Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Secretary Charles Thomson

Charles Thomson


Secretary of the United Colonies Continental Congress
September 5, 1774 - July 1, 1776

Secretary of the United States Continental Congress
July 2, 1776 - February 28, 1781

 United States in Congress Assembled 
Secretary
March 1, 1781 - March 3, 1788




Copyright © Stan Klos, President Who? Forgotten Founders 2004 & 2008 


Charles Thomson was born in the town of Gortede, parish Maharan, County Derry, Ireland, the first week in November, 1729.   He was the son of John Thomson, one of the most respectable men of Ulster. His birth occurred at a time when Protestant emigration was robbing Ireland of thousands of her best people. More than twenty thousand left Ulster and settled along the Atlantic seaboard on the destruction of the woolen trade and the enforcement of the Test Act. Froude says:

"And so the emigration continued. The young, the courageous, the energetic, the earnest, those alone among her colonists who, if ever Ireland was to be a Protestant country, could be effective missionaries, were torn up by the roots, flung out, and bid find a home elsewhere; and they found fifty years later had to regret that she had allowed them to be driven." [1]

Most of these immigrants sought a home in Pennsylvania, attracted by the reports of its great natural wealth, and by the fact that under the charter of Penn and the laws of the Province, they could enjoy civil and religious liberty.

John Thomson was a widower with six small children, William, Matthew, Alexander, Charles, John and Mary, determined to make a home for them in America. They set sail from Ireland in 1739, expecting to locate in Pennsylvania. The father was attacked with a violent sickness on the voyage, and dying within sight of the shore.  His body was cast into the ocean near the capes of the Delaware.  His expiring prayer was: "God take them up." The death scene was always very affecting to Charles, and referring to the occasion, he once said: "I stood by the bedside of my expiring and much loved father, closed his eyes and performed the last filial duties to him." The children were now left to the mercy of the sea captain, who embezzled the money which the father had brought with him, while they were turned on shore at New Castle. Their fate was a common one to thousands of immigrants at that time. The ordinary vessel of the eighteenth century was a pest-house of disease and misery. Mittelberger, in his "Journey to Pennsylvania in 1750," describes the sufferings that the Germans endured in crossing the Atlantic, as follows:

On landing at New Castle, the Thomson children were separated and it is quite possible that they were bound to serve as redemptioners.[2]  According to some authorities, William drifted to South Carolina, and in the Revolutionary War distinguished himself by his great bravery. Alexander became a prosperous farmer near New Castle. Charles resided for a time with the family of a blacksmith at New Castle, who thought of having him indented as an apprentice. John F. Watson relates:

"He chanced to overhear them speaking on this design one night, and determining from the vigor of his mind, that he should devote himself to better business, he arose in the night and made his escape with his little all packed upon his back. As he trudged the road, not knowing whither he went, it was his chance or providence in the case, to be overtaken by a travelling lady of the neighborhood, who, entering into conversation with him, asked him 'what he would like to be in future life.' He promptly answered, he should like to be a scholar, or to gain his support by his mind and pen. This so much pleased her that she took him home and placed him at school." [3]   


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The name of the lady who thus befriended Charles Thomson is unknown; but her act of kindness changed the whole course of his life. He was also aided in his education by his brother, Alexander, and he soon became a student in the academy of Dr. Francis Alison, at New London, Chester County, Pennsylvania. In a spirit of gratitude, Charles afterwards presented his brother with a farm in the vicinity of New Castle.

While a student at the New London Academy, Charles Thomson   got hold of some loose leaves of the "Spectator," and admiring its style, he so longed to possess the whole work that he walked all night to Philadelphia and returned the next day in time to be present in his classes. He was charmed with the study of Greek, and he actually walked to Amboy for the purpose of visiting a British officer there who had the reputation of being a fine Greek scholar. He was also a biblical scholar Upon graduating the Academy, Thomson became a teacher. While a student, Thomson made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin, and frequently sought his advice in regard to the prospects of a suitable vocation in Philadelphia. Being President of the Board of Trustees of  the new Academy of Philadelphia,[4] Franklin secure a position for Thomson at the school.8 The Trustees of the Academy held a meeting on December 20, 1750, and the minutes contain the following notice in regard to Thomson:

"Mr. Charles Thomson having offered himself as a Tutor in the Latin and Greek School, and having been examined and approved of by the Rector, is admitted as a Tutor in the Latin and Greek School at the rate of sixty pounds a year, to commence on the seventh day o January next."



Charles Thomson was active in colonial resistance against Britain for decades. During the French and Indian War, Thomson was an opponent of the Pennsylvania proprietors' American Indian policies. He served as secretary at the Treaty of Easton (1758).  In 1759, Thomson published a book entitled, "An Enquiry into the Causes of the Alienation of the Delaware and Shawenese Indians from the British Interest." In preparing this work he made a careful study of all the Indian treaties and deeds, and it contains an interesting account of the relations between the various tribes and the English. In the introduction, he speaks as follows concerning the alienation of the Indians from the British interests:

It has been to many a Cause of Wonder, how it comes to pass that the English have so few Indians in their Interest, while the French have so many at Command; and by what Means, and for what Reasons those neighboring Tribes in particular, who, at the first Arrival of the English in Pennsylvania, and for a long Series of Years afterwards, shewed every Mark of Affection and Kindness, should become our most bitter Enemies, and treat those whom they so often declared they looked upon as their Brethren, nay as their own Flesh and Blood, with such barbarous Cruelties. 


