The Forgotten President’s 

Thomas McKean (b. 1734 – d. 1817) During his astonishingly varied 50 year career in public life, he held almost every possible position, from Deputy County Attorney, to President under the Confederation. Besides signing the Declaration of Independence, he contributed significantly to the development and establishment of constitutional government in both his home state of Delaware and the nation.

As the Stamp Act Congress, he proposed the voting procedure that Congress adopted: that each colony regardless of size or population, have one vote, the practice adopted by the Continental Congress and the Congress of the Confederation, and the principle of State equality manifest in the composition of the Senate.

As County Judge in 1765, he defied the British by ordering his court to work only with documents that did not bear the hated stamps. In June 1776, at the Continental Congress, McKean joined with Caesar Rodney to register Delewares approval of the Declaration of Independence, over the negative vote of the 3rd Deleware delegate, George read, permitting it to be “The unanimous Declaration of the 13 United States.” 

At a special Deleware convention, he drafted, and signed the Articles of Confederation. It was during his tenure of service as President, from July 10, 1781 to November 4, 1782, when news arrived from General George Washington in October 1781, that the British had surrendered following the Battle of Yorktown

As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, he contributed to the establishment of the legal system in that state, and in 1787, he strongly supported the Constitution at the Pennsylvania Ratification Convention, declaring it “the best the world has seen yet.” 

At 65, after 40 years of public service, McKean resigned from his post as Chief Justice. A candidate on the DemocraticRepublican ticket in 1799, McKean was elected Governor of Pennsylvania. As Governor, he followed such a strict policy of appointing only fellow Republicans to office that he became the Father of spoils system in America

He served 3 tempestuous terms as Governor, completing one of the longest, continuous careers of public service of any of the Founding Fathers.

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