McKean, Thomas

Thomas McKean

b. 19/30 Mar 1734, New London, Chester County, Pennsylvania
d. 24 Jun 1817, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Title: President of Congress
Term: 10 Jul 1781 - 4 Nov 1781
Chronology: 10 Jul 1781, elected to the office of the President of Congress, session of Congress, State House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [1]
4 Nov 1781, ceased to exercise the duties of office on a date assigned by the resolution of the Congress of 24 Oct 1781 [2]
Son of a Scotch-Irish immigrant; was educated at the Reverend Francis Allison's New London Academy; studied law under his cousin at New Castle, Lower Counties (Delaware); was admitted to the bar in Lower Counties (1755) and Pennsylvania (1756); appointed deputy Attorney General for Sussex County (1756); became a member of the General Assembly of the Lower Counties (1763-1776) and served as its speaker in 1772-1773; participated in the Stamp Act Congress (1765); was elected a delegate from Delaware to the Continental Congress (1774, 1775-1776); left Congress to serve as colonel in the Pennsylvania Associators (1776) and was elected President of the Provincial Conference of the Committees (18 Jun 1776 - 25 Jun 1776) called to lay the groundwork for a constitutional convention in Pennsylvania; was absent during the time of signing the Declaration of Independence (4 Jul 1776) and is presumed to have signed it later, possibly as late as 1781; served as a member of the House of Assembly of the Delaware State (1776-1777, 1778-1779) and Speaker of the House of Assembly (21 Feb 1777 - 20 Oct 1777), he exercised the functions of President of the Delaware State (22 Sep 1777 - 20 Oct 1777) in absence of the incumbent; served as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania (28 Jul 1777 - 17 Dec 1799); was re-elected a delegate from Delaware to the Continental Congress (1777-1783); elected the President of Congress (10 Jul 1781) after Samuel Johnston declined his election; chaired the Congress when the British army surrendered following the Battle of Yorktown (1781); informed the Congress that he as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania must leave the chair to attend the session of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (23 Oct 1781); the Congress accepted his resignation the same day and fixed 24 Oct 1781 as the date for election of President, but altered this decision on 24 Oct 1781 and requested him "to resume the chair, and act as President till the first Monday in November next"; succeeded Thomas Mifflin as Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (17 Dec 1799 - 20 Dec 1808).
Biographical sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (2005).

[1] Journals of the Continental Congress, 20:733.
[2] Journals of the Continental Congress, 21:1071.
Image: portrait attributed to Charles Willson Peale.
Last updated on: 22 Jul 2009 11:53:48