George Clymer Papers, 1745-1848

Mss.B.C625

Date: 1745-1848 | Size: 0.25 Linear feet, 27 items

Abstract

George Clymer was a successful merchant, well-known politician, and a generous philanthropist, but is today most famous for being a signer of the Declaration of Independence. As a proponent of independence, he joined various local political committees including six of the seven Philadelphia resistance committees. From there, he entered the national political arena and in 1776 was elected to the Second Continental Congress where he signed the Declaration of Independence.

The George Clymer Collection is a small one and not reflective of his varied pursuits. There are twenty-seven documents, most of which are not signed by Clymer; those that are signed by Clymer are dated between May 3, 1800 and January 22, 1813. The items represent not Clymer's political activities but his ordinary legal and real estate transactions.

Background note

George Clymer (1739-1813, APS 1786) was a Philadelphia merchant, politician, and philanthropist. Today, he is most famous for being a Signer of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. He went from a successful career as a merchant into local and then national politics. As a member of Pennsylvania's Proprietary Party he opposed making Pennsylvania a royal colony. He was an ardent proponent of independence and belonged to several local political committees that actively resisted British policies. In 1776 he entered the national political arena with his election to the Second Continental Congress, where he signed the Declaration of Independence. He subsequently also signed the Federal Constitution, and, as a Federalist, was a strong supporter of Alexander Hamilton's financial plan.

Born in 1739 in Philadelphia, Clymer was the son of Christopher Clymer, a sea captain, and Deborah Fitzwater, a Quaker disowned for marrying Clymer, an Episcopalian. Orphaned at age seven, Clymer was raised by his maternal aunt, Hannah (Fitzwater) Coleman, and her husband William Coleman (1705?-1769, APS 1743), a wealthy and respected Quaker merchant, friend of Benjamin Franklin, and one of the founders of the American Philosophical Society.

By the late 1750s, Clymer was a wealthy merchant himself. In 1759 he formed a partnership with Henry and Robert Ritchie for the importation of European and East Indian goods. In 1765 he married Elizabeth Meredith, the daughter of the prominent Quaker merchant Reese Meredith (1771?-1778). The couple eventually had eight children, five of whom lived to adulthood. Clymer's fortune was greatly augmented when first his maternal grandfather and then Coleman left him substantial inheritances, including land and an interest in the Durham Iron Works. In 1772 Clymer, his father-in-law, and his brother-in-law Samuel Meredith entered into a partnership to form the merchant house Meredith and Sons, later re-named Meredith and Clymer. By 1774 Clymer had the second highest residential tax assessment in Philadelphia and ranked third in gross income from property.

Clymer's high social standing is reflected in his many social and cultural activities. He was a member of the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company, and the Mount Regale Fishing Company. He was also a contributor to the Pennsylvania Hospital, the Silk Society, and the College of Philadelphia. In addition, his wealth allowed him to indulge his interest in politics. In 1767 he joined the Philadelphia Common Council; seven years later he became city alderman. He also served as justice of the peace for the city and county courts in 1772.

Clymer was an early supporter of independence. He signed non-importation agreements in 1765 and 1770. After the outbreak of hostilities with Great Britain he served as captain of a volunteer company. In this capacity he helped arrange the purchase of gunpowder and oversaw the fortification of Philadelphia. Between 1770 and 1776 he was a member of various local political committees, including six of the seven Philadelphia resistance committees, such as the committees of safety, of correspondence, and of inspection and observation. On at least two occasions he traveled to Boston, where he met Josiah Quincy, Jr., and Samuel Adams. He was elected to the state constitutional convention of 1776, where he opposed the plan for a unicameral legislature. He did not sign the new state constitution and became a leader of the Anti-Constitutionalist party. He was elected to the assembly in 1776 and 1778.

In 1776 he was elected to the Second Continental Congress and in consequence signed the Declaration of Independence. He sat on the Board of Treasury and the Board of War, and he was a member of the three-man executive committee that remained in Philadelphia after Congress fled to Baltimore. In 1777 his house in Chester County was looted and burned by British soldiers.

Clymer was reelected to Congress in February 1777, but failed in his bid for reelection in September 1777. Instead he was sent as a commissioner to Fort Pitt to help alleviate tensions between Native Americans and European settlers there. Clymer came away from this mission with s sense of sympathy for Native American apprehensions about the advance of settlement. He also developed strong anti-frontiersmen sentiments.

