at Elizabethtown, in that colony. He was, of course, a mere boy at the time the Revolutionary war began, but he came of good old Revolutionary stock, and his father, Elias Dayton, was one of the first of the New Jersey patriots to fling down the gauntlet of resistance to royal oppression. The latter entered the army of Washington and was one of the General’s most trusted lieutenants. He rose to the position of colonel, and then to that of general in a very short time. His valor as well as his coolness was displayed upon the field at Brandywine, at Germantown, and at Monmouth. Jonathan, his son, in spite of his youth, insisted on going into the army, and did his own share of the fighting, undergoing at the same time, all the hardships and privations that fell to the lot of the private soldier. He was popular with all who came into contact with him, and a young man of great steadiness or purpose, as well as of ardent patriotism. After the war was over, Jonathan Dayton came into prominence in civic life, and was chosen to a number of offices of strictly local importance, which, nevertheless, brought out into full relief the confidence which his neighbors felt in him. His work in the Constitutional Convention was hard and faithful, though his position was not that of a leader. In 1791 he was sent to Congress as a Federalist. For four years, from 1793 to 1797, he was Speaker of the House, and was then chosen United States Senator. His death occurred in 1824.
GUNNING BEDFORD – DELAWARE
GUNNING BEDFORD, JR., of Delaware, was a native of Philadelphia, and was born in 1747. He was of pure English descent, and a man of considerable influence in the little colony to which he removed. He had enjoyed a good education at one of the smaller colleges which had sprung up in New Jersey, having graduated from Nassau Hall in 1771, with the highest honors of his class. Very little else is known about Bedford’s youth, but it would not appear that he was a precocious boy, for he must have been twenty-four years of age at the time he received the degree of Master of Arts, and before he was able to begin his study of the law. He went at once into an office in Philadelphia, which might fairly be regarded as the centre of legal culture at that period, illustrious in the mother country. After admission to the bar, Bedford soon took up his residence in Delaware, and it as not long before he had secured a first class practice. He was a sterling patriot throughout the Revolutionary period, and was chosen by his fellow citizens to several places of trust: Attorney-General, member of the Legislature, and member of Congress. He had the confidence of Washington, and after the adoption of the Constitution was appointed by the latter as the first Judge of the District Court of the United States for the district of Delaware. He was an exemplary man in every way, and one who commanded the universal respect of those who knew him. Bedford held the office of District Judge until his death, which occurred in 1812, just before the beginning of the second war with England.
CHARLES PINCKNEY – SOUTH CAROLINA
CHARLES PINCKNEY, of South Carolina, was born at Charleston in 1758. He received as good an education as his native town afforded and then studied law in the office of his father. He was chosen a member of the State Legislature in 1779, and one year later was made a prisoner by the British forces. He too experienced the harshest treatment from his captors. Sent to St. Augustine, Fla., soon after his capture, he was for a considerable time confined on board a prison ship. After the war had ended, he returned to the Charleston bar, but in 1785 was chosen to represent his State in Congress, a position which he held for three years. During that period he served as a member of the Constitutional Convention with great honor to himself and with credit to his State. A form of government, drawn up by Charles Pinckney, was one of the sources from which the Constitution was compiled, and it may fairly be said that he showed greater powers of constructive statesmanship than any other of the distinguished men who made up the South Carolina delegation. In the State Convention, called to ratify the Constitution, he was one of the ablest speakers in its favor. He was chosen Governor in 1789, and in 1790 was President of the Constitutional Convention. He served as Governor until 1798, and was then elected to the United States Senate. In 1801 he was made minister to Spain. In 1805 he became a member of Congress and was an active opponent of the Missouri Compromise, against which he made a speech whcih was regarded by his colleagues as the most effective of his life. He died in 1824.
WILLIAM FEW – GEORGIA
WILLIAM FEW, of Georgia, was a native of Maryland, and was born in Baltimore County, in 1748. When he was ten years of age his father’s family removed to the State of North Carolina. His early youth was hampered by the severest influences of poverty, and he was given the advantage of only a year’s attendance at the village school. The son of a farmer, he was expected to give all his time to the daily tasks laid out for him, and no boy of the time ever struggled harder for an opportunity to improve himself. The books that came into his hands were very few, but moved by an insatiable anxiety to learn, he spent all of his spare time to study. He used to attend the sessions of the County Court when he could get a chance to do so, and it was there that he gained the first rudiments of legal knowledge. In 1776 he removed to Georgia, and soon afterwards was chosen a member of the Executive Council. He joined the militia force of Georgia when the State was invaded and was made Lieutenant-Colonel of a Richmond County regiment. From 1778 to 1780 he was a member of the State Legislature, and then served in Congress until 1783. He was re-elected to Congress in 1786, and in the same year chosen a member of the Constitutional Convention. He served as United States Senator from Georgia from 1789 to 1793. He then began the practice of law, and in 1799 decided to remove to the State of New York, when he took up his residence at Fishkill. From 1801 to 1804 he served in the Legislature of the Empire State. He died in 1828.
