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Page 3

Thomas M'Kean


   The only other member of the congress of 1765, who refused to sign the petitions, was Mr. Robert Ogden, at that time speaker of the house of assembly of New-Jersey. This gentleman, Mr. M'Kean strongly solicited in private to adopt a bold and manly course, by affixing his signature to the proceedings of the congress. Arguments, however, were in vain; yet he was reluctant that his constituents in New-Jersey should become acquainted with his refusal. It was, however, communicated to them. The people of New-Jersey, justly indignant at his conduct, burnt his effigy in several towns, and on the meeting of the general assembly, he was removed from the office of speaker. As Mr. M'Kean, in passing through New-Jersey, had without hesitation, when asked communicated the course which Mr. Ogden had taken, the latter gentleman, it is said, threatened him with a challenge which, however, ended much as had the precipitate challenge of the president from Massachusetts.
   We must necessarily pass over several years of the life of Mr. M'Kean, during which he was engaged in various public employments. A short time before the meeting of the congress of 1774, Mr. M'Kean took up his permanent residence in the city of Philadelphia. The people of the lower counties on the Delaware were anxious that he should represent them in that body, and he was accordingly elected as their delegate. On the 3rd of September, he took his seat in that august assemblage. From this time, until the 1st of February, 1783, he continued annually to be elected a member of the great national council, a period of eight years and a half. This was the only instance, it is said, in which any gentleman was continued a member of congress, from 1774, to the signing of the preliminaries of peace in 1783. It is also worthy of notice, that at the same time he represented the state of Delaware in congress, he was president of it in 1781, and from July, 1777, was tile chief justice of Pennsylvania. Such an instance of the same gentleman being claimed as a citizen of two states, and holding high official stations in both at the same time, is believed to be without a parallel in the history of our country.
   As a member of congress, Mr. M'Kean was distinguished for his comprehensive views of the subjects which occupied the deliberation of that body, and for the firmness and decision which marked his conduct on all questions of great national importance. On the 12th of June, 1776, he was appointed, in connexion with several others, a committee to prepare and digest the form of a confederation between the colonies. This committee reported a draught the same day; but it was not finally agreed to until the 15th of November, 1777, nor was it signed by a majority of the representatives of the respective colonies, until the 9th of July, 1778, Even at this latter date, New-Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, had not authorized their delegates to ratify and sign the instrument. But, in the November following, New-Jersey acceded to the confederation, and on the 22d of February, 1779, Mr. M'Kean signed it in behalf of Delaware. Maryland ratified the act of union in March, 1781.

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Last modified September 27, 2005