President Chief Justice McKean


Thomas McKean
Click Here to view the US Mint & Coin Acts 1782-1792

Second President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled 
July 10, 1781 to November 5, 1781


(President Thomas McKean continued)


The council was able only to supply a few additional tents and provisions for St. Clair.  The fol­lowing week the general returned to Morris with his request and eventually obtained a warrant for a month's pay for his detachment.




Washington and the French Allies had abandoned the plans to attack New York and were headed south to engage General Cornwallis who had been battling his way north through the Carolinas and into southern Virginia. The French troops made a striking display to the citizens as they marched through Philadelphia on the 2nd of September 1781. The troops were reviewed by President McKean, who on this occasion, appeared in black velvet with a sword at his side, and his head covered. On his left were Washington and Rochambeau uncovered; and on his right M. de Luzerne, the French minister. As the flag laden troops paraded past the President the reviewing generals saluted. President McKean chose not to salute, instead removing his hat and placing his open hand on his chest as each of the many flags passed his venue. After the review of the troops McKean wrote to the Comte de Rochambeau to express his gratitude:

I have the honor to express to your Excellency the satisfaction of Congress in the compliment which has been paid to them by the Troops of his most Christian Majesty under your Command. The brilliant appearance and exact discipline of the several Corps do the highest honor to their Officers, and afford a happy presage of the most distinguished services in a cause which they have so zealously espoused. [xvii]

The Pennsylvania Gazette reported on September 5th:

On Thursday last arrived in this city, their Excellences’ General Washington and the Count de Rochambeau, with their respective Suites. They were met and accompanied to town by his Excellency the President of the State, the Financier General, and many other Gentlemen of distinction, together with the Philadelphia troops of horse. Every class of citizens seemed to vie with each other in shewing marks of respect to this illustrious pair of Defenders of the Rights of Mankind. [xviii]

In "The Story of Philadelphia," Lillian Ione Rhoades MacDowell writes: 

On September 2, 1781, the American and French troops passed through Philadelphia in review before Congress. The president of Congress remained uncovered; on his right stood Congress, on his left Washington and Count Rochambeau, also uncovered. It was an imposing sight. The combined army extended nearly two miles in length. The soldiers were cheered by the crowds who lined the sidewalks, and by the ladies, who fluttered handkerchiefs and flags from the windows. The band played soul-stirring music, and as the soldiers kept step, their hearts beat high with hope, confident that under their noble commander they would win a victory.  On the evening of the 4th of September a state dinner was given by the French minister, M. de la Luzerne, in his house on the north side of Chestnut Street between Sixth and Seventh streets, to the president of Congress and the chiefs of the American army. Scarcely was the company seated at table when a courier announced the arrival of Count de Grasse in the Chesapeake Bay, with twenty-eight ships and three thousand troops under Marquis Saint Simon. Washington hastened away to fight the battle of Yorktown, returning to Philadelphia November 26, 1781, to be crowned the victorious commander in chief of the American forces.

After the allied forces left Philadelphia, the USCA reorganized the U.S. Navy by placing its executive officers under the Agent of the Marine, Robert Morris.  The Superintendent of Finance had been appointed to this second office five days earlier in anticipation of the Navy’s reorganization.  

On the 12th of September, President McKean received a dispatch from General Greene concerning the Battle of Eutaw:
General Greene to Thomas McKean, President of Congress.

Headquarters, Martin's Tavern, near Ferguson's Swamp, South Carolina


September 11, 1781.

To His Excellency

The President of Congress.

Sir: In my last despatch of the 25th of August, I informed Your Excellency that we were on our march for Fryday's Ferry, to form a junction with the State troops and a body of militia, collecting at that place, with an intention to make an attack upon the British army laying at Colonel Thompson's, near McCord's Ferry. On the 27th, on our arrival near Fryday's Ferry, I got intelligence that the enemy were retiring.

We crossed the river at Howell's Ferry, and took post at Motte's plantation. Here I got intelligence that the enemy had halted at the Eutaw Springs, about forty miles below us; and that they had a reinforcement, and were making preparations to establish a permanent post there. To prevent this, I was determined rather to hazard an action, notwithstanding our numbers were greatly inferior to theirs. On the 5th we began our march, our baggage and stores having been ordered to Howell's Ferry under a proper guard. We moved by slow and easy marches, as well to disguise our real intention, as to give General Marion an opportunity to join us, who had been detached for the support of Colonel Harden, a report of which I transmitted in my letter of the 5th, dated Maybrick's Creek. General Marion joined us on the evening of the 7th, at Burdell's plantation, seven miles from the enemy's camp.

We made the following disposition, and marched at four o'clock the next morning to attack the enemy. Our front line was composed of four small battalions of militia, two of North and two of South Carolinians; one of the South Carolinians was under the immediate command of General Marion, and was posted on the right, who also commanded the front line; the two North Carolina battalions, wider the command of Colonel Malmady, were posted in the centre; and the other South Carolina battalion under the command of General Pickens, was posted on the left. Our second line consisted of three small brigades of continental troops—one from North Carolina, one from Virginia, and one from Maryland. The North Carolinians were formed into three battalions, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Ash, Majors Armstrong and Blount; the whole commanded by General Sumner, and posted upon the right. The Virginians consisted of two battalions, commanded by Major Snead and Captain Edmonds, and the whole by Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, and posted in the centre. The Marylanders also consisted of two battalions, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Howard and Major Hardman, and the brigade by Colonel Williams, deputy adjutant-general to the army, and were posted upon the left. Lieutenant-Colonel Lee with his legion covered our right flank; and Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson, with the State troops, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonels Hampton, Middleton, and Polk, our left. Lieutenant-Colonel Washington, with his horse and the Delaware troops, under Captain Kirkwood, formed a corps of reserve. Two three-pounders, under Captain-Lieutenant Gaines, advanced with the front line, and two sixes, under Captain Browne, with the second.

The legion and State troops formed our advance, and were to retire upon the flanks upon the enemy's forming. In this order we moved on to the attack. The legion and State troops fell in with a party of the enemy's horse and foot, about four miles from their camp, who, mistaking our people for a party of militia, charged them briskly, but were soon convinced of their mistake by the reception they met with. The infantry of the State troops kept up a heavy fire, and the legion in front, under Captain Rudolph, charged them with fixed bayonets; they fled on all sides, leaving four or five dead on the ground, and several more wounded. As this was supposed to be the advance of the British army, our front line was ordered to form and move on briskly in line, the legion and State troops to take their position upon the flanks. All the country is covered with timber, from the place the action began to Eutaw Springs. The firing began again between two and three miles from the British camp. The militia were ordered to keep advancing as they fired. The enemy's advanced parties were soon driven in, and a most tremendous fire began on both sides from right to left, and the legion and State troops were closely engaged. General Marion, Colonel Malmady, and General Pickens conducted the troops with great gallantry and good conduct; and the militia fought with a degree of spirit and firmness that reflects the highest honour upon that class of soldiers. But the enemy's fire being greatly superior to ours, and continuing to advance, the militia began to give ground. The North Carolina brigade, under General Sumner, was ordered up to their support. These were all new levies, and had been under discipline but little more than a month, notwithstanding which they fought with a degree of obstinacy that would do honour to the best of veterans, and I could hardly tell which to admire most, the gallantry of the officers or the bravery of the troops. They kept up a heavy and well directed fire, and the enemy returned it with equal spirit, for they really fought worthy of a better cause, and great execution was done on both sides. In this stage of the action, the Virginians under Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, and the Marylanders under Colonel Williams, were led on to a brisk charge, with trailed arms, through a heavy cannonade and a shower of musket balls. Nothing could exceed the gallantry and firmness of both officers and soldiers upon this occasion. They preserved their order, and pressed on with such unshaken resolution that they bore all before them. The enemy was routed in all quarters. Lieutenant-Colonel Lee had, with great address, gallantry, and good conduct, turned the enemy's left flank, and was charging them in rear at the same time the Virginia and Maryland troops were charging them in front. A most valuable officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Hampton, who commanded the State cavalry, and who fortunately succeeded Lieutenant-Colonel Henderson in command, charged a party of the enemy, and took upwards of one hundred prisoners. 

Lieutenant-Colonel Washington brought up the corps of reserve upon the left, where the enemy seemed disposed to make further resistance, and charged them so briskly with the cavalry and Captain Kirkwood's infantry as gave them no time to rally or form. Lieutenant-Colonels Polk and Middleton, who commanded the State infantry, were no less conspicuous for their good conduct than their intrepidity; and the troops under their command gave a specimen of what may be expected from men, naturally brave, when improved by proper discipline. Captain-Lieutenant Gaines, who commanded the three-pounders with the front line, did great execution until his pieces were dismounted. We kept close at the enemy's heels after they broke, until we got into their camp, and a great number of prisoners were continually falling into our hands, and some hundreds of the fugitives ran off toward Charleston. But a party threw themselves into a large three-story brick house, which stands near the spring; others took post in a picqueted garden, while others were lodged in an impenetrable thicket, consisting of a cragged shrub called a blackjack. Thus secured in front, and upon the right by the house and a deep ravine, upon the left by the picqueted garden and in the impenetrable shrubs, and the rear also being secured by the springs and deep hollow ways, the enemy renewed the action. Every exertion was made to dislodge them. Lieutenant-Colonel Washington made most astonishing efforts to get through the thicket to charge the enemy in the rear, but found it impracticable, had his horse shot under him, and was wounded and taken prisoner. 

Four six-pounders were ordered up before the house—two of our own and two of the enemy's, which they had abandoned—and they were pushed on so much under the command of the fire from the house and the party in the thicket as rendered it impracticable to bring them off again when the troops were ordered to retire. Never were pieces better served; most of the men and officers were either killed or wounded. Washington failing in his charge upon the left, and the legion baffled in an attempt upon the right, and finding our infantry galled by the fire of the enemy, and our ammunition mostly consumed, though both officers and men continued to exhibit uncommon acts of heroism, I thought proper to retire out of the fire of the house, and draw up the troops at a little distance in the woods, not thinking it advisable to push our advantages further, being persuaded the enemy could not hold the post many hours, and that our chance to attack them on the retreat was better than a second attempt to dislodge them, in which, if we succeeded, it must be attended with considerable loss.