JARED INGERSOLL – PENNSYLVANIA
JARED INGERSOLL, of Pennsylvania, was born in 1750, at New Haven, Connecticut. He was the son of one of the most ardent patriots of the land of steady habits, and after receiving a thorough education, had spent some years in England in the study of his profession. He early showed talents calculated to make him a leading light at the bar, and his eloquence was famed throughout the country, when at the age. of 28 years, in 1778, he was induced to remove to Philadelphia. Mr. Ingersoll did not hesitate to avow himself an adherent of the Colonial cause, and he was one of the numerous solid men of Philadelphia who gave to the patriotic party in that city a social standing far superior to that which it enjoyed in New York or even in Boston. He did not at first approve of the idea of absolute independence from Great Britain, but the logic of events soon brought him over to that side of the question. He never held any position in connection with the general government, either before or after the sessions of the Constitutional Convention. He never held any other place in any popular or representative body. In that Convention he spoke but little. When he said anything it was on behalf of the Hamiltonian theory of government so generally favored by the Pennsylvania delegates. Mr. Ingersoll is looked upon as having been the best lawyer of his time in the management of a jury trial. He was the first Attorney General of Pennsylvania, and held the place under Gov. Mifflin for nine years. For a short time he was President of the District Court of Philadelphia. He died in 1822.
NATHANIEL GORHAM – MASSACHUSETTS
NATHANIEL GORHAM, of Massachusetts, was born at Charlestown in 1738. He attended the common schools, but did not receive a university education, and early entered business in his native town. He won the esteem of his fellow citizens, and was made a Town Councillor in 1771 at a time when the spirit of resistance to tyranny was just beginning to ferment in the bosom of the Bay State men, preparing them for the stirring events of Concord and Lexington and Bunker Hill. Then Mr. Gorham became a member of the Legislature, and afterwards a member of the State Board of War, in which he took an active part in raising resources for carrying on the war. He was a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention in 1779, and President of Congress from 1785 to 1787. In the Constitutional Convention he played an important part owing to the desire of General Washington to take part in debate upon the floor. The latter asked Mr. Gorham to take the chair while the body was in Committee of the Whole. For three months the Massachusetts delegate proved himself an efficient, firm and temperate presiding officer, and justified the trust reposed in him by the great Virginian. After the work of the Convention was over Mr. Gorham did good work in securing the adoption of the Constitution by his own State. He was elected a judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and retained that office until his death on June 11, 1796.
NICHOLAS GILMAN – NEW HAMPSHIRE
THE youngest member of the Convention was NICHOLAS GILMAN, of New Hampshire. He was born in 1762, and was a son of Nicholas Gilman, State Treasurer of New Hampshire. Mr. Gilman, though but 25 years of age, impressed himself upon his colleagues in the Constitutional Convention by his grasp of the questions involved, as well as by the fervency of his patriotism. He was at that time a lawyer in first-rate practice in his own State, and is said to have been one of the best in the country. Those who saw him for the first time, thought him only a boy. His face had none of the hardened lines of mature manhood, but when he took part in conversation or in debate everyone was surprised at the comprehensive knowledge and sound sense displayed by this youthful son of the Granite State. A mere child at the time when the Revo1utionary Rubicon was passed in 1776, he had about him non of the traditional feelings of a man who had once owed allegiance to an English King. He represented Young America in what may now be regarded, in the light of the results, as the greatest of all the deliberative bodies whose sessions are mentioned in the world’s history. Mr. Gilman was elected to the First Federal Congress, and served in the capacity of Congressman till 1797. In 1805 he became United States Senator and held that position until his death, which occurred at the age of 52 years, on May 2, 1814.
WILLIAM PATERSON – NEW JERSEY
WILLIAM PATERSON, of New Jersey, was born in Ireland in 1744. He was but two years of age when his parents came to America. They settled at Trenton, and it was there that the early youth of their son was passed. He attended the public schools at Trenton, and afterward at Princeton and Raritan, now known as Somerville, to which the family successively removed. Then he went to Princeton College, and in 1763 graduated with high honors. He studied law with Richard Stockton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and soon secured a good practice. He was elected a member of the Continental Congress in 1775 and became the Attorney General of his State one year later. Elected a member of Congress again and then elected, he resigned in 1783 to return to his legal work. He was looked upon as leader among the delegates of New Jersey to the Constitutional Convention, and was the sponsor of that “New Jersey” form of Government which was finally adopted with modifications, and which preserved the sovereignties of the States, in contradistinction to the “Virginia” plan, which was offered by Edmund Randolph, and which, in effect, established a national and centralized government. After the adoption of the Constitution, Mr. Paterson was elected United States Senator, then Governor of the State, and at length was appointed a Judge on the bench of the United States Supreme Court, which position he was filling at the time of his death in the year 1806.
RICHARD BASSETT – DELAWARE
RICHARD BASSETT was the only member of the Delaware delegation to the Constitutional Convention who was born in the territory now comprised in that State. He was, like Bedford, a lawyer in good practice, at the beginning of the Revolution, and was a member of Congress during the Confederation period was for a long time in close correspondence with the most prominent men of his day, and from 1783 up to the adoption of the Constitution, his correspondence had borne upon the topics so close to the hearts of all real statesmen of that age- the establishment of a more satisfactory form of Union. Like, Washington and Hamilton and Franklin, he was deeply impressed with the dangers to be anticipated from the laxness of the Confederation. He was made one of the Delaware Commissioners to the Annapolis Convention 1786, and there had an opportunity to personally compare views with those men whom he had corresponded with. In the Constitutional Convention he devoted most of his energies to securing for Delaware and other small States an equal representation in the Senate of the United States. He was elected United States Senator, but resigned to take the place of Chief Justice of the State Court of Common Pleas. As a Presidential elector, in 1797, he cast his vote for John Adams, the Federalist candidate. From 1798 to 1801 he was Governor of his State. He then became a United States Circuit Judge. Richard Bassett’s daughter married James A. Bayard, afterwards a United States Senator, and he was, therefore a direct ancestor of the historic family of Bayards, to which ex-Secretary of State Bayard belongs. He died in 1815.
