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Clymer

Born: 
Monday, March 16, 1739
Died: 
Saturday, January 23, 1813
Geographic Connection: 
Philadelphia
Keywords: 

Constitutional Convention; Continental Congress; First Congress; Friends Meeting House Burial Ground; Signer of the Declaration of Independence; Sommerseat

Abstract: 

George C. Clymer was born on March 16, 1739, in Philadelphia, where he was raised by his aunt and uncle, who gave him the foundation to become a successful merchant and eventually a politician. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution. His political career included his membership of the Continental Congress and writing political letters to address problems in the new nation. Until his death on January 23, 1813, he was a philanthropist and the president of the Philadelphia Bank.

Biography: 

George C. Clymer was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 16, 1739, to Christopher Clymer and Deborah Fitzwater. According to Reverend Charles A. Goodrich, he was orphaned at the age of seven. There is some confusion as to when Clymer lost his parents, as many other sources claim that he was orphaned in the year 1740. Upon the death of his parents, he was taken in by his wealthy maternal aunt and uncle, Hannah and William Coleman. William Coleman was a successful Quaker merchant, whom Benjamin Franklin held in high esteem. He provided Clymer with an informal education, which instilled within young Clymer a passion for reading. His uncle eventually made him a partner in his mercantile business, and upon his death, he turned the entire operation over to Clymer. Some time after his uncle’s death, Clymer combined his business with the Meredith family, a prominent business family in Philadelphia. In 1765, at the age of 27, he married his senior partner’s daughter, Elizabeth Meredith. They had eight children together, but three of them did not survive childhood. His literary endeavors began with his interest in politics and government, especially in seeking independence from Great Britain. Clymer began attending Philadelphia’s city council meetings in 1769. He was an early advocate of independence, and by 1776 he was appointed the head of the Republican Party. By July of 1776, the founding fathers had crafted the Declaration of Independence, and George Clymer was among those who signed it, as well as the Constitution later. He had served as the Continental treasurer from 1775-1976, and he was elected to the Continental Congress from 1776-1977 and 1780-1982. Although he always attended the meetings, he only spoke rarely. It should be noted that when he did speak his words were not wasted. Writing political letters and articles was a part of his political career. He and Oliver Evans wrote “Reflections on the Patent Laws,” a letter to the senators and representatives of Congress. It addressed the current patent laws and stated that it would be beneficial to the country to allow men to patent their ideas. Their argument was that allowing patents would improve the lives of those men, which would, in turn, improve the nation. He wrote a letter to Benjamin Rush, a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, regarding the regulation of selling land. In it, he addresses the problems that the settlers face in traveling out there, and then trying to be successful farmers. He says, “...they set out in flesh and come in bone” (Clymer, 1789). He addresses the difficult journey settlers must make out to unclaimed land, and then that these settlers then have to find a way to survive with no livestock and little money. Financially minded, Clymer often mentioned money and costs in his letters. Clymer played a crucial part in fighting for independence when he courageously stayed behind with George Walton and Robert Morris in the interest of maintaining congressional business. The rest of Congress fled Philadelphia to avoid the oncoming British troops, who purposefully took an alternate route and attacked Clymer’s home. His wife and children survived. His political career came to an end after he negotiated the Treaty of Coleraine with the Creek Indians in 1796. He then became a philanthropist in the remaining years of his life, and many of his surviving letters are dated between after 1800. According to the American Philosophical Society, no large collection of George Clymer’s papers exists, and some of the letters which he has been given credit for do not bear his signature. Clymer served as the president of the Philadelphia Bank until he passed away on January 23, 1813, at his home, Sommerseat, in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. The Clymer Borough, located in Indiana County, is named after George C. Clymer, and the streets in this town are named after the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The George C. Clymer School, located in North Philadelphia, is also named after this founding father.

Works: 
  • “ALS to George McCall.” May 12, 1812.
  • “ALS to Samuel A. Law.” March 30, 1812.
  • “Articles of Agreement.” May 3, 1800.
  • “Deed to S. A. Law.” May 31 1806.
  • “Indenture to J. Gay.” December 17, 1811.
  • “Letter to Benjamin Rush.” New York, NY. August 7, 1789.
  • “Power of Attorney.” May 3, 1800.
  • “Statement.” March 30, 1812.
  • “Reflections on the Patent Laws.” The Medical Repository of Original Essay and Intelligence, Relative to Physic, Surgery, Chemistry, and Natural History (1800-1824) , 3 (May-July 1811): 4-7. <http://proquest.umi.com/pdqweb?did=675840902&sid= 6&Fmt=2&clientld=1360&RQT=309&VName=HNP>
  • “Will.” January 22, 1813.
Sources: 

For More Information:

  • Grundfest, Jerry. George Clymer, Philadelphia Revolutionary, 1739-1813. Ayers Company Publishers, 1981.
  • Green, Harry Clinton and Mary Wolcott Green. Wives of the Signers: The Women Behind the Declaration of Independence. Aledo, TX: Wallbuilder Press, 1997.
latlong: 
POINT (-75.163808 39.951639)
Literary Note: 

A Philadelphia merchant and politician, George Clymer signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

First Name: 
George
City: 
Philadelphia
County: 
Philadelphia
Image Filename import: 
Clymer__George.jpg