 The passage of the Stamp Act brought him into the arena of politics.  He was allied with Benjamin Franklin, the leader of the anti-proprietary party, but the two men parted politically during the Stamp Act crisis in 1765.  Thomson threw his whole soul into the cause of the colonists, laboring with so intense a zeal that he became known as "The Sam Adams of Philadelphia."   Thomson

"Walked a little about town; visited the market, the State House, the Carpenters' Hall, where the Congress is to sit; then called at Mr. Mifflin's, a grand, spacious and elegant house. Here we had much conversation with Charles Thomson, who is, it seems, about marrying a lady, a relation of Mr. Dickinson's, with five thousand pounds sterling. This Charles Thomson is the Sam Adams of Philadelphia, the life of the cause of liberty, they say."  --  The Life And Works Of John Adams, Vol. 2, p. 358.
Thomson took an active interest in preventing John Hughes, the new stamp collector, from entering upon his duties in Philadelphia. He was present at a meeting of the citizens assembled at the State House on October 5, 1765, and was appointed on a committee with James Tilghman, Robert Morris, Archibald McCall, John Cox, William Richards and William Bradford to demand Hughes' resignation. The committee called upon Hughes about three o'clock in the afternoon, while he was lying sick in bed, and obtained from him a pledge that he would not attempt to perform the functions of his office. The next day Hughes sent for Thomson and asked him if the committee were sincere the day before. Thomson said he was sincere and could only answer for himself. Hughes then exclaimed: "Well, gentlemen, you must look to yourselves; for this is a high affair." Thomson made answer thus: "I do not know, but I hope it will not be deemed rebellion. I know not how it may end, for we have not yet determined whether we will ever suffer the act to take place here or not;" and took his leave.  The whole committee called again on Monday and received from Hughes his resignation. The unfortunate stamp agent wrote a lengthy account of his troubles to the commissioners, in which he blamed the Presbyterians and the proprietary party. 

Thomson became a leader of Philadelphia's Sons of Liberty. Thomson's letters at this time give an excellent account of the excitement prevailing in the colonies as a result of the Stamp Act. On November 9, 1765, he wrote to Messrs. Cook, Lawrence and Co.:
The confusion in our city and province, and indeed through the whole colonies, is unspeakable by reason of the late Stamp Act. The courts of justice and the offices of government are all shut; numbers of people who are indebted take advantage of the times to refuse payment and are moving off with all their effects out of the reach of their creditors. Our ports are shut, except to such vessels as were cleared before the 1st inst. Thus credit is gone, trade and commerce at a stand. That peace which we ardently wished by one fatal act only presents us with a prospect of confusion and beggary."
Four years later Thomson still would be actively opposing any British taxation.  To Franklin, he wrote November 26, 1769, commenting on England's policy of taxation:
"How much farther they may proceed is uncertain, but from what they have already done, the colonies see that their property is precarious and their liberty insecure. It is true the impositions already laid are not very grievous; but if the principle is established, and the authority by which they are laid admitted, there is no security for what remains. The very nature of freedom supposes that no tax can be levied on a people without their consent given personally or by their representatives. It was not on account of the largeness of the sum demanded by Charles I. that ship money was so odious to the commons of England. But because the principle upon which it was demanded left them nothing they could call their own. The continuation of this claim of the Parliament will certainly be productive of ill consequences, as it will tend to alienate the affections of the colonies from the mother country—already it has awakened a spirit of enquiry. The people by examining have gained a fuller knowledge of their rights and are become more attentive and watchful against the encroachments of power, at the same time they are become more sensible of the resources they have among them for supplying their real wants. Resentment as well as necessity will drive them to improve them to the utmost, and from the genius of the people and the fertility of the soil, it is easy to foresee that in the course of a few years they will find at home an ample supply of all their wants. In the meanwhile their strength, power, and numbers are daily increasing, and as the property of land is parcelled out among the inhabitants and almost every farmer is a freeholder, the spirit of liberty will be kept awake and the love of freedom deeply rooted; and when strength and liberty combine it is easy to foresee that a people will not long submit to arbitrary sway."7
By 1774, the attitude of the colonies toward the tax on tea gave great offence to the King. The wrath of Parliament was first poured out upon Massachusetts, and the act closing the port of Boston kindled a flame of opposition over all the laud. On May 13, 1774, the citizens of Boston resolved:
"that if the other colonies would unite with them to stop all importations from Great Britain and the West Indies until that act should be repealed, it would prove the salvation of North America and her liberties; but should they continue their exports and imports, there was reason to fear that fraud, power, and the most odious oppression would triumph over justice, right, social happiness and freedom."  - Collections of the New York Historical Society for the Year 1878, p. 24
When copies of this resolution reached Virginia, her assembly showed every disposition to assist Massachusetts, and the first of June was set apart for a public fast. But while Virginia and Massachusetts were all aglow with the spirit of resistance to British oppression, what was the sentiment in Pennsylvania? Here, as in New York, the General Assembly contained a dominating number of passive friends of the crown. Philadelphia was controlled politically by the Friends, and it was well known that without the aid of the city, the province could not be persuaded to take up the cause of Massachusetts. Charles Thomson and a few other patriots, who made up the liberty party in Philadelphia, at once set to work to revolutionize public opinion, and the heroism that they displayed should receive ample recognition in history.