ABRAHAM BALDWIN – GEORGIA
ABRAHAM BALDWIN, of Georgia, was a native of Connecticut, born in 1754. He fitted for college in the village school, and entered Yale College in 1768, graduating therefrom in 1772. From 1775 to 1779 he served as tutor in the same institution, and in 1781 declined both the Professorship of Divinity and the position of College Pastor. For a very short time he was chaplain of a regiment in the Colonial army. He opened a school of his own and spent all the time he had to spare in studying law. His emigration to Georgia took place in 1784, and soon after securing citizenship there, he was admitted to the bar. That he made friends very rapidly among his new neighbors is attested by the fact that he was elected to the Legislature within three months after his admission to the bar. In the Legislature he introduced a bill to incorporate the University of Georgia at Milledgeville, and on the campus of that institution he shares with John Milledge, its founder, the honor of a marble- pillar erected to commemorate their services. For a time Baldwin was president of the college. In 1785 he was elected to Congress. He was a warm friend of the Constitution, but after it had been adopted became a member of the Strict- Construction or Democratic Party. He served in Congress till 1799, and in the United States Senate until 1807. The poet Joel Barlow was a brother-in-law of Baldwin, and Henry Baldwin, a Judge of the United States Supreme Court was his half-brother. Senator Baldwin appears to have enjoyed the universal confidence of the people of Georgia. He died at Washington on March 4, 1807.
JOHN RUTLEDGE – SOUTH CAROLINA
JOHN RUTLEDGE, of South Carolina, was born in 1736, and was the son of parents who had come to this country from Ireland. Of all the representatives of the South he was the most eloquent, and his influence on the Constitutional Convention was a positive one. He had had an excellent classical education, and had studied law in the Temple in London before he settled down to legal practice in Charleston, where he soon secured a large and influential clientage. He was chosen a member of the Congress that met in New York in 1765, and in that body was one of the most fearless as well as one of the most effective speakers in denunciation of the Stamp Act and of all similar forms of British oppression. His next appearance in public life was in the capacity of a member of the Continental Congress in 1774. For two years he held this position, but the time was coming when his State could make even better use of such a man as Rutledge. Elected President and Commander-in-Chief of the forces in South Carolina he wrote the famous note to Col. Moultrie in command of Sullivan’s Island: “General Lee wishes you to evacuate the fort. You will not, without an order from me. I would sooner cut off my hand than write one.” He was elected Governor under the new Constitution in 1778 sent to Congress in 1782, and declined the position of Minister Plenipotentiary to Holland in 1783. Under the Federal Constitution Rutledge was made, in 1789, a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He resigned to become Chief Justice of South Carolina, and was afterwards appointed Chief Justice of the United States. He died in 1800.
PIERCE BUTLER – SOUTH CAROLINA
PIERCE BUTLER, of South Carolina, a younger son of Sir Richard Butler, Bart., and Member of Parliament for Carlow, Ireland, was born in Ireland, in 1744. When only eleven years of age he received his commission as lieutenant in His Majesty’s regiment, the 22d Foot. This was a common enough custom at the time, and was a favorite way of providing for younger sons. Although it probably affected the educational advantages of the child thus favored, there is no reason to believe that a military career was alien to Pierce Butler’s early ambition, for in 1760, at the age of sixteen years, he began to discharge the functions of his lieutenancy, and one year later became a captain. In 1762 he exchanged into the 29th Foot, with the rank of major. Stationed for several years in America, he married a daughter of Col. Middleton, and, having contracted a fondness for the climate of South Carolina, he sold his commission settled there in ‘1773. He took an active part in the politics of the colony after the Revolution and was elected to Congress in 1787, as well as to the Constitutional Convention. In the deliberations of the latter body he was a warm advocate of the Virginia plan. He was also impressed with ‘the idea that representation should be based upon wealth rather than upon numbers. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1789 and held that position until 1796, when he resigned. He accepted a re-election in 1802, but again resigned two years later. In the Senate he was an active opponent of the Washington administration, and was one of the first to raise the standard of the Jeffersonian party in opposition to Federalism. He was one of the Democrats who voted for the Jay treaty. Pierce Butler died in 1822.
DANIEL CARROLL – MARYLAND
DANIEL CARROLL, of Maryland, was born in 1756, and his family owned the “Duddington” Estate, comprised within the present limits of the city of Washington. His education was a classical one, and at the close of his studies he retired to his farm, devoting his efforts to the improvement of customary methods of agriculture. It is not known that he took any part in public life until his election to the Continental Congress from Maryland in 1780. He appears to have been little stirred up by the earlier events of the Revolution. The Declaration of Independence and the rallying of all Americans to resist measures taken by King George’s forces, to bring the country into submission, seem to have little affected the life of this Maryland farmer, upon and around whose homestead was to be built up the Capital City of the New World. It is hard to believe that, had he been gifted with prophetic vision, he would so coldly have surveyed the movements of his fellow patriots all over the colonies, for his future life leaves no reason to doubt the genuineness of Daniel Carroll’s patriotism. He served in Congress until 1784, and it became his duty to submit to that body the resolutions of the State of Maryland’s legislature, assenting to the Articles of Confederation. He thus became one of the signers of that document. Elected a member of the Constitutional Convention he is not known to have taken any active part in the origination of the scheme of government evolved from its sessions. But after that scheme had been determined upon he was one of the most ardent supporters of the Constitution, and, together, with McHenry, labored with all his power to bring about its adoption by his native State. He served in Congress from 1789 to 1791, and then was one of the commissioners to fix the site of the Federal Capital City. He died in 1829.
