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Thomas McKean Biography
Thomas M'Kean was the second son of William M'Kean, a native of Ireland, who sometime after his emigration to America, was married to an Irish lady, with whom he settled in the township of New-London, county of Chester, and the province of Pennsylvania, where Thomas was born, on the nineteenth of March, 1734.
At the age of nine years, he was placed under the care of the learned Dr. Allison, who was himself from Ireland, and of whose celebrated institution at New-London, we have already had occasion to speak, in terms of high commendation. Besides an unusually accurate and profound acquaintance with the Latin and Greek classics, Dr. Allison was well informed in moral philosophy, history, and general literature To his zeal for the diffusion of knowledge, Pennsylvania owes much of that taste for solid learning and classical literature, for which many of her principal characters have been so distinguished.
Under the instructions of this distinguished scholar, young M'Kean made rapid
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Thomas McKean GenealogyParents:
William McKean (1707 - 1769)
Letitia Finney McKean (1709 - 1742)
Sarah Armitage McKean (1756 - 1820)
Mary Borden McKean (1744 - 1773)
Joseph Borden McKean (1764 - 1826)
Sophia Dorothea McKean (1783 - 1819)
Events in the life of Thomas McKean
|1735 03/19||Birth of Thomas McKean|
|1817 06/24||Death of Thomas McKean|
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Quotes by Thomas McKean
Though I shall never write a history, I will give you a historical fact respecting the Declaration of Independence, which may amuse, if not surprise.
On the 1st of July, 1776, the question was taken in committee of the whole of Congress, when Pennsylvania, represented by seven members then present, voted against it, four to three. Among the majority were Robert Morris and John Dickinson. Delaware (having only two present, namely, myself and Mr. Read) was divided. All the other States voted in favor of it. The report was delayed until the 4th; and, in the mean time, I sent an express for Cæsar Rodney to Dover, in the County of Kent, in Delaware, at my private expense, whom I met at the State House door, on the 4th of July, in his boots. He resided eighty miles from the city, and just arrived as Congress met. The question was taken. Delaware voted in favor of Independence. Pennsylvania (there being only five members present, Messrs. Dickinson and Morris absent) voted also for it. Messrs. Willing and Humphries were against it. Thus the thirteen States were unanimous in favor of Independence. Notwithstanding this, in the printed public journal of Congress for 1776, Vol. II., it appears that the Declaration of Independence was declared on the 4th of July, 1776, by the gentlemen whose names are there inserted: whereas, no persons signed it on that day; and, among the names there inserted, one gentleman, namely, George Read, Esq., was not in favor of it; and seven were not in Congress on that day, namely, Messrs. Morris, Rush, Clymer, Smith, Taylor, and Ross, all of Pennsylvania, and Mr. Thornton, of New Hampshire; nor were the six gentlemen last named members of Congress on the 4th of July. The five for Pennsylvania were appointed delegates by the convention of that State on the 20th of July, and Mr. Thornton took his seat in Congress, for the first time, on the 4th of November following; when the names of Henry Hinds, of New York, and Thomas McKean, of Delaware, are not printed as subscribers, though both were present in Congress on the 4th of July, and voted for Independence.
Here false colors are certainly hung out. There is culpability somewhere. What I have heard as an explanation is as follows: When the Declaration was voted, it was ordered to be engrossed on parchment, and then signed; and that a few days afterwards a Resolution was entered on the secret journal that no person should have a seat in Congress during that year until he should have signed the Declaration of Independence. After the 4th of July, I was not in Congress for several months, having marched with a regiment of Associators, as Colonel, to support General Washington, until the flying camp of ten thousand men was completed. When the Associators were discharged, I returned to Philadelphia, took my seat in Congress, and signed my name to the Declaration on parchment. This transaction should be truly stated, and the then secret journal should be made public. In the manuscript journal, Mr. Pickering, then Secretary of State, and myself, saw a printed half-sheet of paper, with the names of the members afterwards in the printed journals stitched in. We examined the parchment, where my name is signed in my own handwriting.
With respect to the histories of North America hitherto published I concur with you in opinion; they were not popular, because the authors were little known, and it was known, that they had not an opportunity of personal knowlege of the facts they related, and in several of them were mistaking: the authors seem to have paid too much attention to those, whom they supposed would from their reputation for wealth & influence would be most likely to promote the sale of their books, or otherwise advance their fortunes: this temptation is now done away; the favored characters are all dead, and very few of their descendents at present in any way distinguished.
We have reason to be thankful to God for the success of the arms of the U.S. the last year of the war, both at sea and land; it is true, the enemy got possession of the city of Washington (an unfortified and open town) and retained it four & twenty hours, but they were beaten at Baltimore, Chippewa, Bridgetown, Erie, with equal numbers; on Lake Champlain and at Plattsburgh a glorious victory was obtained over them by inferior numbers, and to crown the whole, they sustained a most signal defeat at New-Orleans by a still less proportion of combatants, the great majority of whom were Militia, brave but undisciplined. By these events our Independence is strengthened and the American character exalted. We may now reasonably hope for a durable peace, altho’ we must expect annoyances, while there are wars in Europe between the countries with whom we trade.
Our cause is good, our army in health and high spirits, and more numerous that that of the enemy. May the divine Disposer of all events crown our victuous endeavors with success and save our country; of this we may be confident, "for he delights in virtue, and that which he delights in must be happy."
The commencement of your Administration has been as propitious as could have been reasonably expected, in a nation composed of not the wisest and best men in the world. You are sufficiently acquainted with the people you rule, to know, that little praise, but much unmerited censure is to be expected from them: An Angel from heaven could not command an universal approbation.Read all quotes by Thomas McKean