We collected all our wounded, except such as were under the command of the fire of the house, and retired to the ground from which we marched in the morning, there being no water nearer, and the troops ready to faint with the heat and want of refreshment, the action having continued near four hours. I left on the field of action a strong picquet, and early in the morning detached General Marion and Lieutenant-Colonel Lee, with the legion of horse between Eutaw and Charleston, to prevent any reinforcements from coming to the relief of the enemy; and also to retard their march, should they attempt to retire, and give time to the army to fall upon their rear and put a finishing stroke to our success. We left two pieces of our artillery in the hands of the enemy, and brought off one of theirs. On the evening of the 9th the enemy retired, leaving upward of seventy of their wounded behind them, and not less than one thousand stand of arms that were picked up on the field, and found broke and concealed in the Eutaw Springs. They stove between twenty and thirty puncheons of rum, and destroyed a great variety of other stores, which they had not carriages to carry off. We pursued them the moment we got intelligence of their retiring; but they formed a junction with Major McArthur at this place, General Marion and Lieutenant-Colonel Lee not having a force sufficient to prevent it; but on our approach they retired to the neighbourhood of Charleston. We have taken five hundred prisoners, including the wounded the enemy left behind; and I think they cannot have suffered less than six hundred more in killed and wounded. The fugitives that fled from the field of battle spread such an alarm that the enemy burnt their stores at Dorchester, and abandoned their post at Fair Lawn; and a great number of Negroes and others were employed in felling trees across the roads for some miles without the gates at Charleston. Nothing but the brick house, and the peculiar strength of the position at Eutaw, saved the remains of the British army from being all made prisoners.

We pursued them as far as this place; but not being able to overtake them, we shall halt a day or two to refresh, and then take our old position on the high hills of Santee. I think myself principally indebted for the victory we obtained to the free use of the bayonet, made by the Virginians and Marylanders, the infantry of the legion, and Captain Kirkwood's light infantry, and though few armies ever exhibited equal bravery with ours in general, yet the conduct and intrepidity of these corps were peculiarly conspicuous. Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell fell as he was leading his troops to the charge, and though he fell with distinguished marks of honor, yet his loss is much to be regretted; he was the great soldier and the firm patriot.

Our loss in officers is considerable, more from their value than their number; for never did men or officers offer their blood more willingly in the service of their country. I cannot help acknowledging my obligations to Colonel Williams for his great activity on this and many other occasions in forming the army, and for his uncommon intrepidity in leading on the Maryland troops to the charge, which exceeded anything I ever saw. I also feel myself greatly indebted to Captains Pierce and Pendleton, Major Hyrne and Captain Shubrick, my aids-de-camp, for their activity and good conduct throughout the whole of the action.

This despatch will be handed to Your Excellency by Captain Pierce, to whom I beg leave to refer you for further particulars.

I have the honour to be, &c.,
Nath. Greene.


Meanwhile, by the time Washington reached Head of Elk, Maryland he knew of Admiral de Grasse's arrival in Chesapeake Bay. Washington now rode ahead with General Rochambeau and their officers for Mount Vernon, which he had not seen in six years. Arriving home on September 9th Washington and his entourage remained there for five days planning the siege on Yorktown.

On the 13th Count de Grasse wrote to the Hon. the Chevalier de la Luzerne, Minister Plenipotentiary of France.

Nothing gave me greater pleasure than the approach of the armies under General Washington and the Count de Rochambeau. In order to hasten their arrival I had selected our seven vessels that drew the least water to transport them from the Mouth of Elk down Chesapeake Bay. But the moment they were ready to sail to execute this service, I was myself obliged to make preparations for repelling the enemy fleet, which appeared off the entrance of the Bay. I have fought them, and their van has been very roughly handled. I returned to the bay on the 10th. In the meantime Count de Barras had arrived, and sent up the transports he had with him to bring down the troops, which induced me not to send up the seven vessels above mentioned; and I had only to add to those sent by Count de Barras as many frigates as I could. My putting to sea facilitated the entrance of M. de Barras, and our junction has added much to our strength. - I fell in with two of the enemy frigates, the Iris and the Richmond, of 32 guns each. They had been sent by the English Admiral to cut away the buoys of our anchors - They have paid dear for them."

Advices from South Carolina inform, that Major General Leslie (who some time since left Virginia in the Carrysfort frigate, and arrived in Wilmington, in North Carolina, from whence he departed in the Blonde frigate, to take the command of the British forces in South Carolina) was lost at sea, the frigate having foundered in a storm, and every soul on board perished.

On the 6th of August last, the noted horse thief and British Colonel McGirsh crossed the Savannah river opposite Turkey Hill, in South Carolina, with 370 men, all mount­ed, with an intent to surprise a Captain Vince, who had with him 22 men, 17 of whom were armed; with which 17 the gallant Vince made a charge on the noted Colonel and his banditti, who were immediately put to the route, with the loss of all their bag­gage, most of their horses and some prisoners taken. The Colonel made his escape by swimming the Savannah River, where several of his party were drowned. The fore­going intelligence may be depended on, as the gentleman who gives it was near the scene of action, and is now in this city.

We hear, by private accounts from New York, that Benedict Arnold is universally con­demned by all ranks of people, for his rash and unnecessary attack upon for Griswold, near New London, by which means the British army has lost a number of valuable officers and soldiers, without contributing, by their lives, anything towards the reduc­tion of America.

Advice is received from New York, that the enemy have dismantled three forts on the East River, and sent the heavy cannon on board their shipping. Above three thousand troops are encamped on Staten Island.

Admiral Digby is most assuredly arrived off the Hook, with one ship of 90 guns, and two of 74. The reports (from them) say, he left England with six ships of the line, six frigates, and one hundred transports for America; but some advices, the Admiral received at sea, made it necessary for him to come on with three ships, leaving the transports under cover of three ships of the line and six frigates.

On September the 15th Thomas McKean sent this urgent dispatch to George Washington:

The following intelligence, tho' not derived thro' any official or authentic channel, appears to be of sufficient consequence to be communicated to you without delay. I have just now received intelligence that a Brig arrived at New-York on Monday last from England, with Dispatches for Admiral Digby; she sailed nine days after the Admiral. On Tuesday two Frigates came up, who announced the arrival of Admiral Digby on the coast (the number of Men of war not known) with a Fleet consisting of upwards of an hundred Sail, having Troops on Board, the amount not mentioned: these Frigates returned for the Admiral in a few hours. Two dispatch Vessels had arrived from Cornwallis after the appearance of the french Fleet in Chesapeake-Between thiry & forty large Transports lay at New-York on Tuesday ready to sail, and more were getting ready-Sir Henry Clinton is said to be going with them. Their desti­nation unknown but conjectured to be either for Virginia or Delaware Bay. From forty to sixty Negroes are sent on Board these vessels, who are said to belong to persons in Virginia, and are to be returned to their respective Masters by the advice of Lord Cornwallis.

On Sunday Arnold returned to New-York from an Expedition to New-London in Connecticut, leaving his Troops on Board the Transports in Huntington Bay. He has  destroyed all the Stores & Shipping at that place, except six vessels that escaped by favor of the wind. The two fortifications there were taken by Assault, and all put to the sword, except eleven men who had hid themselves. After plundering New-London he burnt it, leaving only three or four houses standing. It is said he is going on another Expedition immediately.

The Minister of France will communicate this intelligence to Count de Grasse. An anx­iety to be serviceable induces me to give you this information, tho' the evidence of the truth of it is not quite satisfactory, as I have not a line respecting any part of it from any person officially, not even of the destruction of New-London. General Heath indeed, in a Postcript to his letter of the 5th instant, mentions, that 26 large Ships were seen sailing up the Sound opposite to Stamford on the Sunday preceding, but he had learned nothing more of them.

By the english papers, as well as Rivington's Gazette, Digby's Fleet is said to consist of ten Ships of the line; therefore I do not think they can exceed that number, tho' they may be less. There are three thousand Militia to be forthwith embodyed in this State, and the like number in New Jersey. The requisition of Congress has been already received by the respective governors, and orders are gone out in consequence. Never had we occasion for more wisdom, vigilance and activity. I pray God to preserve your health, and to guide, direct and protect us all in this hour of trial; and am, Sir, with unfeigned respect & esteem, Your Excellency's Most obedient & most humble Servant, Thos M:Kean

With the September 15th news that de Grasse had returned and de Barras had been able to get out of Newport and reach Chesapeake without encountering the British fleet Washington was well on his way to successful campaign against Cornwallis.

President McKean alerted William Heath September 19, 1781:

By the advice of Congress I am to inform you that I have just now got private infor­mation, that on Sunday last an embarkation of about five thousand Troops had actu­ally taken place at New York, on board of eighty or ninety transports which were then ready to sail. All the Troops from Long-Island, York-Island & Staten-Island are said to be on board, together with a great number of waggons, horses & light Artillery. Their destination is unknown but supposed to be for the Delaware.  You will be pleased, Sir, to take the necessary precautions upon this intelligence, and to be ready to afford your Assistance as occasion may require.

On that same day, the USCA, via Charles Thomson, issued the following order to Major General Arthur St. Clair:

 Ordered that Major General St. Clair cause the levies of the Pennsylvania line now in Pennsylvania to rendezvous at or near Philadelphia with all possible exposition.[xix]

Order Signed by Charles Thomson dated September 19, 1781

On September 21, 1781 McKean wrote to George Washington:

"Your Excellency will receive inclosed herewith the copy of an Act of Congress of the 18th instant, respecting retaliation for the repeated cruelties exercised and exercising upon the virtuous citizens of America by the Enemy, hitherto unexampled except by  themselves. This Act requires no comment; I wish it may have the desired effect. Last night I received a private account of the junction of the two Fleets under the Count de Barras and Count de Grasse, and that the Ruby of sixty four Guns and the Rainbow of forty four have been captured from the Enemy-I hope it is true. We have not yet heard that Admiral Digby is arrived, nor that Sir Henry Clinton has sailed: The latter I think will be puzzled with regard to his future operations. I do not believe Digby can have more than six Ships of the line, from my perceiving in the British newspapers, that Sir Robert Harland was offered the command in Chief on the American Station, and that he refused it, unless furnished with six additional Ships .of the line and four Frigates; as a junior Officer has obtained this command, he would scarce­ly be allowed a greater force.

Lord Cornwallis will, I doubt not, make a vigorous, nay a desperate resistance, not only for the sake of preserving his military character, but with a view to have some chance for relief, or at least to spin out the campaign as much as possible in his reduction, and thereby prevent anything more being done. The superiority of the French Fleet at present enables them to be very serviceable to us, and they appear disposed to do all they can.