Paul Revere arrived in Philadelphia with a copy of the Boston resolutions on May 19, 1774. He also carried with him private letters addressed to Reed,Mifflin and Charles Thomson. These letters were read at the Coffee House the same day, and after a hasty conference, it was decided to call a meeting of the principal citizens in the long room of the City Tavern on the evening of the next day, Friday, May 20th. Great anxiety was felt as to the possible results of the meeting. There were many citizens who wished for a decisive expression of sentiment, while another large party was in favor of more temperate measures. Thus, in the conflict of opinions the entire plan of the meeting was threatened with defeat. Sydney George Fisher writes:
"The liberty party were in a peculiar position. They had to be very shrewd and cautious. They could win applause and distinction neither by violent action nor by violent speech. They had opportunities neither for 'tea parties' nor orations on the eternal rights of man. The child of liberty which they were nursing could bear no noise. If they were to build up their party with recruits from Quakers, Episcopalians, and Germans, they must move slowly and with cold and calculating sagacity." --  Pennsylvania: Colony and Commonwealth, p. 299.
The first great object of Thomson, Reed and Mifflin was to secure the co-operation of John Dickinson. He had been regarded as conservative and in line with the policy of the Friends, and yet the other party hoped for his assistance in order to carry their measures to success. After the Revolution, Thomson gave a lengthy account of Dickinson's attitude, in a letter to William H. Drayton, of South Carolina. It appears that when the news of the Boston Port Bill reached the country, Dickinson gave it as his opinion that the time had come to step forward. It was secretly arranged that he should prepare the minds of the people by means of a series of public letters; but before this could be accomplished, Paul Revere had arrived with the Boston letter. In describing the plan, Thomson writes:

"As the Quakers, who are principled against war, saw the storm gathering, and therefore wished to keep aloof from danger, were industriously employed to prevent anything being done which might involve Pennsylvania farther in the dispute, and as it was apparent that for this purpose their whole force would be collected at the ensuing meeting, it was necessary to devise means so to counteract their designs as to carry the measures proposed and yet prevent a disunion, and thus, if possible bring Pennsylvania's whole force undivided to make common cause with Boston. The line of conduct Mr. D. had lately pursued opened a prospect for this. His sentiments were not generally known. The Quakers courted and seemed to depend upon him. The other party from his past conduct hoped for his assistance, but were not sure how far he would go if matters came to extremity, his sentiments on the present controversy not being generally known. It was therefore agreed that he should attend the meeting, and as it would be in vain for Philadelphia or even Pennsylvania to enter into the dispute unless seconded and supported by the other colonies, the only point to be carried at the ensuing meeting was to return a friendly and affectionate answer to the people of Boston, to forward the news of their distress to the southern colonies, and to consult them and the eastern colonies on the propriety of calling a congress to consult on measures necessary to be taken. If divisions ran high at the meeting, it was agreed to propose the calling together the Assembly in order to gain time." -- Collections of the New York Historical Society for the year 1878, p.66
Thomson relates that, in order to accomplish, this, it was agreed that one of Dickinson's friends, a rash man, should urge an immediate declaration in favor of Boston; and that Dickinson should oppose and press for moderate measures, which would be adopted. Messrs. Reed, Mifflin and Thomson arranged to dine with Dickinson on the day of the meeting, and after a lengthy conference, the latter decided to be present in the evening. Reed and Mifflin then returned to town, while Thomson remained to bring Dickinson, so that all might not seem to have been together. William B. Reed writes:
"The meeting was large, but was composed of the most heterogeneous materials. The proprietary party had sent its representatives ;—many of the leading men among the Friends, and the sons of nearly all the officers of government were present; and all awaited with great apparent excitement the opening of the meeting." --  Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, Vol. I, p. 66.
The proceedings of this meeting are graphically described in the following language:
"The letter received from Boston was read, after which Reed addressed the assembly with temper, moderation, but in pathetic terms. Mifflin spoke next and with more warmth and fire. Thomson succeeded, and pressed for an immediate declaration in favor of Boston, and making common cause with her; but being overcome with the heat of the room and fatigue (for he had scarce slept an hour two nights past), he fainted and was carried into an adjoining room. Great clamor was raised against the violence of the measures proposed. Dickinson then addressed the company. In what manner he acquitted himself I cannot say. After he had finished the clamor was renewed; voices were heard in different parts of the room, and all was in confusion: a chairman was called for to moderate the meeting and regulate debates; still the confusion continued. As soon as Thomson recovered, he returned into the room. The tumult and disorder was past description. He had not strength to attempt opposing the gust of passion or to allay the heat by anything he could say. He therefore simply moved a question that an answer should be returned to the letter from Boston; this was put and carried. He then moved for a committee to write the answer; this was agreed to, and two lists were immediately made out and handed to the chair. The clamor was then renewed on which list a vote should be taken. At length it was proposed that both lists should be considered as one, and compose the committee. This was agreed to, and the company broke up in tolerable good humor, both thinking they had in part carried their point." -- 12 Collections of the New York Historical Society for the year 1878, p.71
The committee referred to by Thomson met the next day, May 21st, and not only prepared an answer to the Boston letter, but also addressed a petition to the Governor, signed by nearly one thousand citizens, requesting him to convene the Assembly. The Governor refused to grant the petition, and Thomson regarded that official's reply as well calculated for the meridian of London. As the first of June approached, the feelings of resentment in Philadelphia against Great Britain became manifest. Christopher Marshall writes:
"This being the day when the cruel act for blocking the harbor of Boston took effect, many of the inhabitants of this city, to express their sympathy and show their concern for their suffering brethren in the common cause of liberty, had their shops shut up, their houses kept close from hurry and business; also the ring of bells at Christ Church were muffled, and rung a solemn peal at intervals, from morning till night; the colors of the vessels in the harbor were hoisted half-mast high; the several houses of different worship were crowded, where divine service was performed, and particular discourses, suitable to the occasion, were preached by F. Alison, Duffield, Sprout, and Blair. Sorrow, mixed with indignation, seemed pictured in the countenance of the inhabitants, and indeed the whole city wore the aspect of deep distress, being a melancholy occasion."  --  Passages from the Remembrances of Christopher Marshall, p. 6.
The refusal of the Governor to convene the Assembly gave to the patriots a fair pretext for holding a general meeting of the citizens at the State House. This gathering was convened on June 18, and was attended by fully eight thousand people. Dickinson and Willing presided, while Dr. Smith, Reed and Thomson were the principal speakers. With so much caution were the proceedings of the meeting conducted that the speakers were required to submit their addresses to the President for revision. A general congress of the colonies was recommended, a committee of correspondence was appointed, and measures were taken to relieve the sufferers by the Boston Port Bill. The committee of correspondence issued a call for a general convention at Philadelphia, on July 15th and also requested the Governor to summon the members of the Assembly to meet on the first of August. In the meantime, the Governor had been compelled to convene the Assembly on the rumor of Indian hostilities; nevertheless, the convention met at the appointed time, and chose Mr. Willing for chairman, and Charles Thomson secretary. Resolutions were adopted declaring: that they owed allegiance to George the Third; that unconstitutional independence from the parent state was abhorrent to their principles; that they desired the restoration of harmony with the mother country, on the principles of the constitution; that the inhabitants of the colonies were entitled to the same rights and liberties within the colonies that subjects born in England were entitled to within that realm; that the late acts of Parliament affecting Massachusetts were unconstitutional ; that there was an absolute necessity that a congress of the colonies should be immediately assembled, etc. -- See the Resolutions in Niles' Principles and Acts of the Revolution, p. 204. 