In 1780 Clymer served as co-director of the Pennsylvania Bank, a non-profit, subscription-based organization that had been founded to secure provisions for the troops. In 1780 and 1781 he was again elected to Congress. During this time he was a member of the finance committee and the committee charged with requesting the southern states to comply with the requisitions of Congress. In 1782 he moved his family to Princeton, New Jersey, apparently to have his sons educated there. However, within two years he was back in Philadelphia.

After the war he was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1785 to 1788, and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He was elected as a pro-administration candidate to the First Congress in 1789 where he served as chairman of the Committee on Elections. Clymer was a strong supporter of locating the federal capital in Philadelphia, and a leading advocate of Alexander Hamilton's financial program. One of his last - and least successful - political appointments was federal revenue inspector for Pennsylvania in 1791. He was responsible for collecting the federal excise on spirits, a tax that was particularly unpopular in the western counties. Widespread opposition prevented him from collecting the tax, and, unable to diffuse the growing protests that became the Whiskey Insurrection, he resigned in 1794. (His son Meredith was one of the troops dispatched to western Pennsylvania by President Washington to put down the rebellion.) The following year George Washington assigned him to a commission that in 1796 negotiated the Treaty of Coleraine with the Creeks of Georgia. His close friend Benjamin Rush gave him a list with queries about the Indian customs and habits that Clymer completed and returned, with some comments of his own.

Clymer's business ventures during and after war served to increase his wealth. In 1779 and 1780 Clymer and Meredith engaged in a lucrative trade with St. Eustatius. After his retirement as a merchant in 1782, he focused on his real estate investments in Kentucky, New York, Indiana and Pennsylvania. He also served as president of the Philadelphia Bank from 1803 until his death.

Clymer's later years were occupied to a large extent with philanthropic work. He was a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania from 1779 to 1813. In addition, he was an active supporter of the Philadelphia Dispensary for the Medical Relief of the Poor in 1786 and the Society for Promoting the Manufacture of Sugar from the Sugar Maple in 1792. He was also the first president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, founding member and vice president from 1805 to 1813 of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, and vice president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Society, and of the Society for Political Inquiries. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1786. He rarely attended meetings, but he contributed funds toward the construction of its new hall. Clymer died in 1813 at his home, "Summerseat," in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, where he had resided since 1806.

Scope and content

This small collection contains just twenty-seven documents; these are dated between October 31, 1785 and June 6, 1848. The majority of these items are legal documents not actually signed by George Clymer, such as deeds, powers of attorney, and financial documents. Those penned by and/or signed by Clymer are dated between May 3, 1800 and January 22, 1813, years following Clymer's political career.

During later life he was involved with the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, and the Philadelphia Bank. His papers, however, do not document his involvement with these institutions either but rather reflect typical legal and financial transactions.

The George Clymer Papers might have appeal for one interested in peripheral information about the founding fathers or signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Collection Information

Provenance

Accessioned 1947.

Preferred citation

Cite as: George Clymer Papers, American Philosophical Society.

Processing information

Recatalogued by Anne Harney, 2002.

Related material

No large collection of George Clymer's papers exists.

Early American History Note

This small collection contains just twenty-seven documents relating to the life of George Clymer, one of the most prominent politicians in revolutionary Philadelphia. The majority of the collection dates to after Clymer's death and relates to his estate, beginning first with his will dated January 22, 1813. There are a few documents written by Clymer in the collection. The most notable one may be a long letter from Clymer that discusses education, particularly mathematics and mathematicians.

Indexing Terms


Genre(s)

  • Account books.
  • Educational Material
  • General Correspondence
  • Legal Records
  • Maps

Geographic Name(s)

  • Philadelphia (Pa.) -- Boundaries

Personal Name(s)

  • Cadwalader, Lambert
  • Clymer, George, 1739-1813
  • Francis, Tench, 1730-1800
  • Heysham, John, 1753-1834
  • Knox, William, 1732-1810
  • Law, Samuel Andrew, 1771-1845
  • Wharton, Charles Henry, 1748-1833

Subject(s)

  • Business and Skilled Trades
  • Education
  • Estate -- Valuation
  • Finance,Personal
  • Land and Speculation
  • Marriage and Family Life
  • Patents -- Pennsylvania
  • Power of Attorney -- Pennsylvania
  • Trust indentures-United States


Detailed Inventory

George Clymer Papers
1745-1848 box 1
Edward Price.
Deed to Tench Francis
1785 October 312p.

Philadelphia, Printed D. filled in ms.S.: 1p. and end. Witnessed: Thos. Willing and Wm. Knox. Attested: Geo. Bryan and W. Knox, on 1p. Printed by Joseph Crukshank.