JAMES McHENRY – MARYLAND
JAMES McHENRY, of Maryland, was born in 1753. He was a native of Ireland, and did not come to America until 1771. He then took up the course of study at the Newark Academy of Delaware, then one of the best schools in the colonies. He then studied medicine under Dr. Benjamin Rush, of Philadelphia, and it the office of the latter he first met Gen. Washington. The closest personal friendship once sprang up between the young Irishman and the distinguished Virginian. The former followed his chief to the camp at Cambridge, and in 1776 joined the army as assistant surgeon. He then became a. hospital director and was afterwards commissioned as Surgeon of the Fifth Pennsylvania Battalion. On May ‘5, 1778, McHenry was appointed Secretary to the Commander-in-chief, and from that time he became the confidential friend of Washington. In 1780 he was transferred to the staff of Lafayette, and one year later was elected to the Senate of Maryland. In 1783 he was sent as a delegate to Congress. And until 1786 held the dual position of State Senator and Congressman. McHenry was one of the attendants on the sessions of the Constitutional Convention, but he took little part in the debate there. After the document had been presented to the States, however, he mad e the most earnest and most successful efforts to have it adopted by Maryland, and carried the day in spite of some of the most effective politicians who were arrayed on the other side. He was a member of the Legislature of Maryland until 1796, when Washington appointed him Secretary of War. Under Washington and Adams he remained in the Cabinet until 1800. After his resignation he held no public office. He died in 1816.
JOHN BLAIR – VIRGINIA
JOHN BLAIR, of Virginia, was born at Williamsburg, in 1732. His ardent patriotism as well as his sound sense entitle him to rank with Washington and Madison among the statesmen of that day, and there is a singular propriety in the appearance of his signature beside theirs on the document which forever cemented the liberties of Americans. Blair was a graduate of William and Mary’s College, and had studied law at the Temple in London. He had taken part with Washington in drafting the non-importation agreement into its first practical form, in which resistance to the Stamp Act crystallized itself in the colonies. For a long term of years he was a member of the House of Burgesses, and was the last to represent the College of William and Mary in the councils of the Commonwealth. He was a member of that Committee which reported the State Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In 1777 Blair was made a Judge of the General Court, of which he afterwards became Chief Justice ; in 1780 he was chosen a Judge of the High Court of Chancery, and still later a Justice of the High Court of Appeals. In the Constitutional Convention, he was a steadfast friend of the Virginia plan, and favored giving even more power to the general government than was finally awarded to it. He accepted the Constitution as the best that could be secured, and in the State Convention of Virginia warmly favored its ratification. He had the universal respect of the citizens of his own State, and appears to have represented the best type of the Virginia gentleman, than whom there were none more courtly in the world. He was a Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1789 to 1796, and died in 1800 at his home in Williamsburg.
THOMAS MIFFLIN – PENNSYLVANIA
THOMAS MIFFLIN, of Pennsylvania, was born in 1744, at Philadelphia. He was the son of a Quaker. who intended him for mercantile career, but on the outbreak of the Revolution he insisted on taking up arms, and became one of the best-known men in the army as well as one of the bravest. At that time he had already achieved a considerable personal popularity in the politics of his native State. He was not at all in sympathy with the methods of Washington, and entered the combination to supplant the Virginia statesman and soldier in favor of General Gates. The failure of this scheme brought those who had been concerned in it into something like general disrepute. But the hold which Mifflin had gained on the hearts of Pennsylvanians was not to be affected in that way, and, in 1783, after the end of the war, he was elected to Congress. Elected to the presidency of that body it became his rather embarrassing duty to receive back, on behalf of the Confederation, the commission of Washington on the resignation of the latter as Commander-in-Chief. He took this occasion to show that he bad been moved by no petty sentiment in the past, and replied to the few words of the Commander as follows: “We join you in commending the interests of our dearest country to the protect the hearts and minds of its citizens to improve the opportunity afforded them of becoming a happy and respectable nation. And for you we address to Him our earnest prayers that a life so beloved may be fostered with all his care, that your days may be as happy as they have been illustrious, and that He will finally give you that reward which this world cannot give.” After holding the office of Governor for nine years, Mifflin died in 1800.
GEORGE REED – DELAWARE
GEORGE REED, of Delaware, was a native of Maryland, and was born ln 1734. His family was one of considerable wealth in Dublin, and had emigrated from Ireland to settle in that State. They soon removed to Newcastle, Del. The son first went to school at Chester, Pa.. and then was sent to the institution managed by Rev. Dr. Allison, at New London, Conn. He began to study law at the age of seventeen years, and two years afterward was admitted to the bar. It appears that Reed was not a great speaker, and that he recognized, himself, the inexpediency of appearing in court to plead before a jury. In fact, he had none of that magnetism which captivates jurors as it captivates an audience. He was a slow and almost painful speaker. But then, as now, there were other elements besides eloquence which contributed to a lawyer’s success. In the logic of the law, Mr. Reed was thoroughly well versed, and in the management of cases he had few equals. As a result, he won more legal battles than most of the greater speakers, and was never short of clients. In 1763 he became Attorney General for the lower counties of his State. He held that position for twelve years, but in 1775, having been chosen a member of the Continental Congress, he decided to resign the Attorney Generalship. When asked the reason of this course, he said he was too sincere a patriot to hold a position as a representative of his Colony in Congress, hampered by the knowledge that he held another place under the British crown. He was foremost among the opponents of the Stamp Act, and did his full duty in resistance of Great Britain all through the Revolution. He was not an active participant in the Convention debates. He died in 1798, having held the positions of Governor, United States Senator, and a Judge of the State Supreme Court.