Adolphus' History Of England, Vol. 2, p. 145 would write of the colonial union:
The union, effected among the colonies, by means of corresponding committees, was a death-blow to the authority of Britain; the Americans were sensible of the advantage, and as soon as the co-operation of all parts of the continent was ensured, advanced bolder claims, diffused broader principles of government, and assumed with less disguise, the part and mien of defiance. The references made in their declaration to the rights of nature, the intimation that like their ancestors, they proceeded before the adoption of other measures, to state their grievances and their rights, and their frequent exhortations to arms, all prove that plans of revolution and resistance were already meditated and digested. Motives of common safety, when they had once assumed an hostile position, cemented the jarring interests of the colonies, and for the time subdued their inveterate jealousies.
After these meetings, Thomson, Dickinson and Mifflin, apparently to take an excursion for pleasure, made a tour of the frontier counties in order to learn the political sentiment of the German districts. The meetings in Philadelphia were bold in their attitude towards established power, and one writer claims that they became the precedent for the first Jacobin clubs in Paris. In 1822, Thomas Jefferson, writing to Morse, referred to the Philadelphia meeting of June 18th, as follows: "This perilous engine became necessary to precede the Revolution, but I regard it as a collateral power which no man could wish to see in use again." 

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 9th), 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 cause of the colonists had steadily advanced during the summer of 1774, and on September 5th of that year the first Continental Congress assembled at Philadelphia in Carpenters' Hall. Thomson was not present but  Delegate Thomas Lynch proposed that Thomson should be appointed Secretary, which was done without opposition, although Mr. Duane and Mr. Jay were at first inclined to elect a man from their own body. The manner of Thomson's appointment is interesting. He had wed Miss Harrison, daughter of Benjamin Harrision a future signer of the Declaration of Independence, on Thursday, September 1st, and coming to Philadelphia in his carriage with his wife on the following Monday, he had just alighted when a message came to him from the President of Congress that he must see him immediately. Thomson writes: 
"I was married to my second wife on a Thursday; on the next Monday, I came to town to pay my respects to my wife's aunt and the family. Just as I alighted in Chestnut Street, the door-keeper of Congress (then first met) accosted me with a message from them requesting my presence. Surprised at this, and not able to divine why I was wanted, I however bade my servant put up the horses, and followed the messenger myself to the Carpenters' Hall, and entered Congress. Here was indeed an august assembly, and deep thought and solemn anxiety were observable on their countenances. I walked up the aisle, and standing opposite to the President, I bowed, and told him I waited his pleasure. He replied, 'Congress desire the favor of you, sir, to take their minutes.' I bowed in acquiescence, and took my seat at the desk."
Although Thomson was present at the opening session of Congress, it appears that he did not begin the actual duties of the office until September 10th. Dr. Herbert Friedenwald, who has made a careful study of the records of the Continental Congress, writes:
"Charles Thomson, as is well known, was elected Secretary upon the first day of the meeting of the Congress of 1774, and he retained his office until the end. But although this was the case, the original Journal covering the first five days of the Congress is not in his hand. For some reason, he seems not to have taken up the duties of his office until the l0th of September. Then he examined what had been recorded during his absence, and made sundry additions, corrections, and erasures. The entry of his own election read originally 'Charles Thomson, Secretary.' This he changed to read, as we find it in the printed Journal, 'Mr. Charles Thomson was unanimously elected Secretary,' and the hand is unmistakable." 
The character of the first Continental Congress has called forth the admiration of statesmen and historians. William Pitt, in a speech delivered in Parliament, remarked:
"I must declare and avow, that in all my reading and study,—and it has been my favorite study: I have read Thucydides, and have studied and admired the master states of the world,—that for solidity of reasoning, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion, under such a complication of circumstances, no nation or body of men can stand in preference to the General Congress at Philadelphia."
The roll call indicated that, of the fifty-two delegates elected, forty-four were already present, forming a body of representative Americans  which, for dignity of character and for learning, no subsequent legislative body in our country has been able to surpass. In that Congress were assembled such men as John and Samuel Adams, Stephen Hopkins, Roger Sherman, John Sullivan, John Jay, James Duane, Philip and William Livingston, Joseph Galloway, Thomas Mifflin, Caesar Rodney, Thomas McKean, George Read, Samuel Chase, John and Edward Rutledge, Christopher Gadsden, Henry Middleton, Edmund Pendleton, George Washington and Patrick Henry. "There is in the Congress," wrote John Adams, "a collection of the greatest men upon the continent in point of abilities, virtues, and fortunes." Joseph Reed wrote, "There are some fine fellows come from Virginia, but they are very high. The Bostonians are mere milksops to them. We understand they are the capital men of the colony, both in fortune and understanding." -- Remarks of Joseph Reed, in Life and Correspondence, Vol. I, p. 74.