Tench Francis.
Deed to Robert Heysham
1796 October 101p.

Philadelphia, Printed D. Filled in ms.S. 1p. and end. Witnessed: Henry S. Drinker.

State of Pennsylvania.
Patent to Henry Drinker
1794 May 231p.

Printed D.filled in in ms.S.: Tho[mas] Mifflin, pres. Attest: James Thimble. Inrolled: Math[e]w Irwin. 1p.and add., end. Printed by F.& R. Bailey. Parchment. Seal. (see George Clymer papers.)

Clymer, George, 1739-1813.
Power of attorney to Samuel A. Law
1800 May 34p.

Philadelphia, D.S.: Geo. Clymer, Elizabeth Clymer, Sam. Meredith and Margaret Meredith. Witnessed: William Doughty, Samuel Brook, Wm. Duncan, Henry Bryant, Chs. Chauncey. Certified: Robert Wharton, James M.Hughes, Pennsylvania; and Isaac Smith and John McClelland, New Jersey. 4p., end.

Clymer, George, 1739-1813.
Deed to Samuel A. Law
1806 May 314p.

Philadelphia, D.S.: Sam[ue]l Meredith Geo[rge] Clymer and S[amuel] A. Law. Witnessed: Geo. Davis and George Clymer, Jr. 4p., end.

Clymer, George, 1739-1813.
Articles of Agreement
1810 May 36p.

Philadelphia, D.S.: Sam. A. Law. Sam. Meredith and Geo. Clymer. Witnessed: Sam. Brook, James Paxton and Henry Clymer. Supplement: May 31, 1806. D.S.: Sam Meredith, S. A. Law and Geo. Clymer. Witnessed: Geo.Davis and Gel.Clymer, Jr. Supplement: Aug. 3, 1809. D.S: Geo. Clymer, John Read and James Gibson. Witnessed: W. J. Jones. Supplement; March 30, 1812. D. S.: Samuel A. Law, Sam. Meredith and Geo. Clymer. Witnessed: George Clymer, Jr. and Srah Jordan 6p.and end. Articles of agreement between Samuel Meredith and George Clymer with Samuel A. Law; for sale of lands in New York.

Clymer, George, 1739-1813.
Indenture to J. Gay
1811 Dec. 171p.

Printed D. filled in ms.S.: Samuel Meredith, Margaret Meredith, George Clymer, Elizabeth Clymer, by their attorney, Samuel A[ndrew] Law. Witnessed: Jas. Hotchkiss and Lerned Cotrell. 1p. and end. Printed by H.& E. Phinney, Jun. Printers.

Clymer, George, 1739-1813.
Statement to settlers concerning Samuel A. Law as their attorney
1812 March 301p.

Philadelphia, D. S.: Geo. Clymer, Sam. Meredith, Henry S. Drinker, James C. Fisher, Willm. Drinker, Charles Wharton and Francis R. Wharton. 1p. and end.

Samuel Meredith.
ALS to Samuel A. Law
1812 March 302p.

Philadelphia, L. S.: Geo. Clymer, Sam[ue]l Meredith. Contains note by Thos. Meredith; July 22, 1822. 2p. and end. Concerning the donation of land for education.

Clymer, George, 1739-1813.
ALS to Samuel A. Law
1812 March 302p.

Philadelphia, L. S.: Sam. Meredith and Geo. Clymer. 2p. and end. Instructions concerning the sale and care of their property in New York.

Clymer, George, 1739-1813.
ALS to George McCall
1812 May 123p.
Clymer, George, 1739-1813.
Will
1813 Jan. 22This is Copy. 4p. 13x8.; 4p.

Jan. 5; and codicils, Jan. 18 and Jan. 22, 1813. Copy of D. 3p. and end.

Restrictions on Access: Aug. 1955 - restricted, cf. terms of use, Legal folder. (see B C625.w).

Provenance: Deposited by the Register of Wills Office, Phila.

General physical description: This is Copy. 4p. 13x8.

Other Descriptive Information: B C865.w. Film 895.1

S. A. Law.
ALS to Samuel Meredith
1813 Nov. 193p.

Meredith, N.Y., A.L.S. 3p.and end. Draft. Concerning the sale and care of property of Clymer and Meredith.

George Clymer Estate.
Supplement extending the Meredith-Clymer agreement
1816 Jan. 313p.