It appearing probable to Congress that General Clinton may make some attempt on this city, they have adopted the most likely measures to defeat his design, by calling on the States of Delaware, Pennsylvania, & New-Jersey for a large body of Militia, and have likewise thought it advisable to detain General St. Clair and the recruits of the Pennsylvania line now in the State, for a few days in the neighborhood of this city. It is certain that the Spaniards have blockaded & invested Minorca; I wish it had been Jamaica. By late accounts from France it appears, that the negotiation for a general peace will probably take place the ensuing winter but not before ….

P.S. I have just now got certain information of the arrival of Admiral Graves within Sandy Hook yesterday; the Terrible of 74 Guns having sunk at Sea, and five more dis­abled by Count de Grasse.[xx]

Also on the 21st of September President Thomas McKean went on with the political business necessary to govern and notified Michael Hillegas:

Inclosed herewith I have the pleasure to transmit you two Acts of Congress, one of the 11th, the other of the l9th instant, whereby you will perceive you are again elect­ed Treasurer of the United States of America. You were chosen by a unanimous ballot, which is the fullest approbation of your past conduct. I wish you satisfaction in the appointment & all manner of happiness.

In a rather strange twist of fate, it is the Department of the United States Treasury website that recognizes Michael Hillegas as the first Treasurer of the United States of America while the White House website makes no mention of the Presidency of McKean or his predecessors and successors who served from 1774 to 1788.

By the time Treasurer Hillegas received McKean’s letter, Washington, Rochambeau, and de Grasse, had already met on the Ville de Paris at Hampton Roads. On September 28, their combined forces are arranged for battle against British General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown. In all, there were approximately 17,000 men converging on Cornwallis' position. 

On that same day the USCA passed the resolution stating “Resolved, That it be and hereby is recommended to the several States of which the General Officers of the Army are inhabitants to settle with them for the depreciation of their pay on the principles adopted in Settlements with the Officers of their respective Lines.  Extract from the minutes…”.

The following day President McKean,began to write letters transmitting to resolution Army officers as evidenced by this letter  to New Hampshire Brigadier General John Stark: 
On the 12th instant your favor of the 1st came to hand, and was the same day read in Congress and referred to a Committee on whose report the Act of Congress of the 28th, a copy of which you have enclosed, was passed.  The State of New Hampshire is to settle with you for the depreciation of your pay, on the principles adopted in settlements with the Officers of the line; for which purpose a recommendation of Congress to that State has been transmitted to President Weare.
I am with much respect your most obedient and humble servant,
Thomas McKean, President



By October the 14th, the small hamlet was soon surrounded and under heavy fire.

Copyright © 2004 & 2008 President Who? Forgotten Founders
Michael Hillegas as the first Treasurer of the United States of America 

19th Century Revolutionary War historian David Ramsay, who would later serves as Chairman of the USCA, wrote of this march through Virginia to Yorktown:

In the course of this summer they passed through all the extensive settlements which lie between Newport and York-Town. It seldom, if ever happened before, that an army led through a foreign country, at so great a distance from their own, among a people of different principles, customs, language, and religion, behaved with so much regu­larity. In their march to York-Town they had to pass through 500 miles of a country abounding in fruit, and at a time when the most delicious productions of nature, grow­ing on and near the public highways, presented both opportunity and temptation to gratify their appetites. Yet so complete was their discipline, that in this long march, scarce an instance could be produced of a peach or an apple being taken, without the consent of the inhabitants.

By great fortune the private letters of British General Clinton were captured. Elias Boudinot recounts the good fortune in the following extract from his wartime reminiscences:

Before the capture & at the first preparation for the seige before Count de Grasse arrived- General Clinton sent a row Boat well manned with a Confidential Officer along the coast, to get into Yorktown with a Letter to Lord Cornwallis, setting forth his situ­ation and the impossibility of his relieving him with a fleet till a certain day and encouraging him to holdout till that period. The boat was driven on shore somewhere near Egg Harbor [New Jersey] & the Crew taken & brought to Philadelphia. One of the men dis­covered in private, where they were bound & that the Confidential Letter had been hidden under a certain large Stone on the Shore by the Officers. A person was sent to the Place & brought it to Congress. It was in Cipher and after some trouble it was discovered to be in three different Cyphers. However it was deciphered by a Mr. Lovell, a Member of Congress from Boston, after about two days' labor. The original letter was carefully returned to the Stone or some means used so that it finally got to Lord Cornwallis, but not before Count de Grasse' arrival and having the copy fairly trans­lated. By this means W. was enabled to counteract all their intended measures.

On 14th President McKean communicated the following letter to the Comte de Grasse:

I had the honor to write to your Excellency yesterday, and now can confirm more than the intelligence then communicated. Enclosed herewith you will receive copies of two original letters in Cyphers now in my possession, which have been faithfully decyphered, from Sir Henry Clinton to Lord Cornwallis, respecting the designs of the Enemy. This information has been forwarded to his Excellency General Washington. The British General & Admiral seem to be desperate, and willing to risque all on the intended attempt. If they fail it appears to me that they are disposed to give up the contest for North America.

I pray God to direct your Counsels, and protect you in the hour of battle
P.S. The British Admiral has now 26, if not 29 ships of the line. He had not sailed on Thursday the 11th instant, by the best information I can get.

To George Washington on the 14th the President wrote:

My two last letters must, I know from your opinion of my character, have spread the wings of your expectation. My intelligence was true; the inclosed copies of two original letters from Sir Henry Clinton to Lord Cornwallis, which I have in cyphers, and which have been faithfully decyphered by Mr Lovell (whose key I had the honor to forward to you about a fortnight ago) more than prove the fact. I shall make no comment on the letters of Sir Henry, lest I should wade beyond my depth, but I rest assured you will excuse what I think it a duty to add. From comparing all my secret informations together, I firmly believe the British Admiral has now twenty nine ships of the line, and a very respectable number of Frigates; which, with ten fire-Ships, have probably sailed yesterday for the Chesapeake, having on board between five & six thousand Land forces. As to the three additional ships, they are supposed to have come from the West Indies, and are said to have arrived the beginning of last week. Sir Henry expected to be ready to sail on the 5th instant, I am greatly deceived if he sailed before Friday, for I have had faithful Friends to myself, as well as to the cause, who left the Sea-coast yesterday, some distance, 'tis true, from the Hook to the Southward, who know noth­ing of it; and if he had sailed before Friday, I believe they would have known it-These are the Gentlemen who brought me Sir Henry's dispatches. Among the letters (all being carefully enclosed in lead) I have found some, that will enable me to prevent some men of Sussex County in the State I have the honor to represent, from doing us much mischief, and perhaps they may enable me to make further discoveries: they have little relation to your immediate concerns, and therefore I shall not trouble you with the contents, except that intelligence is intended to be conveyed to & from Lord Cornwallis by way of the Tanjier Islands in the Chesapeake near the Eastern shore. I never heard of them before, and not having time to satisfy myself where they lie, must refer it to your enquiry.

It is far from my thoughts to intermeddle in the operations of the campaign, but I know you will pardon me for suggesting to Major General Heath, that after Sir Henry Clinton sails, it is my opinion there will not be above Four thousand land forces left in New-York and it's environs, of whom there cannot be above a thousand regulars, and that therefore it may be adviseable for him to be in readiness to attack it, if he should be so directed by you. Should you, Sir, think this practicable, or adviseable, there will, in less than a fortnight after I shall have information of it, be five thousand militia to co-operate with him. The use that may be made of the three large smoaks, if you shall have succeeded against Lord Cornwallis, will readily suggest itself, to you, and if not, the knowledge of it may prove advantageous.

Ramsay writes, in 1789, of the Yorktown effort:

The combined forces proceeded on their way to Yorktown, partly by land, and partly down the Chesapeake. The whole, together with a body of Virginia militia, under the command of General Nelson, amounting in the aggregate to 12,000 men, ren­dezvoused at Williamsburg on the 25th of September, and in five days after, moved down to the investiture of Yorktown.  The French fleet at the same time moved to the mouth of York River, and took a position which was calculated to prevent lord Cornwallis, either from retreating, or receiving succour by water.

Previously to the march from Williamsburg to Yorktown, Washington gave out in general orders as fol­lows. 'If the enemy should be tempted to meet the army on its march, the General par­ticularly enjoins the troops to place their principal reliance on the bayonet that they may prove the vanity of the boast, which the British make of their peculiar prowess, in deciding battles with that weapon.'

The combined army halted in the evening, about two miles from Yorktown, and lay on their arms all night. On the next day Colonel Scammell, an officer of uncommon merit, and of the most amiable manners, in approaching the outer works of the British, was mortally wounded and taken prisoner. About this time Earl Cornwallis received a letter from Sir Henry Clinton, announcing the arrival of Admiral Digby with three ships of the line from Europe, and the determination of the General and flag officers in New-York to embark 5000 men in a fleet, which would probably sail on the 5th of October - that this fleet consisted of 23 sail of the line, and that joint exertions of the navy and army would be made for his relief. On the night after the receipt of this intelligence, Earl Cornwallis quitted his outward position, and retired to one more inward.

The works erected for the security of Yorktown on the right, were redoubts and bat­teries, with a line of stockade in the rear. A marshy ravine lay in front of the right, over which was placed a large redoubt. The morass extended along the center, which was defended by a line of stockade, and by batteries: On the left of the center was a horn-work with a ditch, a row of fraize and an abbatis. Two redoubts were advanced before the left. The combined forces advanced and took possession of the ground from which the British had retired. About this time the legion cavalry and mounted infantry, passed over the river to Gloucester, General de Choisy invested the British post on that side so fully, as to cut off all communication between it and the country.    

In the meantime the royal army was straining every nerve to strengthen their works and their artillery was constantly employed in impeding the operations of the combined army. On the 9th and 10th of October, the French and Americans opened their bat­teries. They kept up a brisk and well directed fire from heavy cannon, from mortars and howitzers. The shells of the besiegers reached the ships in the harbor, the Charon of 44 guns and a transport ship were burned. On the 10th a messenger arrived with a dispatch from Sir Henry Clinton to Earl Cornwallis, dated on the 30th of September, which stated various circumstances tending to lessen the probability of relief being obtained, by a direct movement from New-York. Earl Cornwallis was at this juncture advised to evacuate York-town, and after passing over to Gloucester, to force his way into the country. Whether this movement would have been successful, no one can with certainty pronounce, but it could not have produced any consequences more injurious to the royal interest, than those which resulted from declining the attempt. On the other hand had this movement been made, and the royal army been defeat­ed or captured in the interior country, and in the meantime had Sir Henry Clinton with the promised relief, reached Yorktown, the precipitancy of the noble Earl, would have been perhaps more the subject of censure, than his resolution of standing his ground and resisting to the last extremity. 

