George Clymer, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in 1739 to a father who came from Bristol, England. George became an orphan at age seven when his father died; his mother died previous to her husband.
George was taken into the home of William Coleman, his mother's brother and a "wealthy and highly-esteemed citizen of Philadelphia." William treated George as a son in his "education, and all other things." George completed a "thorough English education" and then went to work in the "counting room" for his uncle and to prepare for "commercial life."
George didn't care too much for the mercantile business because he "deemed it a pathway beset with many snares for the feet of pure morality." He felt this way because "sudden gains and losses were apt to affect the character of the most stable." George preferred literature and science, and he spent much time thinking about those subjects.
George married a Miss. Elizabeth Meredith when he was 27 years old. He started working with his father-in-law and his brother-in-law in business known as Meredith and Sons. About this same time, William Coleman died and left the "principle part" of his large estate to George. Clymer continued to work with his father-in-law until he passed away, and then he continued with his brother-in-law until 1782.
George was an early believer in republican principles, starting some time before his marriage. When the Stamp Act was passed, George "was among the most ardent defenders of the republican cause." He was an active participant in "all the public meetings in Philadelphia." In 1774 George "accepted the command of a volunteer corps" under the direction of General Cadwallader.
Following the problems involved in the circumstances surrounding the Boston Tea Party, George was named as the head of the Committee of Vigilance in Philadelphia as well as the first Council of Safety in Philadelphia. In early 1775 Congress appointed George to be "one of the Continental treasurers."
George, along with Dr. Benjamin Rush, was appointed to be a delegate to the General Congress to replace two of the delegates from Pennsylvania who resigned from their seats in Congress after declining to sign the Declaration of Independence. Both Dr. Rush and George "joyfully" signed the document.
Clymer was part of a committee that visited the northern army at Fort Ticonderoga. At a later date, he was appointed to be on the Committee of Vigilance with Robert Morris when the British Army approached Philadelphia and forced Congress to move to Baltimore. He was again elected to Congress in 1779 and was part of a delegation sent to the Valley Forge headquarters of General Washington to investigate "alleged abuses of the commissary department."
The British did not like Clymer because he had such "patriotic zeal and unwavering attachment to the Republican cause." After the American defeat at Brandywine, the British Army marched triumphantly toward Philadelphia. George moved his family into the country for safety, but their retreat was discovered by the enemy. "British soldiers sacked the house, destroyed the furniture, and wasted every sort of property" possible. The British also considered demolishing another house in Philadelphia but reconsidered when they discovered that it belonged to one of George's relatives with the same name.
In 1778 Congress sent George to Pittsburgh on a mission to "quiet the savages" who were "committing dreadful ravages on the frontier" under the British influence. He apparently solved the problem because Congress thanked him. George was elected to Congress for a third time in late 1780 and continued as a member of that group until 1782. He joined with Robert Morris and others to establish a bank in Philadelphia and became George became one of the directors of the bank.
Apparently the Southern States were not contributing their fair quota of funds to the national treasury because Congress sent Clymer and Edward Rutledge to the South in 1782 to solve the problem.
Clymer moved his family to Princeton in order that his children could be educated there; however, he was called back to Philadelphia to serve in the Legislature where he was instrumental in setting up the state's penitentiary system.
George was a delegate to the Convention where the United States Constitution was framed and was elected to the first Congress under the new Constitution. He declined being elected a second time and was appointed by President George Washington to be the "supervisor of the revenue" for Pennsylvania. Because of the "spirit of resistance to the collection of revenue" in the land, this office required a person who had "great firmness and decision of character." In fact, it was in Pennsylvania that the "Whiskey Insurrection" took place and "threatened serious consequences to the whole framework of our government." Clymer went about his business in spite of personal danger and resigned after the rebellion settled down.
In 1796, George was appointed, along with Colonels Hawkins and Pickens, to "negotiate a treaty with the Cherokee and Creek tribes of Indians, in Georgia." They apparently settled the problem to the satisfaction of all parties.
This mission was the last public service performed by George Clymer. He was the first President of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Philadelphia and was one of the founders of the Philadelphia Agricultural Society. George died on January 24, 1813, at age 74 after a long, active, and useful life and without a "single moral stain marked its manifested purity."
Facts and quotes are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp. 114-118.
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