CHARLES COTESWORTH PINCKNEY – SOUTH CAROLIN
CHARLES COTESWORTH PINCKENY, of South Carolina, was born in 1746. He was a son of an English family, which had settled in South Carolina in 1692. Sent to England at the age of seven years receive an education, did not return to America until 1769, when he was twenty-five years of age. In the meantime he enjoyed five years of private tuition, had gone through Oxford, where he listened to a course of law lectures by Blackstone, and had studied law at the Temple. He had also made a brief tour of the continent, and for nine months had studied at the Royal Military Academy at Caen in Normandy. He came back therefore, admirably equipped for those duties which the next decade was sure to develop upon the shoulders of a patriot American. He entered at once upon the practice of law, but on the outbreak of the Revolution entered the army, and soon won the rank of Brigadier General. He was captured at the fall of Charleston, and suffered from the inhuman cruelty of the British to their American prisoners. At the end of the war he resumed the practice of his profession. The provision in the Constitution that ” No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for any office of public trust under the authority of the United States,” was proposed by him.. He declined a United States Supreme Court Judgeship, the Secretaryship of War and the Secretaryship of State under Washington. Having occupied the mission to France and driven from Parish by the Directory, he gave utterance to what has become a household expression among Americans, “Millions for defense, but not a cent for tribute,” in answer to an insinuation that a payment of money might avert a war with France. He was defeated as the Federalists candidate for Vice President in 1800. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney died in 1825 at Charleston.
WILLIAM BLOUNT – NORTH CAROLINA
WM. BLOUNT, of North Carolina, was born in 1744 and was a native of that State. He had more of the distinctive pioneer spirit than any other of the signers, and his name is inseparably connected with the development of Tennessee into a State. Blount was a member of the Provincial Assembly of 1775 and 1776. From 1780 to 1784 he served in that body, which was known as the House of Commons in North Carolina. His action in signing the Constitution was calculated to arouse against him a very strong sentiment in his State, which was much dissatisfied with the document as drawn up by the convention. In fact, it was late in 1789 before North Carolina could be prevailed upon to ratify the Constitution, and she was the last of the States to do so except Rhode Island. Blount was therefore defeated’ in his ambition to be one of the first United States Senators from his State, but in 1790 was appointed by Washington as Governor of the new Territory south of the Ohio River. He settled at once in Tennessee, and was the founder of the City of Knoxville. Blount was presiding officer over the convention which formed the first Constitution of Tennessee. After the admission of that State to the Union in 1796 he was elected United States Senator. Before that body he was charged with having instigated the Creek and Cherokee Indians to help the English, in conquering the Spanish country south of his Territory. Found guilty and expelled, he went back to Knoxville, the speaker of the State Senate resigned, and Blount was at once chosen to fill the place. It appears, therefore, that he had, at least the sympathy and support of Tennessee people. He died at Knoxville in 1800.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN – PENNSYLVANIA
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, of Pennsylvania, was born in 1706, in Boston. He was eighty-one years of age at the time of the Convention, and was the oldest of the delegates there. In some respects he is the most remarkable man of whom we have any record in history. As a philosopher, statesman, inventor, diplomat, and general thinker, he was head and shoulders above every man of his time. As a mere boy he had come to Philadelphia without a dollar in his pocket and had worked out for himself his own fortune.
In the field of invention alone, Edison is the only man who can be fairly compared with Franklin; and it is impossible to say now, how many of his machines to which modern life owes its comparative comfort, are based upon principles of Franklin’s discovery. Of course there was no patent-office in his day to record his work or to reward it as such work is rewarded now. And largely for this reason the inventive genius of America’s myriad-minded philosopher has been more than half overlooked even by his admirers. He has gone down to posterity as a level-headed thinker however, and enough is known of his work at home and abroad, in behalf of American liberty to form a partial estimate of how invaluable it was to the cause which he espoused. His own business success had been remarkable, and had attested the value of the “Poor Richard” maxims, even before the latter became the common household property of all Americans, Edinburgh and Oxford Universities were not slow to recognize the value of his scientific researches. They both awarded him degrees, Franklin had lived in England from 1757 to 1762 as agent of the Pennsylvania Assembly in the latter’s trouble with the Proprietaries. From 1764 to 1775 he was the agent in England, not only of the colony of Pennsylvania, but of New Jersey, Massachusetts and Georgia. At the outbreak of the Revolution it was evident to everyone that Franklin could be of immensely greater service to the Colonial cause in Paris than in Philadelphia; that his diplomacy would do far more to hold up the hands of Washington than any one man could do in the council at home or in the field. He therefore went to the French Court, and to his efforts America owes the alliance which made her independence possible. He stayed in Paris until 1785 although in 1783 he acted as one of the American Commissioners in signing the definite treaty of peace with Great Britain, Franklin had been home only two years when he was elected a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. The position was one peculiarly congenial to the great philosopher. For many years he had longed to see established a more perfect union, which should place beyond question the permanence of that liberty which had been achieved with so much difficulty. Long before the signing of the Declaration of Independence he had projected a plan for such union. After the Convention met he devoted his whole time to the formulation of such suggestions as in his opinion could be accepted and would not develop structural weakness in the new government. He knew that his ideals could not be fully realized, and with that intensely practical spirit which ever tempered his philosophy, Franklin preferred securing the best that could be secured, to losing something still better. The Constitution as drawn up was not in all respects to his liking. It had flaws which he could see, and which have been brought out already in the operation of the governmental scheme. But after the document had been framed he saw that the future of the United States depended upon its acceptance by the Several States, because no other form of Union would be practicable after this had been rejected. He therefore spoke in the following words of the duty devolving upon himself and his fellow delegates: “The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. I hope that for our own sakes, as part of the people and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution, approved by Congress and confirmed by the Convention, wherever our influence may extend: and, turn our future thoughts and endeavors to the means of having it well administered.” After the document had been signed, Franklin looked up toward the President’s chair and called attention to the picture of a rising sun there portrayed. “Painters often have difficulty in distinguishing between a rising and a setting sun in their oil,” said he. “Often and often, in the course of the session and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, I have looked at that sun behind the President, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting but, now at length, I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.” He never had any serious doubt that the sober sense of the American people would be adequate to the amendment of the Constitution, when time should have made its defects apparent.