D. S.: Sam[ue]l A. Law, James Gibson, George Clymer, C.Wistar, John M. Read, John Keating, jr., John Read, John Hallowell, Thomas McEuen, Henry Clymer and Redm[on]d Conyngham. 3p. and end. Concerning N. Y. lands, with S. A. Law.

Samuel Meredith.
Power of Attorney
1818 Jan. 314p.

Philadelphia, D. S.: Sam[ue]l Meredith, James Gibson, Caspar Wistar, George Clymer, Geo. C. MCall, John Keating, jr., John M. Read, John Read, John Hallowell, Sam. Richards, Henry Clymer, Mary Clymer, Thomas Lillibridge, Thos. Mederith, Josiah Lewis, Seth Chapman, John Lindsley, H. R. Phelps, and W[illia]m Tilghman. 4p., end. Power of attorney from George Clymer estate and S. Meredith to S. A. Law to sell and collect for land in New York.

James Gibson.
ALS to Thomas Meredith
1822 June 303p.

Philadelphia, L. S.: James Gibson and John Read. 1p. with 2p. enc., end. by Thos. Meredith. Encloses accounts of John A. Law pertaining to the Meredith and Clymer estates real estate in New York.

Read, John.
ALS to Samuel A. Law
1829 Jan. 51p.

Philadelphia, L. S.: John Read and James Gibson. 1p. and add., end. Concerning payments made of George Clymer estate.

Read, John.
ALS to Samuel A. Law
1829 Jan. 61p.

Philadelphia, L. S.: John Read and James Gibson. 1p. and add., end. Have received payments due estate of Samuel Meredith.

Read, John.
ALS to Samuel A. Law
1829 Jan. 121p.

Philadelphia, L. S.: John Read and James Gibson. 1p. Copy. Notifies him that Thomas Meredith is now in charge of debts due Samuel Meredith estate. On same sheet as letter from T. Meredith to S. A. Law; Feb. 21, 1829.

Read, John.
ALCyS to Samuel A. Law
1829 Jan. 121p.

Philadelphia, L. S.: John Read and James Gibson. 1p. and add.,end. Asks that he pay the debt due the estate of Samuel Meredith.

Thomas Meredith.
ALS to Samuel A. Law
1829 Feb. 211p.

L.S. 1p. and add., end. Enc. of 1p. Concerning debts due the Meredith estate. On same sheet is letter from J. Read to same; Jan. 12, 1829.

Clymer, William Bingham (1801-1873).
ALS to Samuel A. Law
1830 Feb. 231p.

A. L. S. 1p. and add., end. Concerning the George Clymer estate.

S. A. Law.
Account of monies
1835 July 16-1856 Dec. 1721p.

D. by S. A. Law and J. A. Law(?). 32p. of which 22 contain writing. Account of monies received for the Meredith and Clymer estates. Account book covers period from July 16, 1835 to Dec. 17, 1856.

Law, Samuel Andrew, 1771-1845.
Map of James Cowles Fisher's rear land
1838 May 281 map, 35.6 x 30.5 cm

Annotated: "J. C. Fisher's Front Patent Lot all disposed of: And, of his Rear Division, on hand, only the Two Remnants, in Yellow Shade, of. . . 86.75 acres. 1 May 1838: 28 May 1838." Colored. Realms of Gold, 9 (1).

Authorized donations from Meredith and Clymer Land
1839 May 11 map, 28.6 x 25.7 cm

Annotated: "The line of the North End of No. 22 - can make nothing of - from the orig[ina]l Survey and conclude cannot but be a blunder! [The part of No. 5 and 22] called, say, a hundred acres, is the Reserved Piece or Parcel, appropriated for a Donation ...to the Town, for the purpose of encouraging Schooling, or litterary, Instruction: and which, as yet, has never been so granted and conveyed." Realms of Gold, 9 (2).

Dickinson, Anne.
Power of attorney
1843 March 72p.

D. S.: Anne Dickinson, John Read, Margaret M. Read, John M. Read. Witnessed: Phil. Dickinson, James Wilson, Geo. Griscom, John Topham, 2p. and end. Power of attorney from heirs of Samuel Meredith to Samuel A. Law.

Samuel F. Fisher.
ALS to J. Albion Law
1848 May 252p.

Philadelphia, A. L. S. 1p. and end. Wants payment in full from estate of Samuel Andrew Law to estate of James C. Fisher.

Samuel F. Fisher.
ALS to J. Albion Law
1848 June 62p.

Philadelphia, A. L. S. 1p. and end. Concerning payments due to the estate of James C. Fisher.