Liberty Bell on tour at the New Orleans World's Fair in 1884

John Trumbull, in his "Elegy on the Times," refers to this assembly in the following lines:
"Now meet the fathers of this western clime,
Nor names more noble graced the rolls of fame,

When Spartan firmness braved the wrecks of time,

Or Rome's bold virtues fanned the heroic flame.

"Not deeper thought the immortal sage inspired, 

   On Solon's lips when Grecian senates hung; 

  Nor manlier eloquence the bosom fired 

When genius thundered from the Athenian tongue." 
Thomson was profoundly impressed on assuming his duties in this august body, and he has left several interesting reminiscences of the occasion. After the organization of Congress was effected, the question at once arose whether the method of voting should be by colonies, by poll, or by interests.5 All seemed to be impressed by the difficulty of the problem, and a deep silence prevailed. Thomson said:
None seemed willing to break the eventful silence until a grave looking member, in a plain dark suit of minister's gray, and unpowdered wig arose. All became fixed in attention on him. As he proceeded, he evinced such unusual force of argument, such novel and impassioned eloquence as soon electrified the house. Then the excited inquiry passed from man to man, who is it? who is it? The answer from the few who knew him was, it is Patrick Henry!
The proceedings of Congress likewise clearly indicate that the labors of Thomson in the town meeting and the committee of correspondence had not been without good results. He had strived with the other patriots, to nationalize the spirit of resistance to British tyranny, and to make the cause of Massachusetts common to all the colonies. He must have been gratified at the unanimity which characterized the actions of Congress; for in claiming their rights as founded on the immutable laws of nature, the representatives of the colonies were but expressing the views of the committees of correspondence, in which Thomson labored with so much zeal. Even the Tory historian Adolphus was led to express his admiration of the sentiment that prevailed in Congress.
"No longer" [he says], "did America exhibit the appearance of rival colonies, piquing themselves on separate rights, and boasting the relative advantages of different charters, and different constitutions; all such sentiments were buried in oblivion; the same grievances, although not felt by all, were complained of by all; and the same remedy, without apparent previous communication, was generally recurred to, with the only difference of more or less violence according to the genius of the people, or the temper of the favorite leaders." -- Adolphus' History of England, Vol. 2, p. 129.
Thomson's methods employed in keeping the records of Congress are ably described by Dr. Friedenwald in his work entitled, "The Journals and Papers of the Continental Congress." Dr. Friedenwald gives an outline of the material contained in the old manuscripts, and also shows how these papers were first published by authority of Congress. -- Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1896, p. 85.

In a letter to Hon. Mellen Chamberlain, December 23, 1884, Theodore F. Dwight, Chief of Bureau of Rolls and Library in the Department of State, Washington, wrote the following account of the Journals:
As to the several Journals: Charles Thomson, as you know, was the 'perpetual Secretary' of the Continental Congress; and, from all I can gather, he was a man of the strictest probity, and was most conscientious in the discharge of his important trusts. It would be interesting to discover how much influence he exerted in the first councils. I am confident it was considerable. To him we owe the preservation of all the records of the Continental Congress,—not only the Journals, but all those fragments now so precious, e. g. the original motions, the reports of committees, the small odds and ends, which are the small bones of history. They are all in this room, and at my elbow as I write. One of them, for instance, is the original of Lee's motion reproduced, but without proper explanation, by Force, in the American Archives. You allude to it.
The Journals of Congress are, with some very few exceptions, entirely in the handwriting of Thomson. He seems to have been present at every session. The series of the archives of the Congress very properly begins with what he termed the 'Rough Journal,' beginning with the proceedings of September 5, 1774, and ended with the entry of March 2, 1789, and was probably written while Congress was sitting, the entries being made directly after each vote was taken. It is contained in thirty-nine small foolscap folio volumes. The second of the series is a fair copy of the 'Rough Journal,' from September 5, 1775, to January 20, 1779,—in ten volumes folio. From this copy, it is stated in a record in the Bureau, 'the Journals were printed ; and such portions as were deemed secret were marked or crossed by a committee of Congress,— not to be transcribed.' In this he has amplified some entries, and given more care to the style and composition of his sentences.
This explanation will account for the 'two Public Journals.' The ' Rough Journal' should be regarded as the standard. No. 3 of the series of archives is the 'Secret Domestic Journal,' comprising entries from May 10, 1775, to October 26, 1787 ; the fourth number is a Secret Journal, foreign and domestic, comprising entries from October 18, 1780, to March 29, 1786 (the foregoing two numbers form two volumes). No. 5 is in three volumes, and is called 'Secret Journal of Foreign Affairs,' November 29, 1775, to September 16, 1788. No. 6 is in three volumes, and is designated 'An Imperfect Secret Journal'; it contains entries made from the Journal of Congress, September 17, 1776, to September 16, 1788. No. 7 is a small quarto volume, containing but few entries, called the 'More Secret Journal.' No. 8 is a folio, Secret Journal A, 1776-1783 : the contents of this volume appear to be merely minutes of proceedings, which were afterwards entered on the Public Journals.
And so for fifteen years, Thomson was retained as Secretary of the Continental Congress, in some respects one of the most remarkable legislative bodies the world has ever seen. 