A brief story of the main features of Franklin’s life is interesting. He was of a poor family in Boston, and when only twelve years of age was apprenticed to his step-brother, James Franklin, who was an employing printer. The boy showed his quickness at learning the trade, but did not get along well with his employer, and the wages paid him were very small He decided to try his fortunes in Philadelphia, and when he reached there had only a shilling in his pocket. Employment was soon secured. He saved most of his earnings. Soon he was able to start a paper known as the “Gazette,” and in 1732 he published the ” Poor Richard Almanack,” above alluded to. In the same year he founded the first company for the extinguishing of fires in Philadelphia, and in 1738 established the first fire insurance company in that city. His discovery of the identity of lightning and electricity by means of a kite, with which he brought the electric fluid down during the storm, is familiar to every schoolboy. This experiment took place in 1752, and soon afterwards Franklin published a pamphlet how the discovery could be utilized in lightning-rods for the protection of buildings. He worked hard for the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The offensive and defensive treaty with France was entirely the result of his exertions, and in 1782 he had the pleasure of affixing his signature to the definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain. Later on, he represented the Congress in London, and the following story illustrates the sturdiness of his Americanism. It was at a diplomatic dinner, and an Englishman proposed a toast to Great Britain. “The sun, whose rays warm and enlighten nations in every quarter of the globe.” The French ambassador in his turn suggested: “France, the moon, whose rays shine with the sun’s reflected glory.” Both toasts were responded to. Then all eyes were upon Franklin. Each one present was saying to himself, “He has only the stars left, or he must break the metaphor.” But Franklin choose neither alternative. Rising in all the dignity of a well-preserved old man, he said with great impressiveness:
“Let us drink now to America, the Joshua who commanded the sun and the moon to stand still, and they obeyed him.”
No one could complain. All drank to the toast, and all acknowledged that the shrewd Yankee philosopher had outwitted the diplomatists. The banquet hall rang with applause. Franklin bowed his majestic hoary head and took his seat. He appreciated his own triumph. Benjamin Franklin died in 1790, at Philadelphia.
RUFUS KING – MASSACHUSETTS
RUFUS KING, of Massachusetts, was born in 1755 at Scarborough, now in the State of Maine. His youth was surrounded by all the softening influences which wealth could afford, for his father was one of the richest merchants in the colonies at that time. He had a thorough education, and then studied law in the office of Theophilus Parsons a leading member of the Massachusetts’ Bar. He served as an aide-de-camp of Gen. Glover during the Revolution, became a member of Congress after that, and distinguished himself in 1785 by attempting to pass a resolution forbidding the existence of slavery in any States formed from the North-western Territory, in one of the articles of the compact between the American commonwealths. This was referred to the Committee of the Whole, and afterwards embodied in the Nathan Kane ordinance of 1787. In 1788 Mr. King removed to New York, and was sent to the United States Senate from that State. He at once became one of the foremost members of that body. In 1796 he declined the Secretaryship of State, but accepted the position of Minister to England, which he held until 1804. Nine years after his return, Mr. King was again elected to the Senate, and was re-elected in 1819, and strenuously opposed the admission of Missouri as a slave State. He went to the Court of St. James as United States Minister, again, in 1825, bet his health was not good, and he came back home to Jamaica, Long Island, where his death occurred on April 29, 1827.
DAVID BREARLEY – NEW JERSEY
DAVID BREARLEY, of New Jersey, was born in 1745, and was therefore thirty~one years of age when the Declaration of Independence was signed. He had been a lawyer in excellent practice, and was a man of thorough education. His interest in the militia system of the colony had always been an active one, and it was with any thing but reluctance that he took a command in the Revolutionary forces of his own State. He had also been a most enthusiastic patriot, a firm believer in the right of the colonies to autonomy in local government, as well as to independence from the mother country in case such autonomy was refused. He became a Lieutenant-Colonel in Maxwell’s famous brigade of the Jersey Line, and in action repeatedly distinguished himself. He was known among his comrades as a thoroughly cool and reliable officer, as well as one of the bravest of the brave. In 1779 he resigned his commission to take the place of Chief Justice of New Jersey, which position he had been holding for eight years, when elected a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. His efforts were of great service in securing the ratification of the Constitution in New Jersey’s State Convention. In 1788 Mr. Brearley was made a Presidential elector, and one year later he resigned his position as Chief Justice in order to become a Judge of the Federal District Court for New Jersey. In this position he proved his capacity to interpret intelligently that system of Federal law which the Constitution had rendered possible. He died in 1790.