[OCT. 11]  From this uncertain ground of conjectures, I proceed to relate real events. The besiegers commenced their second parallel 200 yards from the works of the besieged. Two redoubts which were advanced on the left of the British, greatly impeded the progress of the combined armies. It was therefore proposed to carry them by storm. To excite a spirit of emulation, the reduc­tion of the one was committed to the French, of the other to the Americans. The assailants marched to the assault with unloaded arms; having passed the abbatis and palisades, they attacked on all sides, and carried the redoubt in a few minutes with the loss of 8 killed and 28 wounded, Lieutenant Colonel Laurens personally took the commanding officer prisoner.  His humanity and that of his associates, so overcame their resentments that they spared the British, though they were charged when they went to the assault, to remember New-London (the recent massacres at which place shall be hereafter related) and to retaliate by putting the men in the redoubt to the sword. Being asked why they had disobeyed orders by bringing them off as prisoners, they answered, "We could not put them to death, when they begged for their lives." About five of the British were killed and the rest were captured. Colonel Hamilton who conducted the enterprise, in his report to the Marquis de la Fayette mentioned to the honour of his detachment, "that incapable of imitating examples of barbarity, and forgetting recent provocations, they spared every man who ceased to resist."

The French were equally successful on their part. They carried the redoubt assigned to them with rapidity, but lost a considerable number of men. These two redoubts were included in the second parallel, and facilitated the subsequent operations of the besiegers. The British could not with propriety risqué repeated sallies.

[OCT. 16]  One was projected at this time consisting of 400 men, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Abercrombie. He proceeded so far as to force two redoubts, and to spike eleven pieces of cannon. Though the officers and soldiers displayed great bravery in this enterprise, yet their success produced no essential advantage. The cannon were soon unspiked and rendered fit for service.

By this time the batteries of the besiegers were covered with nearly a hundred pieces of heavy ordnance, and the works of the besieged were so damaged, that they could scarcely show a single gun. Lord Cornwallis had now no hope left but from offering terms of capitulation or attempting an escape."

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On the evening of October 16, Cornwallis ordered about 1,000 of his troops to attempt an escape across the York River but a sudden storm forced them to abort the retreat to Gloucester. The 17th brought more than 90 guns into the siege. Cornwallis could no longer hold out against such over­whelming odds for reinforcements from General Henry Clinton. Cornwallis finally offered a white flag and sought to negotiate a favorable surrender. The website of the Moore House where the negotiations took place which is now part of the Colonial National Park reports:

At 10 o'clock on the morning of October 17, 1781, a drummer beating a 'parley,' and a British officer with a flag of truce, mounted a parapet south of Yorktown. The allies saw the signal, and soon the incessant, devastating artillery fire ceased. A hushed still­ness fell over the field. Lord Cornwallis, realizing the defeat of his army was inevitable, sent a message to General George Washington: "Sir, I propose a cessation of hostilities for twenty-four hours, and that two officers may be appointed by each side, to meet at Mr. Moore's house, to settle terms for the sur­render of the posts of York and Gloucester."

Why Cornwallis selected the Moore House for the negotiations was not explained, however, there are a number of possibilities. The Moore House was well outside the line of siege fire, and therefore, not damaged. It was a neutral location, hiding the British situation in town, and possibly selected in the hope of securing better surren­der terms. And finally, it was a convenient location for both sides to reach, as it was situated along the York River.

Washington agreed to only a two hour cease fire for Cornwallis to submit general terms of surrender. Messages continued to pass over the battlefield between the two commanders.

Finally, on the afternoon of October 18, the two British commissioners, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dundas and Major Alexander Ross met in 'Mr. Moore's house' with the allied officers, Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, for the Americans, and Second Colonel Viscount de Noailles (Marquis de Lafayette's brother-in-law), representing the French.
The negotiations ended before midnight, and Laurens carried a rough draft of the articles to General Washington. Washington, however, was not completely happy with the results and made a few minor changes. Once the articles were revised and redraft­ed, a copy was sent to Cornwallis in Yorktown for his signature.

The Articles of Capitulation were terms for the surrender of Cornwallis's British army. The 14 articles directed the surrender from the disposition of the troops, artillery, and arms, to even the surrender ceremony itself.

The articles directed where the troops, now prisoners of war, were to be sent. The sol­diers were marched off to camps in Frederick, Maryland, and Winchester, Virginia. One field officer for every 50 men was allowed to reside near their respective regiments to witness their treatment and deliver clothing and other necessaries to the soldiers at the camps. All other officers were paroled and allowed to go to Europe, New York, or any other American post then in possession of the British forces; on the condition they would no longer fight until properly exchanged.

Another article provided for the care of the sick and wounded prisoners. Proper hos­pitals would be furnished, with patients attended by their surgeons on parole. Medicine and supplies were to be provided by the American hospitals, the British stores in both York and Gloucester, and passports would be issued to procure further supplies from New York if necessary.

The third article referred to the surrender ceremony and contained the provision that deprived the British of the honors war. Customary honors allowed the surrendering troops to march out of their works with their regimental flags flying and playing an enemy's tune in honor of the victor. George Washington was not going to allow these honors, instead he stated, 'The same honors will be granted to the surrendering army as granted to the garrison of Charlestown'. In May, 1780, an American army was cap­tured at Charleston, South Carolina and not given the honors of war, therefore, in retaliation, the British would not be granted them at Yorktown. The troops, the article read, were to '...march out...with shouldered arms, colors cased, and drums beating a British or German march. They are then to ground their arms and return to their encampment, where they will remain until they are dispatched to the places of their destination...'

By the afternoon of October 19th, 1781, both commanders had signed the Articles of Capitulation, and the defeated British army was marching out from Yorktown to lay down their arms, ending the last major battle of the American Revolution.

After the surrender, Washington dispatched aide Colonel Tilghman to Philadelphia carrying the news of the surrender of Cornwallis.  It was near midnight when he entered the city October 23, 1781.   


Original handwritten Journal of the United States in Congress Assembled for Tuesday, October 23rd, 1781, recording President Thomas McKean's resignation of the USCA Presidency.


Earlier that day, President McKean had addressed a letter to USCA Secretary Charles Thomson resigning the presidency stating:

Sir: I must beg you to remind Congress, that when they did me the honor of electing me President, and before I assumed the Chair, I informed them, that as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, I should be under the necessity of attending the Supreme Court of that State, the latter end of September, or at farthest in October. That court will be held to-day; I must therefore request, that they will be pleased to proceed to the choice of another President.

The USCA accepted the resignation on that day but postponed the election of president until the next day. 

Tilghman, in his excitement, arrived at McKean’s house just past midnight and knocked   so vehemently that a watchman was disposed to arrest him for disturbing the peace. McKean arose, and presently the glad tidings were made known.  The City watchman, an old German named Hurry, called the midnight hour proclaiming in a loud sonorous voice, “Basht dree o'clock and Gornwallis isht daken.”   


Later that morning, the USCA assembled amidst the happy tidings of Cornwallis’ surrender.  On motion by John Witherspoon and seconded by Joseph Montgomery, the USCA unanimously resolved “that Thomas McKean be requested to resume the chair, and act as President till the first Monday in November next; the resolution of yesterday notwithstanding.”[xxi]  To this the President acceded.

The October 19th letter from General Washington was the read to the USCA giving information of the reduction of the British army under the command of the Earl of Cornwallis, on the 19th instant with a copy of the articles of capitulation. A motion by Edmund Randolph followed and the USCA resolved:


That Congress will, at two o'clock this day, go in procession to the Dutch Lutheran church, and return thanks to Almighty God, for crowning the allied arms of the United States and France, with success, by the surrender of the whole British army under the command of the Earl of Cornwallis.[xxii]


Original handwritten Journal of the United States in Congress Assembled for Wednesday, October 24th, 1781, recording the resolutions enacted by Congress after being informed that Earl Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown.


On October 26, 1781, the USCA issued a Proclamation, drafted in part by the President, to the citizens of the United States:


Whereas, it hath pleased Almighty God, the supreme Disposer of all Events father of mercies, remarkably to assist and support the United States of America in their important struggle for liberty, against the long continued efforts of a powerful nation: it is the duty of all ranks to observe and thankfully acknowledge the interpositions of his Providence in their behalf. Through the whole of the contest, from its first rise to this time, the influence of divine Providence may be clearly perceived in many signal instances, of which we mention but a few.

In revealing the councils of our enemies, when the discoveries were seasonable and impor­tant, and the means seemingly inadequate or fortuitous; in preserving and even improving the union of the several states, on the breach of which our enemies placed their greatest dependence; in increasing the number, and adding to the zeal and attachment of the friends of Liberty; in granting remarkable deliverances, and blessing us with the most signal success, when affairs seemed to have the most discouraging appearance; in raising up for us a powerful and generous ally, in one of the first of the European powers; in confounding the councils of our enemies, and suffering them to pursue such measures as have most directly contributed to frustrate their own desires and expectations; above all, in making their extreme cruelty of their officers and soldiers to the inhabitants of these states, when in their power, and their savage devastation of property, the very means of cementing our union, and adding vigor to every effort in opposition to them. And as we cannot help leading the good people of these states to a retrospect on the events which have taken place since the beginning of the war, so we beg recommend in a particular manner that they may observe and acknowledge to their observation, the good­ness of God in the year now drawing to a conclusion: in which A mutiny in the American Army was not only happily appeased but became in its issue a pleasing and undeniable proof of the unalterable attachment of the people in general to the cause of liberty since great and real grievances only made them tumultuously seek redress while the abhorred the thoughts of going over to the enemy, in which the Confederation of the United States has been completed by the accession of all without exception in which there have been so many instances of prowess and success in our armies; particularly in the southern states, where, notwithstanding the difficulties with which they had to struggle, they have recovered the whole country which the enemy had overrun, leaving them only a post or two upon on or near the sea: in which we have been so pow­erfully and effectually assisted by our allies, while in all the conjunct operations the most perfect union and harmony has subsisted in the allied army: in which there has been so plentiful a harvest, and so great abundance of the fruits of the earth of every kind, as not only enables us easily to supply the wants of the army, but gives comfort and happiness to the whole people: and in which, after the success of our allies by sea, a General of the first Rank, with his whole army, has been captured by the allied forces under the direction of our illustrious Commander in Chief.