Thomson knew better than any other man the secret history of Congress and the motives which influenced its members. In his position, he beheld the national consciousness slowly develop, and he was present at the dawn of independence. Deborah Logan, a girl of fifteen at the time of the Declaration of Independence, has left an interesting description of how it was read to the people on July 8th. She had climbed upon the garden fence to get sight of what was going on; but the view was obstructed by a low frame building in Independence Square which had been erected for astronomical purposes. Her recollections are as follows:
How a little time spreads the mantle of oblivion over the most important events! It is now a matter of doubt at what hour or how the Declaration was given to the people; perhaps few remain who heard it read on that day; of those few, I am one, being in the lot adjoining to our old mansion in Chestnut Street, that then extended to Fifth. I distinctly heard the words of that instrument read to the people (I think from the State-house steps, for I did not see the speaker). * * * I think it was Charles Thomson's voice. It took place a little after twelve at noon, and they then proceeded down the street (I understood) to read it at the Court house. It was a time of fearful doubt and great anxiety with the people, many of whom were appalled at the boldness of the measure, and the first audience of the Declaration was neither very numerous, nor composed of the most respectable class of citizens. -- Potter's American Monthly, Vol. 6, p. 269.
After the Declaration of Independence, Congress began to deteriorate in quality, and it finally expired for the want of a majority in October, 1788. It was Thomson's opinion that no later Congress could compare with the first one in ability and patriotism. He regarded the Congress that met at York, Pennsylvania, while Washington's army was encamped at Valley Forge, as a body of weak men with selfish motives.  Rivington's Gazette, a Tory paper, December 21, 1777, gives the following account of the adjournment of Congress from Philadelphia to York: 
As soon as the rebels learned that the British fleet was at the head of the Chesapeake, a motion was made in the Congress for an adjournment to some place 'at least one hundred miles from any part of God's Kingdom where the British mercenaries can possibly land,' which, after some rapturous demonstrations, was carried nem. con. Immediately the Congress commenced the retreat, leaving old nosey Thomson to pick up the duds and write promises to pay (when Congress should return) the Congress debts. In the flight, as in the rebellion, Hancock, having a just apprehension of the vengeance which awaits him, took the initiative and was the first to carry out the letter of the motion of his associates.
In 1776 and again in 1777, the U.S. Continental Congress was forced to flee Philadelphia due to military advancements of British forces.   Congress was able to return to Philadelphia, from Baltimore, on March 4th, 1777, due to Washington's victories in Trenton and Princeton.  In August, a re-organized British army began their advance on Philadelphia.  On September 14th Congress resolved that if it should be necessary to remove from Philadelphia, “Lancaster shall be the place which they shall meet.”[5] The resolution was passed none too soon, as President John Hancock and the Continental Congress were forced to abandon the city on September 18th, 1777. Robert Morton, a Philadelphia Tory, wrote,

Sept. 19, 1777. This morning about 1 o'clock an express arrived to Congress giving an account of the British Army having got to the Swedes Ford on the other side of Schuylkill, which so much alarmed the gentlemen of the Congress, the military officers, and other friends to the general cause of American Freedom, that they decamped with the utmost precipitation and in the greatest confusion; insomuch that one of the delegates, by name of Fulsom, was obliged in a very Fulsome manner to ride off without a saddle. Thus we have seen the men, from whom we have received, and from whom we still expect protection, leave us to fall into the hands of (by their accounts) a barbarous, cruel and unrelenting enemy.[6]

As they had resolved, the members rode off to a small river town in central Pennsylvania called Lancaster. The route many members took was circuitous. For example, the new delegate of South Carolina, Henry Laurens, traveled by carriage on September 19th first to Bristol to col­lect the recuperating French Marquis de Lafayette, who had been wounded in the Battle of Brandywine.  Laurens was forced by British patrols to travel north, rather than west, to Bethlehem. His carriage moved southwest through the Lehigh Valley into Reading and finally headed south to Lancaster.   Here, Henry Laurens discovered that the Lancaster Inns were already overcrowded because the displaced citizens of Philadelphia had flooded into the small community along with the State government of Pennsylvania. Delegate Laurens wrote:

Here [Lancaster] Congress were soon convened but hearts were still fluttering in some bosoms & a motion made for adjourning to this Town [York-Town], [7]

On the other side of the Susquehanna, a river offering a protective natural barrier to British invasion, sat the small hamlet of York-Town (now known as York, Pennsylvania). York had an underutilized courthouse readily available to be used to reconvene Congress in safety. York also offered numerous accommodations to house the delegates comfortably. On September 30th, the Continental Congress moved into this 35-year-old town of about 300 dwellings and 2,000 residents.  John Adams, once settled in York-Town, wrote Abigail:

It is now a long Time, since I had an Opportunity of writing to you, and I fear you have suffered unnecessary Anxiety on my Account. -- In the Morning of the 19th. Inst., the Congress were alarmed, in their Beds, by a Letter from Mr. Hamilton one of General Washington’s Family, that the Enemy were in Possession of the Ford over the Schuylkill, and the Boats, so that they had it in their Power to be in Philadelphia, before Morning. The Papers of Congress, belonging to the Secretary's Office, the War Office, the Treasury Office, &c. were before sent to Bristol. The President, and all the other Gentlemen were gone that Road, so I followed, with my Friend Mr. Merchant [Marchant] of Rhode Island, to Trenton in the jersies. We stayed at Trenton, until the 21st when we set off, to Easton upon the Forks of Delaware. From Easton We went to Bethlehem, from thence to Reading, from thence to Lancaster, and from thence to this Town, which is about a dozen Miles over the Susquehanna River. -- Here Congress is to sit. In order to convey the Papers, with safeties, which are of more Importance than all the Members, We were induced to take this Circuit, which is near 180 Miles, whereas this Town by the directest Road is not more than 88 miles from Philadelphia. This Tour has given me an Opportunity of seeing many Parts of this Country, which I never saw before.[8]

