Thomas McKean

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Thomas McKean

Thomas McKean (b. March. 19, 1734; d. June 24, 1817) is one of the United States' Founding Fathers. He was lawyer, a member of the Delaware Assembly, a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress, and Delaware delegate to the Continental Congress that signed the Declaration of Independence. McKean served as a colonel in the New Jersey militia during the American Revolution, and was also a member of the committee that helped write the Articles of Confederation. McKean was President of Delaware, President of Congress, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, and Governor of Pennsylvania for nine years.

Early Life

Thomas was born in New London, Chester County, Pennsylvania. His father was William McKean, who was of Irish descent. He had a private education supervised by another Irishman, Dr. Francis Allison. As a student, McKean served as the clerk of the prothonotory Court of Common Pleas for the county of New Castle. Thomas was admitted to the bar in Delaware before the age of 21. [1] His first wife Mary Borden died in 1773, leaving him with six children. Thomas remarried Sarah Armitage of New Castle and fathered five more children.


McKean's first political office was deputy Attorney General to Sussex County in 1756. In 1757, appointed clerk of the Assembly of Delaware, then elected as a delegate. He would serve as trustee of the loan office. In 1772, he was chosen Speaker of the Assembly of Delaware. In 1775, a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress. During Congressional session of 1776, he was a member of the committee to state the rights of the colonies as well as a member of the secret committee to contract for the importation of arms. [2] McKean was adament that the British King had no standing with the colonies, "no right to regulate American affairs in any way." A few day after signing the Declaration of Independence, he left Congress to command a battalion of troops to assist George Washington at Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

While acting in the double capacity as President of Delaware and Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, he wrote John Adams,

hunted like a fox by the enemy, compelled to remove my family five times in three months, and at last fixed them in a little log-house on the banks of the Susquehanna, but they were soon obliged to move again on account of the incursions of the Indians.


McKean retired from public service in 1812. He died at the age of 83. He is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery.


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