It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart the 13th day of December next, to be religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer; that all the people may assemble on that day, with grateful hearts, to celebrate the praises of our gracious Benefactor; to confess our manifold sins; to offer up our most fervent supplications to the God of all grace, that it may please Him to pardon our offences, and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws; to comfort and relieve all our brethren who are in distress or captivity; to prosper our husbandmen, and give success to all engaged in lawful com­merce; to impart wisdom and integrity to our counsellors, judgment and fortitude to our offi­cers and soldiers; to protect and prosper our illustrious ally, and favor our united exertions for the speedy establishment of a safe, honorable and lasting peace; to bless all seminaries of learning; and cause the knowledge of God to cover the earth, as the waters cover the seas.  By Order of the United States in Congress Assembled  Thomas McKean, President"  [xxiii]


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Thanksgiving Proclamation dated October 26, 1781 as printed in the Journals of the United States, in Congress Assembled, 1781 – 1782, published by Order Of Congress, Volume VII. New York: Printed by John Patterson. 1787 United States in Congressed Assembled under the leadership and partial authorship of President McKean issued a Proclamation after the Battle of Yorktown. – Stanley L. Klos Collection

During this celebratory period, Congress did not forget the good work of Nathanel Greene and enacted the following resolutions:


Resolutions of Congress Voting a Medal to General Greene, etc.
By the United States in Congress Assembled.

Resolved, That the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled, be presented to Major-General Greene for his wise, decisive, and magnanimous conduct in the action of the 8th of September last, near the Eutaw Springs, in South Carolina, in which, with a force inferior in number to that of the enemy, he obtained a most signal victory.

That the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled, be presented to the officers and men of the Maryland and Virginia brigades, and Delaware battalion of continental troops, for the unparalleled bravery and heroism by them displayed, in advancing to the enemy through an incessant fire, and charging them with an impetuosity and ardour that could not be resisted.

That the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled, be presented to the officers and men of the legionary corps and artillery, for their intrepid and gallant exertions during the action.

That the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled, be presented to the brigade of North Carolina for their resolution and perseverance in attacking the enemy, and sustaining a superior fire.

That the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled, be presented to the officers and men of the state corps of South Carolina, for the zeal, activity, and firmness by them exhibited throughout the engagement.

That the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled, be presented to the officers and men of the militia, who formed the front line in the order of battle, and sustained their post with honour, propriety, and resolution, worthy of men determined to be free.

Resolved, That a British standard be presented to Major-General Greene as an honourable testimony of his merit, and a golden medal emblematical of the battle and victory aforesaid.

That Major-General Greene be desired to present the thanks of Congress to Captains Pierce and Pendleton, Major Hyrne and Captain Shubrick, his aids-de-camp in testimony of their particular activity and good conduct during the whole of the action.
That a sword be presented to Captain Pierce, who bore the general's despatches giving an account of the victory, and that the Board of War take order herein.

Resolved, That the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled, be presented to Brigadier-General Marion, of the South Carolina militia, for his wise, gallant, and decided conduct in defending the liberties of his country; and particularly for his prudent and intrepid attack on a body of the British troops, on the 30th day of August last, and for the distinguished part he took in the battle of the 8th of September.
Monday, October 29, 1781.


MAJOR-GENERAL NATHANIEL GREENE GOLD MEDAL, Victory of Eutaw Springs,NATHANIELI GREEN (sic) EGREGIO DUCI COMITIA AMERICANA. (The American Congress to Nathaniel Greene, a distinguished general.) Bust of General Greene, in uniform, facing the left. SALUS REGIONUM AUSTRALIUM. (The safety of the southern regions.) A winged Victory holds a crown of laurel in her right hand, and a palm branch in her left; one foot is resting on a trophy of arms and flags of conquered enemies. Exergue: HOSTIBUS AD EUTAW DEBELLATIS DIE VIII SEPT (Septembris) MDCCLXXXI. (The enemy vanquished at Eutaw on the 8th of September, 1781) DUPRÉ. Obverse.
The legend of the reverse of this medal, as originally proposed by the French Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres was, SALUS PROVINCIARUM AUSTRALIUM. Nathaniel Greene was born at Potowhommet, Warwick County, Rhode Island, May 27, 1742. He began life as a blacksmith, but entered the "Kentish Guards" as a private in 1774. He was made brigadier-general of the Rhode Island contingent to the army before Boston, in May, 1775, and a brigadier-general in the Continental Army, June 22, 1775, and remained in active service throughout the war. In 1776 he commanded in Long Island as a major-general; and fought at Trenton, Princeton, the Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Newport, and Springfield. He was quartermaster-general from March 2, 1778, to August, 1780; and was commander of the army, in September, when Arnold's treason was discovered. The same year he was appointed commander-in-chief of the southern department, retook the two Carolinas and Georgia, and won the battle of Eutaw Springs, September 8, 1781, for which victory Congress gave him a vote of thanks and a gold medal. After the war he removed to a plantation, which the State of Georgia had given him, on the Savannah river, and died there of a sunstroke, June 19, 1786.
On October 29th Congress passed the following resolutions to commemorate the victory at Yorktown:


Resolutions of Congress Voting Thanks, etc., for the Taking of Yorktown
By the United States in Congress Assembled:

Resolved, That the thanks of the United States, in Congress assembled, be presented to His Excellency General Washington, for the eminent services which he has rendered to the United States, and particularly for the well concerted plan against the British garrisons in York and Gloucester; for the vigour, attention, and military skill with which that plan was executed, and for the wisdom and prudence manifested in the capitulation.

That the thanks of the United States, in Congress assembled, be presented to His Excellency the Count de Rochambeau, for the cordiality, zeal, judgment, and fortitude, with which he seconded and advanced the progress of the allied army against the British garrison in York.

That the thanks of the United States, in Congress assembled, be presented to His Excellency Count de Grasse, for his display of skill and bravery in attacking and defeating the British fleet off the Bay of Chesapeake, and for his zeal and alacrity in rendering, with the fleet under his command, the most effectual and distinguished aid and support to the operations of the allied army in Virginia.

That the thanks of the United States, in Congress assembled, be presented to the commanding and other officers of the corps of artillery and engineers of the allied army, who sustained extraordinary fatigue and danger in their animated and gallant approaches to the lines of the enemy.

That General Washington be directed to communicate to the other officers and soldiers under his command the thanks of the United States, in Congress assembled, for their conduct and valour on this occasion:

Resolved, That the United States, in Congress assembled, will cause to be erected, at York, in Virginia, a marble column, adorned with emblems of the alliance between the United States and His Most Christian Majesty, and inscribed with a succinct narrative of the surrender of Earl Cornwallis to His Excellency General Washington, commander-in-chief of the combined forces of America and France, to His Excellency the Count de Rochambeau, commanding the auxiliary troops of His Most Christian Majesty in America, and to His Excellency the Count de Grasse, commanding-in-chief the naval army of France in Chesapeake.

Resolved, That two stands of colours taken from the British army under the capitulation of York, be presented to His Excellency General Washington, in the name of the United States in Congress assembled.

Resolved, That two pieces of the field ordnance, taken from the British army under the capitulation of York, be presented by the commander-in-chief of the American army to Count de Rochambeau; and that there be engraved thereon a short memorandum, that Congress were induced to present them from considerations of the illustrious part which he bore in effectuating the surrender.

Resolved, That the Secretary of Foreign Affairs be directed to request the Minister Plenipotentiary of His Most Christian Majesty, to inform his Majesty that it is the wish of Congress that Count de Grasse may be permitted to accept a testimony of their approbation, similar to that to be presented to Count de Rochambeau.

Resolved, That the Board of War be directed to present to Lieutenant-Colonel Tilghman, in the name of the United States in Congress assembled, a horse properly caparisoned, and an elegant sword, in testimony of their high opinion of his merit and ability.


Monday, October 29, 1781.


On October the 31st Thomas McKean wrote to George Washington:

It affords me ineffable pleasure to present to your Excellency the Thanks of the United States in Congress assembled, for the distinguished services you have rendered to your Country, and particularly for the'conquest of Lord Cornwallis and the British Garrisons of York and Gloucester, and the wisdom and prudence manifested in the Capitulation. You have herewith inclosed a copy of the Act of Congress passed on this occasion upon the 29th instant, which fully expresses the sentiments with which they are impressed by this glorious event. Words fail me when I attempt to bestow my small tribute of thanks and praise to a Character so eminent for wisdom, courage and patriotism, & one who appears to be no less the Favorite of Heaven than of his Country; I shall only therefore beg you to be assured, that you are held in the most grateful remembrance; and with a peculiar veneration, by all the wise and good in these United States.

That you may long possess this happiness; that you may be enabled speedily to annihilate the British power in America, which you have so effectually broken by this last capital blow; that you may be ever hailed The Deliverer of your Country and enjoy every blessing Heaven can bestow, is the sincere and ardent Prayer of one, who professes himself to be, with every sentiment of regard and all possible attachment, Sir, Your Excellency's Most obedient and devoted humble Servant,
Tho M:Kean, President

P.S. A proclamation recommending a day of thanksgiving & prayer is enclosed for your information"


 A circular  letter to Caesar Rodney from President McKean transmitting
 the Thanksgiving Proclamation to each of the states.


Also on the 31st President McKean drafted and sent this letter to the Comte de Grasse

The Thanks of the United States in Congress assembled is the highest honor that any of their citizens can receive for the most distinguished services. I feel myself pecu­liarly happy in being the instrument of conveying these Thanks to your Excellency in Obedience to their Act of the 29th instant, a copy of which I have the honor to inclose herewith.(1) Be pleased therefore to accept, what in the name of the United States of America in Congress assembled I most cheerfully give you, Their Thanks for the dis­play of your skill and bravery in attacking and defeating the British Fleet off the Bay of Chesapeake, and for your zeal and alacrity in rendering with the Fleet under your command the most effectual and distinguished aid & support to the operations of the allied Army in Virginia.

I will only add, Sir, that your name will be ever dear to the good people of these States as long as gratitude is a virtue. Your wisdom, your attachment to the essential inter­ests of this country, your effectual completion of the wishes of your Sovereign, and your whole conduct justly endear you to us, and intitle you to every mark of honor that we can possibly confer upon you. May you long retain the smiles and approbation of your Prince, and of all good men, and enjoy all the happiness this world can afford.