THOMAS FITZSIMONS – PENNSYLVANIA
THOMAS FITZSIMONS, of Pennsylvania, was a native of Ireland, and was born in 1741. Like thousands upon thousands of Irishmen since his time he was driven to emigrate to this country by oppression in his native land. He settled in Philadelphia in 1765, and soon afterward was married to a daughter of Robert Meade, an ancestor of General Meade of Gettysburg fame. Mr. Fitzsimons went into partnership with a brother-in-law, and was doing a good business when the troubles began which ended in the Revolution. He was one of the first to espouse the cause of the colonies against the mother country, and did not hesitate to go into the army himself. He raised and equipped a company which went into the first campaigns under his own command. Afterward he was a member of the Council of Safety and of the Navy Board. The house of Meade & Fitzsimons, in 1780, subscribed the enormous sum of £5,000 to the cause of National defense. In 1872 [sic] Mr. Fitzsimons became a member of the National Congress, and was one of the most influential debaters on all questions of finance. In the Constitutional Convention he was one of the warmest opponents of the theory of universal suffrage, and wanted to have the privilege of the ballot confined to freeholders. He also favored a tax on exports. Under the Constitution he was elected a member of Congress to represent the city of Philadelphia, and in the earlier debates in Congress he was among the first of American statesmen to advocate a protective tariff for the purpose of building up the manufacturing industries of the United States. In 1794 he was defeated for Congress, and, after holding important positions in several financial corporations, he died in 1811.
JACOB BROOM – DELAWARE
JACOB BROOM, of Delaware, was born in 1752. He was a man of forceful individuality and of thorough training in public affairs. Representing a State which was naturally more or less jealous of the greater commonwealths like New York and Virginia, he had the tact to make himself a personal friend of the greatest statesmen in each of these Commonwealths. In this way he did as much as any one of his co-workers in Delaware to secure the ends which the State had in view. He had the respect of all who corresponded with him, and these comprised the leading men in each of the colonies. He held no public position outside of the two conventions which contributed to the establishment of a more perfect Union. At the Annapolis Convention, where nobody was sure of anything connected with the perpetuity of the Confederation in any form, Mr. Broom was one of the Commissioners of Delaware, and, together with Read, Dickinson, Bedford and Bassett, helped to make it clear that if their interests were not wantonly infringed upon, the smaller States would offer no factious Opposition to any form of Union. This impression was emphasized by the position taken by the same men in the Constitutional Convention. Broom’s address to Washington, delivered on December 17, 1783, was a most eloquent one. He had two sons-Jacob Broom, who was elected to Congress from Pennsylvania, and who became, in 1852, the “American Party’s” candidate for the Presidency of the United States; and James M. Broom, who was a member of Congress from Delaware from 1805 to 1807, and afterwards became, like his brother, a member of the Philadelphia bar. Jacob Broom, Sr., himself, took up his residence in Philadelphia late in life, where he died in 1810.
GEORGE CLYMER – PENNSYLVANIA
GEORGE CLYMER, of Pennsylvania, was horn in 1739. His parents died when he was very young, and he became a ward of his uncle, Mr. Coleman, who was a man of high character, and who appears to have done all that he could for the orphan boy. The latter enjoyed a good common-school education, and, as a young man, entered a mercantile house in the Quaker City. He did his work well, and there is no doubt that he would have made his mark in the commercial world of the colonies but for the fact that his mind was early absorbed by the politics of the period, and that he chose to give to the service of his country those services which would have made him wealthy and prosperous if they had been devoted to business. George Clymer was a member of Congress in 1776, and, together with Wilson, Taylor, Ross and Rush, was among the first Signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was in Congress until the latter part of 1777, but then failed of a re-election, and retired to private life until 1780, when he was again elected to that body. Pennsylvania owes to Clymer a debt of gratitude because of his persistent and successful efforts to bring the penal code of that State into harmony with the humanitarian tendencies of civilization. In the Constitutional Convention he was one of the most valuable members, and his views were characterized by broad intelligence. No man did better work in securing the adoption of the Constitution by his State. Under the Constitution Clymer was elected a member of Congress. His death occurred in 1813.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON – NEW YORK
ALEXANDER HAMILTON, of New York, was born in the year 1757, in the Island of Nevis, and was therefore only thirty years of age at the time of the Convention’s sessions. At the age of twelve years he entered a mercantile establishment at Santa Cruz, keeping up his studies in the meantime in order to fit himself for college. Three years later he came to New York, and passed without difficulty the entrance examinations at King’s College (now Columbia), where he soon distinguished himself not only in the regular work of his classes but as a writer on subjects too formidable for most young men of his age. A series of political papers on the rights of the Colonies, coming from his pen when he was seventeen years old, and published anonymously, was attributed to several of the best known thinkers on the topic of National development. He early identified himself with the patriotic sentiments which were gaining prevalence rapidly in New York, and at the age of nineteen years left college to enter the Revolutionary army as a Captain of Artillery. One year afterwards he was appointed one of the aides-de-camp of Washington, with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In this appointment the commander of the patriotic forces showed more signally, perhaps, than at any other time in his career, the wonderful faculty of selecting his subordinates which amounted at times to intuition.
