Clymer, George, 1739-1813

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1739-03-16
Death 1813-01-23

Biographical notes:

Clymer was a Signer of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution from Pennsylvania.

From the description of ALS, 1779 April 2, Roxborough, to unknown. (Copley Press, J S Copley Library). WorldCat record id: 13347530

Philadelphia merchant and Congressman.

From the description of ALS : to William Rawle, 1793 Feb. 9. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 86102605

From the description of ALS : Philadelphia, to Jacob Bowman, 1806 Sept. 24. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122541849

At this time, George Clymer had retired from politics and was living in Philadelphia. He served as the president of the Philadelphia Bank. George Simpson was the cashier for the Bank of the United States.

From the description of Letter to George Simpson, 1805 January 2. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 155866583

Signer of Declaration of Independence.

From the description of Receipt signed : Philadelphia, [n.d.]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270867946

George Clymer was a Philadelphia merchant and served on many commissions and on the board of war and of the treasury as Continental treasurer and congressman (1776-1777, 1780-1782). He was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence and of the U.S. Constitution.

From the description of Papers, 1785-1848. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122584078

Delegate to the U.S. Continental Congress, U.S. representative, and businessman from Pennsylvania.

From the description of George Clymer papers, 1781-1793. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70980298

Clymer was s Signer of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution from Pennsylvania.

From the description of DS, 1776 April 4 : to John Nixon and Committee of Accounts. (Copley Press, J S Copley Library). WorldCat record id: 14075707

Clymer was the Pennsylvania representative and signer of the U. S. Declaration of Independence, a member of the U.S. Continental Congress (1776-1780) and was elected from Pennsylvania to the first U.S. Congress in 1789. He also served at one time as the supervisor for Revenue for Pennsylvania.

From the description of [Letter and document] / G. Clymer. [between 1781 and 1804] (Smith College). WorldCat record id: 190684360

George Clymer (1739-1813, APS 1786) was a Philadelphia merchant, politician, and philanthropist. Today, he is most famous for being a Signer of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. He went from a successful career as a merchant into local and then national politics. As a member of Pennsylvania’s Proprietary Party he opposed making Pennsylvania a royal colony. He was an ardent proponent of independence and belonged to several local political committees that actively resisted British policies. In 1776 he entered the national political arena with his election to the Second Continental Congress, where he signed the Declaration of Independence. He subsequently also signed the Federal Constitution, and, as a Federalist, was a strong supporter of Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan.

Born in 1739 in Philadelphia, Clymer was the son of Christopher Clymer, a sea captain, and Deborah Fitzwater, a Quaker disowned for marrying Clymer, an Episcopalian. Orphaned at age seven, Clymer was raised by his maternal aunt, Hannah (Fitzwater) Coleman, and her husband William Coleman (1705?-1769, APS 1743), a wealthy and respected Quaker merchant, friend of Benjamin Franklin, and one of the founders of the American Philosophical Society.

By the late 1750s, Clymer was a wealthy merchant himself. In 1759 he formed a partnership with Henry and Robert Ritchie for the importation of European and East Indian goods. In 1765 he married Elizabeth Meredith, the daughter of the prominent Quaker merchant Reese Meredith (1771?-1778). The couple eventually had eight children, five of whom lived to adulthood. Clymer’s fortune was greatly augmented when first his maternal grandfather and then Coleman left him substantial inheritances, including land and an interest in the Durham Iron Works. In 1772 Clymer, his father-in-law, and his brother-in-law Samuel Meredith entered into a partnership to form the merchant house Meredith and Sons, later re-named Meredith and Clymer. By 1774 Clymer had the second highest residential tax assessment in Philadelphia and ranked third in gross income from property.

Clymer’s high social standing is reflected in his many social and cultural activities. He was a member of the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company, and the Mount Regale Fishing Company. He was also a contributor to the Pennsylvania Hospital, the Silk Society, and the College of Philadelphia. In addition, his wealth allowed him to indulge his interest in politics. In 1767 he joined the Philadelphia Common Council; seven years later he became city alderman. He also served as justice of the peace for the city and county courts in 1772.