President Thomas McKean did not forget to honor the other commanding area generals writing these three letters in his final days as President of Congress, Chief Justice and President of the United States of America.  McKean wrote to Benjamin Lincoln:

 Sir, Philadelphia, October 31 st. 1781. Enclosed you will receive the copy of an Act of Congress of the 30th instant; by which you will observe that you are honored with a new mark of their confidence. You will likewise receive the copy of an Act of the 7th February last, respecting the Powers & duty of the Secretary at war. They are, you will readily conceive, great and important. But the reflection is pleasing that the abilities of the person elected are equal to the arduous Task. The copy of an Act of the 1st instant is also enclosed for your information. Give me leave to congratulate you on this occasion, and to request your speedy determination and answer.  I have the honor to be, with very great respect, sir, Your most obedient & most humble servant, Tho M:Kean President" [xxiv]

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President McKean letter to General Nathanael Greene

Thomas McKean to General Nathanael Greene:

 Sir Philadelphia, November 2d. 1781. I had the honor to receive your dispatches of the lst,2d, 3d, 5th & 11th Sept. By Captain Pierce and to lay them before Congress on the 18th last, being the day on which they came to hand. You will receive enclosed herewith the copy of an Act of Congress of the 29th last month respecting the Battle at the Eutaw Springs in South Carolina and also a Proclamation recommending the thirteenth day of December next to be observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer throughout the United States.

In obedience to the former I am happy in having another opportunity of testifying the high sense that Congress entertain of the services you have rendered your Country, particularly in the well fought Battle of the eighth day of September last.

I am to present to you, Sir, and do hereby most cheerfully present you the Thanks of the United States of America in Congress assembled for your wise, decisive and mag­nanimous conduct in the Action of the eighth of September last near the Eutaw Springs in South Carolina, in which with a force inferior in number to that of the Enemy you obtained a most signal victory.

Accept also my congratulations on the conquest of the Garrisons of York & Gloucester under the command of Lieutenant General Earl Cornwallis, who on the l9th of October last surrendered Prisoners of war to his Excellency the Commander in Chief of the Allied Army.  I am, Sir, with very great respect, Your most obedient, humble servant, Tho M:Kean President" [xxv]




Thomas McKean to William Heath:

"Sir, Philadelphia, November 3d. 1781. Enclosed herewith I have the honor to send you a Proclamation for a day of Thanksgiving and Prayer throughout the United States. I most heartily congratulate you on the conquest of Lord Cornwallis and the Garrisons of York & Gloucester under his command. The power of Britain in these States is now broken, I trust it will soon be annihilated. Our internal enemies are struck with horror and despair, and I flatter myself this event will appear so important in Europe as to induce the wavering Powers connected with us in the war speedily to acknowledge our Independence, and to incline our Enemies to listen to reasonable terms of peace. I take this oppor­tunity of acknowledging the receipt of your letters of the 9th, 16th, 24th, 27th and 30th of October, the two last of which came to hand last night. We have no accounts of either of the Fleets since they sailed, nor have we yet received the returns of the Prisoners &c taken with General Cornwallis. I am, Sir, with very great regard, Your most obedient humble servant, Tho M:Kean President"[xxvi]

The British prisoners were equal to about 25% of all the regular British Forces deployed in the 13 United States. This along with the active participation of the French raised fears in England of another war between Britain and France. Upon word of Cornwallis’ surrender to Washington reaching England, Lord North, the British Prime Minister, resigned.

The election of the new Delegates under the Articles of Confederation by the States finally relieved Thomas McKean of the USCA Presidency.  The transition from the McKean's to the Hanson's presidency was penned in the hand of Samuel Sterett, in John Hanson's presidential journal:

November 5th, 1781. This day the United States in Congress Assembled elected His Excellency John Hanson, Esquire, President; the honorable Thomas McKean, late President, having resigned on the 23d of October last, but acted by special request until the present time.


The Summary of McKean’s Presidency is as follows:

1781 - July 9 Elects Samuel Johnston president of Congress. July 10 Elects Thomas McKean President of Congress upon Samuel Johnston's declining the office; instructs Thomas Barclay, Vice-Consul to France. July 11 Authorizes Robert Morris to negotiate loans in Spain and Portugal. July 12 Revokes John Adams' commission to negotiate commercial treaty with Britain. July 16 Reinstates General Lachlan McIntosh. July 20 Receives report on claims to the New Hampshire Grants. July 23 Endorses creation of a relief fund for South Carolina and Georgia refugees. July 25 Commends General Nathanael Greene. July 26 Appoints committee to confer with General Washington on troop arrangements "for the ensuing year." July 27 Receives plan for a consular convention from the minister of France. July 31 Orders superintendent of finance and a member of the Board of War to headquarters to confer with General Washington; approves appropriation for the support of three Delaware Native American youths at the Princeton college.

August 1 Orders preparation of a plan to reform the Post Office. August 3 Reads New York memorial on the New Hampshire Grants. August 7 Requests Connecticut to revoke commissions authorizing the seizure of property on Long Island; authorizes committee to confer with Vermont agents on their claim to independence. August 10 Elects Robert R. Livingston secretary for foreign affairs; rejects motion to cede the United States claim to navigation of the Mississippi. August 14 Authorizes the importation of salt. August 16 Adopts instructions to John Adams for negotiating a Dutch alliance. August 17 Instructs committee to confer with Vermont agents despite credentials dispute. August 20-21 Declares Vermont acceptance of prescribed boundaries as a condition to acceptance of Vermont independence. August 21 Enlarges General Washington's prisoner exchange authority. August 23 Exhorts states to maintain their representation in Congress. August 24 Directs superintendent of finance "to make provision for support of the civil list." August 29 Debates motion to retaliate against the execution of Colonel Isaac Hayne; resolves to appoint an agent of marine to exercise the duties of a secretary of marine. August 31 Authorizes recog­nition of Philippe de L'Etombe as French Consul to the New England states.

September 3 Receives account of John Laurens' mission to France. September 4 Directs Washington to investigate British treatment of prisoners. September 5 Orders inquiry into General Robert Howe's southern command. September 7 Recognizes Philippe Letombe's appointment as French Consul to New England; appoints Robert Morris agent of marine. September 10 Recognizes Jean Holker's appointment as French Consul to Mid-Atlantic states; orders New Jersey and Pennsylvania militia call. September 11 Adopts new treasury ordinance. September 12 Places control of US navy under the agent of marine. September 13 Sets day of thanksgiving. September 18 Orders retaliation for execution of Isaac Hayne; plans retaliation for enemy mis­treatment of prisoners. September 19 Orders Delaware militia call; appoints treasury officers. September 20 Reorganizes hospital department. September 21 Receives French Minister's report on mediation offers and peace overtures. September 24 Appoints William Irvine to Fort Pitt command. September 25 Receives memorial from Spanish Agent Rendon; issues reassurance to northern Native Americans.
October 1 Sets salaries for secretaries of war and marine. October 5 Appoints Thomas Barclay Consul to France; discharges Delaware and Pennsylvania militia. October 11-12 Debates Yorktown campaign plans. October 16-17 Debates exercise of Continental jurisdiction over claims within Virginia's western lands. October 19 Reforms Post Office department. October 23 Accepts Thomas McKean's resignation as president (to remain until new Congress November 5). October 24 Receives news of Yorktown victory; observes "divine service (suitable to the occasion)" conducted by Chaplain George Duffield. October 26 Adopts thanksgiving proclamation; rejects Virginia motion to curtail committee investigation of land companies' western claims. October 29 Thanks American and French victors at Yorktown; thanks General Nathanael Greene and southern army. October 30 Appoints General Benjamin Lincoln Secretary at War; sets $8 million fiscal quota for 1782. 
November 1 Endorses General Greene's plans to treat with Cherokee and Chickasaw Native Americans. November 2 Apportions states' 1782 fiscal quotas; authorizes acceptance of quartermaster certificates in payment of quotas.

Copyright © 2004 & 2008 President Who? Forgotten Founders

President John Hanson's letter of thanks to 
former President McKean dated November 10, 1781

Copyright © 2004 & 2008 President Who? Forgotten Founders

On November 10, 1781, President John Hanson's wrote the following letter of thanks  to former President Thomas McKean:
It is always a pleasing task to pay a just tribute to distinguished Merit. Under this impression give me leave to assure you, that it is with inexpressible satisfaction that I present you the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled, in testimony of their approbation of your conduct in the Chair and in the execution of public busi­ness; a duty I am directed to perform by their Act of the 7th instant, a copy of which I have the honor of enclosing.

When I reflect upon the great abilities, the exemplary patience and unequalled skill and punctuality, which you so eminently displayed in executing the important duties of a President, it must unavoidably be productive of great apprehensions in the one who has the honor of being your Successor. But the Choice of Congress obliges me for a moment to be silent on the subject of my own inability: And altho' I cannot equal the bright example that is recently set me, yet it shall be my unremitting study to imi­tate it as far as possible; and in doing this the reflection is pleasing that I shall invari­ably pursue the sacred path of Virtue, which alone ought to preserve me free from censure.
I have the honor to be, with the highest sentiments of respect and esteem, Sir, your most obedient And most humble Servant,
John Hanson Presidt.[xxvii] 

After the Presidency, McKean continue his service as Pennsylvania Chief Justice.   Although not a delegate to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, he led the Federalists in the State Convention to approve the Constitution of 1787.   McKean’s biographer writes:

Judge McKean on the 23d, moved that the constitution he read, which was done. On Saturday the 24th he moved that it he read a second time; and in a short speech said that they were situated in a new position, with no rules or precedents to guide them, and in order to bring the matter before them, he would oifer a resolution ; not that he expected it would be decided to-day, or in a week ; and that all those should be heard who were opposed to the constitution. He therefore moved:  "That this Couvention do assent to, and ratify, the Constitution agreed to on the seventeenth of September last, by the Convention of the United States of America, held at Philadelphia."

This motion was seconded by Mr. John Allison. The business was now before the convention; Mr. Wilson rose and spoke in favor of the motion, in a speech lasting several days.  The opposition was assailed by legal arguments, by sarcasm, and by ridicule. Judge McKean said in the course of his remarks, that the apprehensions of the opposition respecting the new constitution amounted to this, that if the sky falls we shall catch larks; if the rivers run dry, we shall catch eels; and he compared their arguments to a sound, but then it was a mere sound, like the working of small beer.

