Thomas Mifflin (January 10, 1744 – January 20, 1800) was an American merchant and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, a Continental Congressman from Pennsylvania, fifth President of the U.S. Congress under the Articles of Confederation, and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He served as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, President of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council and the first Governor of Pennsylvania.
Early life and family
Mifflin was born January 10, 1744 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, son of John Mifflin and Elizabeth Bagnall. He graduated from the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) in 1760, and joined the mercantile business of William Biddle. After returning from a trip to Europe in 1765, he established a commercial business partnership with his brother, George Mifflin, and married his cousin, Sarah Morris, on March 4, 1765. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society.
Early in the Revolutionary War, Mifflin left the Continental Congress to serve in the Continental Army. Although his family had been Quakers for four generations, he was expelled from the Religious Society of Friends because his involvement with a military force contradicted his faith's pacifistic nature. He was commissioned as a major, then became George Washington's aide-de-camp and, on August 14, 1775, became the army's first Quartermaster General. He was good at the job, but preferred to be on the front lines. His leadership in battle gained him promotions to colonel and then brigadier general. He asked to be relieved of the job of Quartermaster General, but was persuaded to resume those duties because Congress was having difficulty finding a replacement.
In Congress, there was debate regarding whether a national army was more efficient or if individual states should maintain their own forces. As a result of this debate the Congressional Board of War was created, on which Mifflin served from 1777 to 1778. He then rejoined the army but took little active role, following criticism of his service as quartermaster general. He was accused of embezzlement and welcomed an inquiry; however, one never took place. He resigned his commission—by then, as a major general—but Congress continued to ask his advice even after accepting his resignation.
Prior to Independence, Thomas Mifflin was a member of Pennsylvania's Provincial Assembly (1772–1776). He served two terms in the Continental Congress (1774–1775, and 1782–1784). He then served in the house of Pennsylvania General Assembly (1785–1788). He was a delegate to the United States Constitutional Convention in 1787, as well as a signer of the Constitution. He was a member of the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and on November 5, 1788 he was elected President of the Council, replacing Benjamin Franklin. He was unanimously reelected to the Presidency on November 11, 1789. He presided over the committee that wrote Pennsylvania's 1790 State Constitution. That document did away with the Executive Council, replacing it with a single Governor. On December 21, 1790 Mifflin became the last President of Pennsylvania and the first Governor of the Commonwealth. He held the latter office until December 17, 1799, when he was succeeded by Thomas McKean. He then returned to the state legislature, where he served until his death the following month. Mifflin decreed that no less than six towns in Pennsylvania bear his name.
Death and legacy
Mifflin died in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, January 20, 1800. He is buried in front of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A Commonwealth of Pennsylvania historical marker at the church commemorates both Thomas Wharton and Mifflin, the first and last Presidents of Pennsylvania under the 1776 State Constitution. The marker, dedicated in 1975, is located on Duke Street in Lancaster. His relatives live on in the area, but wish not to give their names. It reads:
Founded in 1730.
A session for an Indian treaty was held in the original church building in 1762.
The present edifice was dedicated in 1766.
Here are interred the remains of Thomas Wharton (1778) and Gov. Thomas Mifflin (1800).