Clymer was an early supporter of independence. He signed non-importation agreements in 1765 and 1770. After the outbreak of hostilities with Great Britain he served as captain of a volunteer company. In this capacity he helped arrange the purchase of gunpowder and oversaw the fortification of Philadelphia. Between 1770 and 1776 he was a member of various local political committees, including six of the seven Philadelphia resistance committees, such as the committees of safety, of correspondence, and of inspection and observation. On at least two occasions he traveled to Boston, where he met Josiah Quincy, Jr., and Samuel Adams. He was elected to the state constitutional convention of 1776, where he opposed the plan for a unicameral legislature. He did not sign the new state constitution and became a leader of the Anti-Constitutionalist party. He was elected to the assembly in 1776 and 1778.

In 1776 he was elected to the Second Continental Congress and in consequence signed the Declaration of Independence. He sat on the Board of Treasury and the Board of War, and he was a member of the three-man executive committee that remained in Philadelphia after Congress fled to Baltimore. In 1777 his house in Chester County was looted and burned by British soldiers.

Clymer was reelected to Congress in February 1777, but failed in his bid for reelection in September 1777. Instead he was sent as a commissioner to Fort Pitt to help alleviate tensions between Native Americans and European settlers there. Clymer came away from this mission with s sense of sympathy for Native American apprehensions about the advance of settlement. He also developed strong anti-frontiersmen sentiments.

In 1780 Clymer served as co-director of the Pennsylvania Bank, a non-profit, subscription-based organization that had been founded to secure provisions for the troops. In 1780 and 1781 he was again elected to Congress. During this time he was a member of the finance committee and the committee charged with requesting the southern states to comply with the requisitions of Congress. In 1782 he moved his family to Princeton, New Jersey, apparently to have his sons educated there. However, within two years he was back in Philadelphia.

After the war he was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1785 to 1788, and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He was elected as a pro-administration candidate to the First Congress in 1789 where he served as chairman of the Committee on Elections. Clymer was a strong supporter of locating the federal capital in Philadelphia, and a leading advocate of Alexander Hamilton’s financial program. One of his last - and least successful - political appointments was federal revenue inspector for Pennsylvania in 1791. He was responsible for collecting the federal excise on spirits, a tax that was particularly unpopular in the western counties. Widespread opposition prevented him from collecting the tax, and, unable to diffuse the growing protests that became the Whiskey Insurrection, he resigned in 1794. (His son Meredith was one of the troops dispatched to western Pennsylvania by President Washington to put down the rebellion.) The following year George Washington assigned him to a commission that in 1796 negotiated the Treaty of Coleraine with the Creeks of Georgia. His close friend Benjamin Rush gave him a list with queries about the Indian customs and habits that Clymer completed and returned, with some comments of his own.

Clymer’s business ventures during and after war served to increase his wealth. In 1779 and 1780 Clymer and Meredith engaged in a lucrative trade with St. Eustatius. After his retirement as a merchant in 1782, he focused on his real estate investments in Kentucky, New York, Indiana and Pennsylvania. He also served as president of the Philadelphia Bank from 1803 until his death.

Clymer's later years were occupied to a large extent with philanthropic work. He was a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania from 1779 to 1813. In addition, he was an active supporter of the Philadelphia Dispensary for the Medical Relief of the Poor in 1786 and the Society for Promoting the Manufacture of Sugar from the Sugar Maple in 1792. He was also the first president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, founding member and vice president from 1805 to 1813 of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, and vice president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Society, and of the Society for Political Inquiries. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1786. He rarely attended meetings, but he contributed funds toward the construction of its new hall. Clymer died in 1813 at his home, “Summerseat,” in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, where he had resided since 1806.

From the guide to the George Clymer Papers, 1745-1848, 1745-1848, (American Philosophical Society)

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Subjects:

  • Patents--Pennsylvania
  • Finance, Personal
  • Education
  • Whiskey Rebellion, Pa., 1794
  • Taxation
  • Trust indentures--United States
  • Constitutional history
  • Business and Skilled Trades
  • Marriage and Family Life
  • Power of Attorney--Pennsylvania
  • Land and Speculation
  • Estate--Valuation

Occupations:

  • Representatives, U.S. Congress--Pennsylvania
  • Businessmen
  • Delegates, U.S. Continental Congress--Pennsylvania
  • Merchants--United States

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Philadelphia (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Pennsylvania (as recorded)