On the 10th, Judge McKean announced that on the 12th he would press for a vote. The debates were closed by a long and eloquent speech by Judge McKean on the 11th, embracing a clear and comprehensive view of the whole subject. He unfolded, in a masterly manner, the principles of free government ; demonstrated the superior advantages of the federal constitution ; and satisfactorily answered every objection which had been suggested. Arranging these objections under ten heads, he considered them singly, and delivered his refutation of them in a lucid and forcible manner. He concluded this powerful argument in these words:

“The objections to this constitution having been answered, and all done away, it remains pure and unhurt; and this alone as a forcible argument of its goodness. The law, sir, has been my study from my infancy, and my only profession. I have gone through the circle of offices, in the legislative, executive and judicial departments of government; and from all my study, observation and experience, I must declare that from a full examination and due consideration of this system, it appears to me the best the world has yet seen."

The convention was criticized by outsiders in the public press, and Judge McKean did not fail to receive his share of criticism and abuse from the opposition. In more than one part of the State the excitement developed into a riot. In Carlisle, in particular, two figures labeled Thomas McKean Chief Justice, and James Wilson the Caledonian, were burned by the mob." Nevertheless a majority of the people approved the constitution; and the next year a majority of States having ratified it by the close of June, a procession to celebrate the event was arranged in Philadelphia for July 4, 1788. A description of this celebration from the pen of Francis Hopkinson, chairman of the committee of arrangements, has been preserved and recently published. [xxviii]

Ironically, it was during this period that McKean began to purport a mistrust of the federalists in congress. During the 1790's, disenchanted with Federalist foreign policy, McKean began to align himself with Thomas Jefferson, a Republican. In 1794 he followed the Republican Party lead to support the French Revolution. The Republicans revered France as an old ally and sought to join the revolutionaries in their war against England. The Federalists, however, supported President Washington’s measures to avert a war with England. In 1794,  George Washington had secretly dispatched Chief Justice John Jay to negotiate a treaty with England.  The former Treaty of Paris Peace Commissioner concluded the officially treaty titled “Treaty of Amity Commerce and Navigation, between His Britannic Majesty; and The United States of America,” in  London on November 19, 1794. On June 8, 1795, President George Washington submitted to the Senate all of the documents related to the negotiation of Jay's Treaty. A copy of the resolution announcing the Senate's approval of Jay's Treaty was sent to President George Washington on June 24, 1795. The treaty was received with a roar of execration throughout the United States due to the Republican Party’s leadership’s criticism of the Federalists selling out to Great Britain.

On July 24th, a Philadelphia treaty meeting was held with William Shippen presiding. Governor Mifflin, Chief Justice McKean, Frederick A. Muhlenberg, David Rittenhouse, Alexander J. Dallas, Charles Pettit, Thomas Lee Shippen, Jared Ingersol, Blair McClenachan and others were mounted on a stage and all favored war with England. Jay’s Treaty was read, and then the document was scornfully thrown off the stage. The treaty was seized by the audience, and paraded in the streets past a ratifying US Senator’s home and then to the house of the British Minister.  Here, the treaty was publicly burned along with an effigy of Chief Justice John Jay.  This was the final straw for McKean and his loyalty to his federalist revolutionaries.  He now was firmly in the Republican camp of Jefferson and Madison.

In 1799, Thomas McKean resigned his Chief Justice post and was elected Governor. He advanced public education and made internal improvements to the state government. The former Chief Justice was autocratic in his management style and, unabashedly, employed the "Spoils System" as Governor appointing incapable friends and relatives to key positions in his administration. He abandoned Federalists’ policy so completely that he became a national leader in the Republican Party second only to Thomas Jefferson.  McKean helped to pave the Virginian's way to the U.S. Presidency in an electoral tie with Aaron Burr in 1800.

In the following election, the former President would refer to the importance of his USCA Presidency when he turned down his party’s request in 1803 to run as Thomas Jefferson’s Vice Presidential running mate under the new 12th Amendment to the Constitution of 1787.  Governor McKean wrote on October 16, 1803 to Pennsylvania Republican Party Founder Alexander J. Dallas:

... President of the United States in Congress Assembled in the year of 1781 (a proud year for Americans) equaled any merit or pretensions of mine and cannot now be increased by the office of Vice President.  [xxix]




Thomas McKean to Thomas Jefferson declining the opportunity to run
with the incumbent President as a Vice Presidential nominee of the Republican Party.
Governor McKean in his transmission of Pennsylvania’s ratification of the 12th Amendment wrote to President Jefferson in a January 8, 1804 letter stating:


Several Gentleman of the Republican Party have wished to use my name as a Candidate for Vice President, but I have absolutely declined it on public and personal considerations, and my reasons seem to have given satisfaction.[xxx]

Former President McKean, although respectful of President Jefferson’s office, saw the Vice Presidency as a post vastly substandard to the office he held in the crucial months of 1781. 


McKean’s character traits, the party change and spoils philosophy alienated many members of the Pennsylvania legislature resulting in an attempt to impeach the Governor. McKean survived the political onslaught and served as Governor until 1808.



Public Offices of Thomas McKean
Office
Colony/State
Type
Location
Began office
Ended office
notes
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 20, 1763
    October 20, 1764
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 20, 1764
    October 21, 1765
Judge
Lower Counties
Judiciary
New Castle
1765
         1774
    Court of Common Pleas
Delegate
Lower Counties
Legislature
New York
October 7, 1765
    October 19, 1765
      Stamp Act Congress
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 21, 1765
    October 20, 1766
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 20, 1766
    October 20, 1767
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 20, 1767
    October 20, 1768
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 20, 1768
    October 20, 1769
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 20, 1769
    October 20, 1770
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 20, 1770
    October 21, 1771
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 21, 1771
    October 20, 1772
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 20, 1772
    October 20, 1773
              Speaker
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 20, 1773
    October 20, 1774
Delegate
Lower Counties
Unicameral
Philadelphia
September 5, 1774
     October 26, 1774
   UC Continental Congress
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 20, 1774
     October 20, 1775
Delegate
Lower Counties
Unicameral
Philadelphia
May 10, 1775
     October 21, 1775
    UC Continental Congress
Assemblyman
Lower Counties
Legislature
New Castle
October 20, 1775
      June 15, 1776
Delegate
Lower Counties
Unicameral
Philadelphia
October 21, 1775
    November 7, 1776
     US Continental Congress
Delegate
Delaware
Convention
Dover
August 27, 1776
 September 21, 1776
          State Constitution
State Rep.
Delaware
Legislature
New Castle
October 28, 1776
 September 22, 1777
                  Speaker
Chief Justice
Pennsylvania
Judiciary
Philadelphia
July 28, 1777
  December 17, 1799
         State Supreme Court
State President
Delaware
Executive
New Castle
September 22, 1777
    October 20, 1777
                    Acting
Delegate
Delaware
Unicameral
York
December 17, 1777
      June 27, 1778
      US Continental Congress
Delegate
Delaware
Unicameral
Philadelphia
July 2, 1778
    January 18, 1779
      US Continental Congress
State Rep.
Delaware
Legislature
Dover
October 20, 1778
    October 20, 1779
Delegate
Delaware
Unicameral
Philadelphia
January 18, 1779
  December 22, 1779
      US Continental Congress
Delegate
Delaware
Unicameral
Philadelphia
December 24, 1779
   February 10, 1781
     US Continental Congress
Delegate
Delaware
Unicameral
Philadelphia
February 10, 1781
      March 1, 1781
     US Continental Congress
President
Delaware
Unicameral
Philadelphia
March 1, 1781
   November 4, 1781
                 USCA
Delegate
Delaware
Unicameral
Philadelphia
November 5, 1781
     February 2, 1782
                 USCA
Delegate
Delaware
Unicameral
Philadelphia
February 2, 1782
    November 2, 1782
                 USCA
Delegate
Delaware
Unicameral
Philadelphia
November 4, 1782
     February 1, 1783
                 USCA
Delegate
Pennsylvania
Convention
Philadelphia
1789
           1790
      State Constitution
Governor
Pennsylvania
Executive
Philadelphia
December 17, 1799
    December 15, 1802
Governor
Pennsylvania
Executive
Philadelphia
December 15, 1802
    December 18, 1805
Governor
Pennsylvania
Executive
Philadelphia
December 18, 1805
    December 20, 1808

Privately, McKean was a member of the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati in 1785, and was subsequently its vice-president. Princeton gave him the degree of L.L.D. in 1781 while Dartmouth presented the same honor in 1782. The University of Pennsylvania gave him the degree of A.M. in 1763, and L.L.D. in 1785. With Professor John Wilson he published "Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States" (London, 1790).

In 1809 McKean retired to Philadelphia and lived out his life quietly. He died in 1817 at the age of 83. Thomas McKean was survived by his second wife and four of the 11 children from his two marriages. McKean left a substantial estate consisting of stocks, bonds, and large tracts of land in Pennsylvania. The former President of the United States is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Plot: Section G, Lot 210. 

Copyright © 2004 & 2008 President Who? Forgotten Founders
President Thomas McKean's Obituary


By: Stanley Yavneh Klos
  • First United American Republic: United Colonies of North America: 13 British Colonies United in Congress was founded by 12 colonies on September 5th, 1774 (Georgia joined in 1775)  and governed through a British Colonial Continental Congress.  Peyton Randolph and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief;
  • Second United American Republic: The United States of America: 13 Independent States United in Congress was founded by 12 states on July 2nd, 1776 (New York abstained until July 8th), and governed through the United States Continental CongressJohn Hancock and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Third United American Republic: The United States of America: A Perpetual Union was founded by 13 States on March 1st, 1781, with the enactment of the first U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and governed through the United States in Congress Assembled.  Samuel Huntington and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Fourth United American Republic: The United States of America: We the People  was formed by 11 states on March 4th, 1789 (North Carolina and Rhode Island joined in November 1789 and May 1790, respectively), with the enactment of the U.S. Constitution of 1787. The fourth and current United States Republic governs through  the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in Congress Assembled, the U.S. President and Commander-in-Chief, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  George Washington served as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief.