Philadelphia was lost, Fort Ticonderoga, also captured, and now the British, under the command of General John Burgoyne,[9] were marching down the Hudson Valley to cut off New England from the Middle Atlantic States.  These were perilous days but the Continental Congress pressed on with their work conducting what increasingly appeared to be a failing war effort. The work in York was prodigious as the delegates were in the final stages of formulating the first U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation.  The letters of the delegates report that Congress typically met from 10 am to 1 pm and recessed until 4 pm. The “after recess sessions” often lasted well into the evening. Committee duties, which were numerous, filled any remaining delegate free time. John Hancock wrote to his wife Dorothy during this period:

I sat in the Chair yesterday & Conducted the Business Eight hours, which is too much, and after that had the Business of my office to attend to as usual … I cannot Stand it much longer in this way" [10]

On October 29, 1777 the U.S. Continental Congress was in a heated debate over the finalization of the Articles of Confederation.    John Hancock a few days earlier requested a leave of absence but it was denied so on the 29th, in the midst of the constitutional deliberations, he resigned.  The US Continental Congress then resolved unanimously by vote, "Resolved, That the secretary officiate as president until a new choice is made," and went back to work with Charles Thomson officiating over the Articles of Confederation debates and resolutions.  Under Charles Thomson's "presidency," other matters also came before Congress on the 29th, 30th, 31st, and the morning of the 1st of November when Henry Laurens was elected President.  The Articles were passed on November 15, 1777 and were knows finally enacted on March 1, 1781, after Maryland made ratification unanimous.


Thomson lamented that as early as February, 1778, the number of members were greatly reduced, and nearly all the men of superior abilities had disappeared. In January, 1778, Laurens said: "A most shameful deficiency in this branch is the greatest evil, and is, indeed, the source of almost all our evils. If there is not speedily a resurrection of able men, and of that virtue which I thought to be genuine in seventy-five, we are gone. We shall undo ourselves." Washington also deplored the fact that the States did not send able men to Congress, and in March 1779, he wrote: "Friends and foes seem now to combine to pull down the goodly fabric we have been raising at the expense of so much time, blood and treasure."


During Thomson's five years of service, his relations with the members of the Continental Congress were of the most agreeable character. There was but one occasion when any difference existed. On September 1, 1779, Henry Laurens, the President of Congress, presented a lengthy complaint, charging Thomson with disrespectful behavior toward him. Laurens claimed that Thomson refused to send him copies of certain resolutions as requested; that he refused to rewrite in a legible hand the commission of John Adams to the Court of Versailles; that he refused to give Laurens two copies of the Journal, for his State, etc.  --  Potter's American Monthly, Vol. 6, p. 173.

The scene that followed on Thomson's refusal to supply copies of the Journal must have been an animated one, according to the version given by Laurens:
"His first answer was—'I won't'—I replied, you won't, Mr. Thomson, what language is this? I tell you, I want them for my State—to which he again answered, 'I won't,' but added, 'till I have given every member present one.' Mr. Thomson then descended from the platform; I reached out my hand to take another copy; he snatched it from me and said, 'You shan't have it.' This repeated insult brought instantly to my mind his former conduct, and provoked me to say he was a most impudent fellow, that I had a good mind to kick him; he turned about, doubled his fist and said, 'You dare not.' I recollected the time and place, and let him pass on. When he had humored himself, he returned with many spare Journals in his hand, and gave me one. I barely asked him if he might not as well have done this at first."
On September 6, 1779, Thomson sent to Congress a reply to all the charges made by Laurens. He claimed that Laurens showed a coldness towards him soon after becoming President, and that he frequently passed the lie. In this letter Thomson took occasion to describe in rather plain language the general conduct of Laurens as a presiding officer.
I saw him at the afternoon sessions [wrote Thomson], so far unmindful of his station and dignity as to rise and debate questions as a delegate, then sit down, and, as President, hear himself replied to, and at one time in one of such debates, so far forget himself as to answer from the chair an honorable member from North Carolina by singing aloud, 'Poor little Penny, poor little Penny, sing tan-tarra-ra-ra,' and at another time when he was reading a report brought in by an honorable member from Massachusetts Bay, which was under debate, to stop in the middle of a sentence and exclaim, 'Solomon Grundy! Did you ever see such a Solomon Grundy?' which'raised such indignation that the honorable member left the room, and soon after Congress adjourned.- Potter's American Monthly, Vol. 6, p. 264.

Charles Thomson   signed Military Commission as Secretary of the The Continental Congress 

The records of Congress fail to show that any notice was taken of the charges made by Laurens and Thomson against each other. The feud between the two patriots did not long continue, for on June 17, 1784, Thomson wrote to Laurens, congratulating him on the recovery of his health, and giving, at the same time, an interesting account of our foreign relations.

The deplorable condition of Congress, that existed during the Secretary Thomson and President Laurens altercation, was a fair indication of the state of affairs throughout the whole country. In April, 1779, a paper dollar was worth five cents, and in many respects this year marked the lowest ebb in politics and morals that was reached during the war. Robert Morris truly said:
"We are disputing about liberties, posts and places at the very time we ought to have nothing in view but the securing of those objects and placing them on such a footing as to make them worth contending for among ourselves hereafter. But instead of this, the vigor of this and several other States is lost in intestine divisions; and unless the spirit of contention is checked by some other means, I fear it will have a baneful influence on the measures of America."
The depreciation of the silver and gold backed U.S. Currency  was followed by an unusual rise in prices, commodities selling at Philadelphia in March, 1780, at four times what they were in the month of September preceding.   Nothing plagued the Continental Congress more than the devaluation of its currency.  President Samuel Huntington insisted that the only solution to the United States financial ills of debt amounting to 200 million dollars was “fixing a standard for the currency.”  By March 1780, Congress was faced with the dollar devaluing to new lows that in some sections of the nation were at $50 U.S. Continental dollars for on Spanish silver dollar.  The following table represents the official marks of the U.S. Dollar depreciation from May 1775 to March 18, 1780.


