Thomas Fitzsimons, an American merchant, statesman, and signer of the United States Constitution, may have been born in October 1741 in Ballikilty, North Co. Wexford, Leinster Province, Ireland, into a “collection of families” known as the “Fitzsymons.” He immigrated to Philadelphia in the mid-1750s and was not there long before his father died. Thomas had enough education to obtain employment as a clerk in a mercantile house.
Thomas married Catherine Meade on November 23, 1761, and became business partners with her brother George. They operated a successful business in the West Indies trade for more than 41 years. Great Britain applied new revenue measures, including the Stamp Act of 1765, and these measures greatly affected Thomas’s firm. Thomas was concerned about the tax problems and became an active member in the Irish merchant community in Philadelphia. He was elected as the head of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in 1771; in 1774 he was part of a committee organized to protest the taxes.
Thomas Fitzsimons quickly became involved when Pennsylvania formed a militia to fight the British. He helped to raise a company of home guards and served as a captain in the company under the command of Colonel John Caldwalader. His company defended the New Jersey coast against British military actions and was later part of the reserve at the Battle of Trenton in 1776. At the request of the government of Pennsylvania, Thomas oversaw the newly formed Pennsylvania Navy and helped to organize the strategic resources of Pennsylvania. In this role, he later provided ships, supplies, and money to support Pennsylvanian and French forces.
Fitzsimons became active in politics when he was chosen to be a delegate to the Continental Congress (1782, 1783). His political career continued when he was elected as a member of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives in 1786 and 1787. Also in 1787, he was a Pennsylvania delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was not a “leading member” of the group, but he “supported a strong national government, the end of slavery, the United States Congress’s powers to impose a tariff on imports and exports, the granting the house of representatives, and the equal power in making treaties to the United States Senate…. He was one of only two Catholic signers of the United States Constitution, the other being Daniel Carroll of Maryland.”
Under the new Constitution, Thomas served in the first three sessions of the House of Representatives. After losing the next election, he withdrew from politics but remained active in civic and business affairs. “He served as president of Philadelphia’s Chamber of Commerce, as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, Director of the Delaware Insurance Company, and a director of the Bank of North America from 1781-1803. He was a founder of the bank, and supported efforts to found the College of Georgetown.”Thomas Fitzsimons died on August 26, 1811, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was buried in the cemetery of St. Mary’s Catholic Church (now part of Independence National Historical Park).