The First United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United Colonies Presidents 
Sept. 5, 1774 to July 1, 1776


September 5, 1774
October 22, 1774
October 22, 1774
October 26, 1774
May 20, 1775
May 24, 1775
May 25, 1775
July 1, 1776


The Second United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United States Presidents
July 2, 1776 to February 28, 1781

July 2, 1776
October 29, 1777
November 1, 1777
December 9, 1778
December 10, 1778
September 28, 1779
September 29, 1779
February 28, 1781


Commander-in-Chief United Colonies & States of America

George Washington: June 15, 1775 - December 23, 1783


The Third United American Republic
Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled
March 1, 1781 to March 3, 1789

March 1, 1781
July 6, 1781
July 10, 1781
Declined Office
July 10, 1781
November 4, 1781
November 5, 1781
November 3, 1782
November 4, 1782
November 2, 1783
November 3, 1783
June 3, 1784
November 30, 1784
November 22, 1785
November 23, 1785
June 5, 1786
June 6, 1786
February 1, 1787
February 2, 1787
January 21, 1788
January 22, 1788
January 21, 1789





Articles of Confederation Congress
United States in Congress Assembled (USCA) Sessions


USCA
Session Dates
USCA Convene Date
President(s)
First
11-05-1780 to 11-04-1781*
03-02-1781
Second
11-05-1781 to 11-03-1782
11-05-1781
Third
11-04-1782 to 11-02-1783
11-04-1782
Fourth
11-03-1783 to 10-31-1784
11-03-1783
Fifth
11-01-1784 to 11-06-1785
11-29-1784
Sixth
11-07-1785 to 11-05-1786
11-23-1785
Seventh
11-06-1786 to 11-04-1787
02-02-1787
Eighth
11-05-1787 to 11-02-1788
01-21-1788
Ninth
11-03-1788 to 03-03-1789**
None
None

* The Articles of Confederation was ratified by the mandated 13th State on February 2, 1781, and the dated adopted by the Continental Congress to commence the new  United States in Congress Assembled government was March 1, 1781.  The USCA convened under the Articles of Confederation Constitution on March 2, 1781.  

** On September 14, 1788, the Eighth United States in Congress Assembled resolved that March 4th, 1789, would be commencement date of the Constitution of 1787's federal government thus dissolving the USCA on March 3rd, 1789.

The Fourth United American Republic
Presidents of the United States of America
D-Democratic Party, F-Federalist Party, I-Independent, R-Republican Party, R* Republican Party of Jefferson & W-Whig Party 


(1789-1797)
(1933-1945)
(1865-1869)
(1797-1801)
(1945-1953)
(1869-1877)
(1801-1809)
(1953-1961)
 (1877-1881)
(1809-1817)
(1961-1963)
 (1881 - 1881)
(1817-1825)
(1963-1969)
(1881-1885)
(1825-1829)
(1969-1974)
(1885-1889)
(1829-1837)
(1973-1974)
(1889-1893)
(1837-1841)
(1977-1981)
(1893-1897)
(1841-1841)
(1981-1989)
(1897-1901)
(1841-1845)
(1989-1993)
(1901-1909)
(1845-1849)
(1993-2001)
(1909-1913)
(1849-1850)
(2001-2009)
(1913-1921)
(1850-1853)
(2009-2017)
(1921-1923)
(1853-1857)
(20017-Present)
(1923-1929)
*Confederate States  of America
(1857-1861)
(1929-1933)
(1861-1865)


Chart Comparing Presidential Powers 
of  America's Four United Republics - Click Here


United Colonies and States First Ladies


1774-1788



United Colonies Continental Congress
President
18th Century Term
Age
09/05/74 – 10/22/74
29
Mary Williams Middleton (1741- 1761) Deceased
Henry Middleton
10/22–26/74
n/a
05/20/ 75 - 05/24/75
30
05/25/75 – 07/01/76
28
United States Continental Congress
President
Term
Age
07/02/76 – 10/29/77
29
Eleanor Ball Laurens (1731- 1770) Deceased
Henry Laurens
11/01/77 – 12/09/78
n/a
Sarah Livingston Jay (1756-1802)
12/ 10/78 – 09/28/78
21
Martha Huntington (1738/39–1794)
09/29/79 – 02/28/81
41
United States in Congress Assembled
President
Term
Age
Martha Huntington (1738/39–1794)
03/01/81 – 07/06/81
42
07/10/81 – 11/04/81
25
Jane Contee Hanson (1726-1812)
11/05/81 - 11/03/82
55
11/03/82 - 11/02/83
46
Sarah Morris Mifflin (1747-1790)
11/03/83 - 11/02/84
36
11/20/84 - 11/19/85
46
11/23/85 – 06/06/86
38
Rebecca Call Gorham (1744-1812)
06/06/86 - 02/01/87
42
02/02/87 - 01/21/88
43
01/22/88 - 01/29/89
36



Constitution of 1787
First Ladies
President
Term
Age
April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797
57
March 4, 1797 – March 4, 1801
52
Martha Wayles Jefferson Deceased
September 6, 1782  (Aged 33)
n/a
March 4, 1809 – March 4, 1817
40
March 4, 1817 – March 4, 1825
48
March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1829
50
December 22, 1828 (aged 61)
n/a
February 5, 1819 (aged 35)
n/a
March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841
65
April 4, 1841 – September 10, 1842
50
June 26, 1844 – March 4, 1845
23
March 4, 1845 – March 4, 1849
41
March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850
60
July 9, 1850 – March 4, 1853
52
March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1857
46
n/a
n/a
March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865
42
February 22, 1862 – May 10, 1865
April 15, 1865 – March 4, 1869
54
March 4, 1869 – March 4, 1877
43
March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1881
45
March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881
48
January 12, 1880 (Aged 43)
n/a
June 2, 1886 – March 4, 1889
21
March 4, 1889 – October 25, 1892
56
June 2, 1886 – March 4, 1889
28
March 4, 1897 – September 14, 1901
49
September 14, 1901 – March 4, 1909
40
March 4, 1909 – March 4, 1913
47
March 4, 1913 – August 6, 1914
52
December 18, 1915 – March 4, 1921
43
March 4, 1921 – August 2, 1923
60
August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929
44
March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933
54
March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945
48
April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953
60
January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
56
January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963
31
November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969
50
January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
56
August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977
56
January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981
49
January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989
59
January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993
63
January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001
45
January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009
54
January 20, 2009 to date
45




Capitals of the United Colonies and States of America

Philadelphia
Sept. 5, 1774 to Oct. 24, 1774
Philadelphia
May 10, 1775 to Dec. 12, 1776
Baltimore
Dec. 20, 1776 to Feb. 27, 1777
Philadelphia
March 4, 1777 to Sept. 18, 1777
Lancaster
September 27, 1777
York
Sept. 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778
Philadelphia
July 2, 1778 to June 21, 1783
Princeton
June 30, 1783 to Nov. 4, 1783
Annapolis
Nov. 26, 1783 to Aug. 19, 1784
Trenton
Nov. 1, 1784 to Dec. 24, 1784
New York City
Jan. 11, 1785 to Nov. 13, 1788
New York City
October 6, 1788 to March 3,1789
New York City
March 3,1789 to August 12, 1790
Philadelphia
Dec. 6,1790 to May 14, 1800       
Washington DC
November 17,1800 to Present




[i] A measure of "the anxieties, cares & troubles" McKean faced in performing his multiple duties is reflected in an open letter to his Newcastle County constituents published in the Pennsylvania Packet of September 7, 1779, in which he resigned his seat in the Delaware assembly. "Gentlemen," he explained, "Near seventeen years have expired since you first chose me to represent you in General Assembly. The continuation of that choice, especially during the last five years (when I resided out of your State) exhibits the strongest proofs of your approbation of my political conduct, and must manifest to the world, that the sentiments of the representative and the represented particularly respecting the great and important contest with Great-Britain, and the measures adopted to obtain peace, liberty and safety, were the same. Your affairs now wear the most promising aspect both at home and abroad; and, as I find it to be absolutely impracticable for me to discharge my duty to you as I wish in my present station, I must reiterate my request, that at the ensuing annual election you will be pleased to choose some other person to occupy the seat I have the honor to fill in your Legislature."
[ii] Resolution For Independence, Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al. (Washington, D.C., 1904-37), 19:137, October 20, 1774.  Future references will be to JCC, 1774-1789. 
July 2, 1776
[iii]   Thomas McKean to Caesar A. Rodney, August 22, 1813, The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence, 1651-1827
[iv] JCC, 1774-1789, July 2, 1776
[v] Thomas McKean to Alexander Dallas, Samuel Hazard, Register Of Pennsylvania. Volume VI. Number 141, Philadelphia, September 11, 1830, page 161.
[vi] A reference to Dido's command to Aeneas in recounting the painful story of the overthrow Of Troy. 
[vii] Thomas McKean to John Adams, November 8, 1779. In Paul H. Smith, et al., eds, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789. 25 volumes, Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1976-2000).  Cited hereafter as LDC, 1774-1789.
[viii] JCC, 1774-1789, July 6, 1781
[ix] Thomas McKean to Samuel Adams, July 8th, 1781, LDC, 1774-1789.
[x] Ibid
[xi] Thomas McKean election as President,   JCC, 1774-1789, July 10, 1781
[xii] Ibid
[xiii] Ibid, July 11, 1781
[xiv] Opt Cit, Etombe Foreign Minister Commission, September 7, 1781
[xv] Buchanan, Life of McKean, pp. 69-70
[xvi] Robert R. Livingston election as Foreign Secretary, USCA Journals, August 10, 1781
[xvii] Thomas McKean to Comte de Rochambeau September 4th, 1781LDC, 1774-1789.  
[xviii] John Nagy Editor - Pennsylvania Gazette 1728-1800 on-line publication by Accessible Archives, September 5, 1781,  Malvern, PA, - http:www.accessible.com
[xix] JCC, 1774-1789, September 19, 1781
[xx] McKean Kean to George Washington,   September 21, 1781, LDC, 1774-1789.
[xxi] JCC, 1774-1789, October 24, 1781
[xxii] Ibid, The services were held by Chaplain George Duffield
[xxiii] JCC, 1774-1789Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, October 26, 1781.
[xxiv] McKean to Benjamin Lincoln, October 31, 1781,  LDC, 1774-1789
[xxv] Thomas McKean to General Nathanael Greene, November 1, 1781, LDC, 1774-1789
[xxvi] Thomas McKean to William Heath, November 3, 1781, LDC, 1774-1789
[xxvii] John Hanson to Thomas McKean, November 10, 1781, LDC, 1774-1789
[xxviii] Buchanan, Life of McKean, page 79
[xxix] McKean, Thomas to Alexander J. Dallas, October 16, 1803, The Life of Albert Gallatin, by Henry Adams, p.313
[xxx] McKean, Thomas to President Thomas Jefferson as Governor of Pennsylvania, January 8, 1804,   The Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress 





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