Founding Fathers - George Clymer

George Clymer 

Born: March 16, 1739 (Philadelphia, PA)

Died: January 24, 1813 (Morrisville, PA)

Happy Easter!  I hope you've enjoyed your holiday weekend and are ready to settle in for a look at another one of America's Founding Fathers.  This week we'll look at another delegate from Pennsylvania, and the first that has hailed from the largest city at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia.  George Clymer was the child of a sea captain named Christopher Clymer and his wife, Deborah.  When both parents died - his father while George was just a year old, followed by his mother at some unknown date before his 7th birthday - the boy was adopted by his mother's sister and her husband, William Coleman, and raised to be a merchant.  His education was informal but apparently of considerable quality, and he was apprenticed in an accounting house to prepare for his mercantile career.  He married Elizabeth Meredith, the daughter of his business partner, in 1765 and four years later inherited considerable wealth upon the death of his childless uncle.  Five of the couple's nine children survived to adulthood.

George Clymer's business interests placed him firmly on the side of politics that opposed British taxation of the colonies.  During the early 1770s he helped lead demonstrations against the Stamp and Tea Acts and was an early advocate of total independence from the Crown.  Despite having no legal training and not having passed the bar, Clymer held positions as Justice of the Peace and Associate Justice of the city court. He was chosen to join the Philadelphia Committee of Safety in 1773 and served as a captain of a volunteer militia when armed conflict began.  Alongside such leaders as Benjamin Franklin and Robert Morris, Clymer was chosen to represent Pennsylvania at the Second Continental Congress in 1776, where his expertise in financial matters was quickly recognized.  Once the Declaration was signed, he was chosen as one of two treasurers of the fledgling nation, where he personally helped bankroll Congress and support the expanded powers of General Washington.  In December, 1776, Clymer exhibited his bravery by remaining in Philadelphia alongside Robert Morris and George Walton while the rest of the Continental Congress fled to Baltimore in the face of British occupation.  The invaders actually detoured some 25 miles out of their way with the specific intent to target Clymer's home for destruction.

Resigning from Congress in 1777, George Clymer remained home to focus on his business during the war, but he was once again drawn into public service in 1780 when he was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly.  As an ardent supporter of a strong central government, he was sent to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to help correct the ineffective Articles of Confederation.  After serving on committees that dealt with military, commercial, and financial concerns he became influential in persuading Pennsylvania to be the second state to ratify the new Constitution, being one of only 6 Founding Fathers to sign it after also signing the Declaration of Independence.  He was elected to the House of Representatives under the new form of government and during his single term was a staunch ally of George Washington.  When taxes were levied on distilled spirits, Clymer became a revenue officer in Pennsylvania for three years.  He resigned in 1794 as a result of the Whiskey Rebellion against the taxes, an uprising which he had unwittingly helped foment and during which his son John had been killed.  Clymer's final public act was to serve on a Presidential commission to negotiate peace with Creek and Cherokee Indians in Georgia from 1795-96, after which he returned home to become President of the new Philadelphia Bank.  He contributed to civic efforts, helping lead the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Agricultural Society, and donated land to establish the county seat of Indiana County, PA.  After a short illness Clymer died early in 1813 in his home near Philadelphia in the city of Morrisville, where he had settled his family in 1806.

The signature of George Clymer can be found as the fifth name on the fourth column beneath the Declaration of Independence.


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