During five years’ service in the field, for a considerable term of years in the Continental Congress, and throughout the dismal period of semi-anarchy which followed the recognition of our nationality by Great Britain, in the Constitutional Convention, and under the great chieftain in the first civic administration under the governmental scheme framed by that Convention, Alexander Hamilton always justified the confidence reposed in him by George Washington. As a soldier, a thinker, a statesman, and a financier, this young man proved himself the equal of the most mature intellects of his age. His work in the Convention was harder and more effective than that of any other member. He is said to have been capable of most intense and prolonged intellectual application, although his mind was not that of a plodder, and his perceptions were as rapid and acute as his generalizations were accurate and comprehensive. Hamilton’s abhorrence of disorder led him, perhaps, to the other extreme in his theories of government. Left to himself, he would have established a constitutional monarchy with a Senate composed of life members and a House of Representatives elected once in six years. On all these points he was overruled. President and Senators were given fixed terms, and the term of Congressmen was reduced to two years. But Hamilton’s crowning glory is the fact, that to his genius the United States owes the system of unique checks and balances which put it out of the power of bad men in any one branch of the government to do any fatal injury to the political integrity of the whole. His distinctive theories on the question of centralization were the basis upon which the great Federalist party was built up; and the germs of centralization which he succeeded in planting in the Constitution itself, grew up in such a way as to offer needed support to the government at Washington at a time when it was in danger of falling under blows which even the prophetic genius of Hamilton himself could not have foreseen. It is true, too, that the tendency of governmental development in a direction which Hamilton would have favored, has been a more or less persistent one ever since 1789. With the question whether the tendency is or is not a wholesome one, it is not the purpose of this sketch to deal. That a man thirty years of age should have had the adroitness to force his compeers to half unwillingly adopt his own views, in the face of the strongest prejudices against them, nurtured as those prejudices had been by ten years of clashing and bitterness between one State and another is indubitable proof of paramount genius. In his papers in “The Federalist” there can be no doubt that Hamilton did even more than Madison and Jay to secure the adoption of the Constitution. These papers will ever live as masterpieces of political reasoning as well as evidences of the cleverest practical statesmanship. There is none of the effervescence of youth about them. Every sentence is written with a purpose to placate some form of opposition, or to stir up on some new ground the sentiment in favor of Nationalism. No petty personal pride led him to carp at the work of a convention which had thrown aside so many of his pet ideas. He writes as a true patriot, and because of his apparent self-abnegation his words have all the more weight. They turned the balance in his own State, and without New York the Constitution would have been abortive. In the State Convention called to act upon that document, it was Hamilton who stood for its adoption against his fellow delegates, Yates and Lansing, who had refused to sign. His eloquence won the day. Success did not come at once, but it came ultimately. The Empire State was drawn into line. After Washington’s inauguration Hamilton was asked to take the Treasury portfolio, and he accepted the charge. Like every other responsibility ever thrown upon him, this was manfully discharged. The assumption of the State debts, and the delicacy with which the subject of taxation by the new government had to be approached the task of the first Secretary of the Treasury anything but a sinecure As a matter of fact, the real work of organizing the government fell upon Hamilton’s shoulders. In 1795 he retired and took up the practice of law in New York City; where he had an immense number of friends. He still retained the real leadership of the Federalist party, and his equally facile and forceful pen not withstand the odium brought upon it by the passage of the Alien and Sedition laws, and fell in 1800 under a reaction of public sentiment. Hamilton had been restored to the army as second in command, at the request of Washington, in 1798, in view of an expected French invasion, and had succeeded to command on the death of Washington, but soon resigned and returned to the New York Bar. He was not fond of a military life or of military pomp. Pre-eminently he was fitted to shine as an advocate. But it was an absolute impossibility in political events. In 1804, occurred the fatal duel with Aaron Burr. It is not unfair to the latter to say that the greatest statesman and the greatest politician of that period were respectively the murdered and murderer on that lamentable occasion. Hamilton was opposed to dueling on principle. He never hesitated to denounce the practice as a barbarous one; but at that time no public man could afford to decline a challenge. The trouble had arisen out of a Political difference. Its ending robbed the country and the State of New York of one whose counsels were invaluable, and whose place no other man was capable of filling. Hamilton died, as he had lived, respected by mall en, regretted by all true patriots.
WILLIAM JACKSON – SECRETARY
WILLIAM JACKSON, Secretary of the Constitutional Convention, was born England in 1759. In his early youth he was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, and was educated there under the guardianship of Colonel Owen Roberts. In June, 1775, he was given a commission as Lieutenant in the First Regiment of South Carolina. In 1779 he was promoted to a captaincy, and then was made Aid-de-Camp to General Lincoln, which gave him the rank of major. Like several other well-known patriots, he was taken prisoner by the British at the fall of Charleston. He was exchanged in 1781, and was at once appointed secretary to John Laurens, who was just setting out on a mission to France to purchase supplies for the Revolutionary armies. He became Assistant Secretary of War under General Lincoln, on his return, but resigned that place in 1783in order to travel in Europe on his private affairs. A year later he settled down to the practice of law in the city of Philadelphia, and was far away when the Constitutional Convention met. On the advice of Washington, he was elected secretary of that body, and the final success of its work is largely due to the fidelity of Jackson. On the inauguration of the first President of the United States, he became private secretary to Washington. He refused, in 1792 , the position of Adjutant-General of the army, but in 1796 accepted that of Surveyor of the Port of Philadelphia, from which place Jefferson removed him in 1802. He seems to have been a man of rare qualities of heart and brain. No scrap of writing in his hand with reference to the work of the Convention is in existence, and he would never talk on that topic. He died in 1828.