Date
U.S. Dollars
Spanish Milled Silver Dollar
May 10, 1775
1
1
March 1, 1778
1.75
1
September 1, 1778
4
1
March 1, 1779
10
1
September 1, 1779
18
1
March 18, 1780
40
1
Copyright
© Stan Klos 2008





Continental $5.00 Bill states “This bill entitles the Bearer to receive Five Spanish Milled Dollars,

 or the Value there-of in Gold or Silver according to a Resolution of Congress 

passed at Philadelphia November 29, 1775.” - Copyright © Stan Klos

On March 18, 1780, with the enactment of a resolution, the Continental Congress reneged on its 1775 currency face guarantee of exchanging 1 U.S. dollar for 1 Spanish Milled dollar hyper-inflating repayment to 40 U.S. Dollars for 1 Spanish Milled Dollar.  The U.S. by the stroke of a pen effectively reduced the national debt they owed in Spanish Milled dollars from $200,000,000 to $5,000,000 with the enactment of the March 18, 1780 resolution.  The President’s Connecticut delegation, that included Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth, voted unanimously for the resolution believing that the new currency policy would result in the stabilization of the national economy.

In October, 1780, Thomson wrote to John Jay the following account of the extremities of the country:
Upon this our enemies took courage and flattering themselves that Congress must sink under these embarrassments, they set every engine to work to continue and increase them, by counterfeiting the currency, multiplying their emissaries to decry its credit, tampering with our army and at the same time prosecuting the war with a greater degree of vigor than they had done from the commencement of it. To the honor of our country, I must inform you that history cannot produce such instances of fortitude, patience and perseverance as were exhibited by our virtuous army. Though exposed to hunger and nakedness amidst the rigors of a most inclement winter they struggled through with unparalleled firmness, and notwithstanding the tempting bribes and offers of the enemy, and the incredible hardships our soldiers suffered, the desertions were comparatively few.  -- Collections of the New York Historical Society for the year 1878, P- 33
Thomson looked upon the financial distress of the colonies with the calmness of a philosopher. What a world of thought there is in the following words of the venerable Secretary:
I would just observe, that if old established nations, populous, rich, and powerful, whose governments are fixed, whose revenues are settled, who have armies raised and fleets equipped, whose towns are fortified and whose arsenals and magazines are stored with implements and necessaries for war, if such nations find themselves under difficulties for want of money by one or two years' war with a nation weakened and greatly exhausted, what wonder if a young Commonwealth, whose inhabitants are poor and thinly scattered over a large extent of country, which was just emerging from the difficulties of settling a wilderness, and which being without arms, ammunition or military stores and without any established government, what wonder if such a nation, under such circumstances forced into a war with one of the most powerful nations in the world should, after carrying on that war for six years with no other revenue than the voluntary contributions of the people, find itself embarrassed in its finances and under a necessity of applying for aid to other nations whose interest it is to humble the power with which it is contending. -- Collections of the New York Historical Society for the year 1878

Through all these vicissitudes the Secretary's faith in the United States remained unshaken. Benjamin Franklin had tried again and again to have his own accounts with the government audited, but his efforts never met with any response from Congress. In 1788 he hinted to Thomson that republics are apt to be ungrateful; but Thomson never lost hope, and on one occasion he remarked to Franklin that it was no wonder that the States were backward, as everything was new and unusual. He expressed great confidence in the good sense of his countrymen, and said: "Though you and I have lived to see a great work accomplished, yet much remains to be done to secure the happiness of this country."




Who was the first U.S. President?

As the Revolution proceeded Thomson was required to perform many of the duties which are now more properly the business of the Secretary of State. He kept the ''Secret Journal of Foreign Affairs," and had charge of the correspondence with our representatives abroad. John Jay wrote to him in 1781, while Minister to Madrid:
I wish in my heart that you were not only Secretary of Congress, but Secretary also for Foreign Affairs. I should then have better sources of information than gazettes and reports.
Thomson often issued military order on behalf of Congress as opposed to the previous Continental Congress and United States in Congress Assembled Presidents as evidence by the September 1781 to Major General Arthur St. Clair.


By the United States in Congress Assembled September 19, 1781 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. Extract from the minutes  -- Charles Thompson 
In 1782, in an important step of weakening the presidency, the USCA watered down presidential duties by successfully proposing and passing the removal of the voluminous correspondence tasks from Hanson’s office.  Specifically, on January 28th, 1782 the USCA passed a resolution transferring the "signature" and other presidential communication duties to the Secretary of the United States, Charles Thomson with this resolution.

In order that the President may be relieved from that load of the business with which he is unnecessarily incumbered, that the officers at the head of the several boards executive departments lately established, may be enabled to execute the duties required of them, and that business may be conducted with regularity and despatch, Resolved, That it shall be the business of the Secretary--

1st. To transmit to the Superintendent of finance, all papers referred to him by Congress; as well as an authenticated copy of every act, ordinance and resolution of Congress touching the finances of the United States and particularly of those which relate to supplies, the expenditure of public money or the settlement of public accounts: to the Secretary at War, all papers referred to him by Congress; as well as an authenticated copy of every act, ordinance and resolution touching his department and particularly of those which relate to military preparations or the land forces of the United States and: to the Secretary or agent of marine, or to the person entrusted with the duties of the office of Secretary or agent of marine, all papers referred to him by Congress; as well as an authenticated copy of every act, ordinance or and resolution touching his department and particularly those which relate to naval preparations and maritime matters: and to the Secretary for foreign affairs, all papers referred to him by Congress; as well as an authenticated copy of every act, ordinance and resolution of Congress touching his department and particularly of those which relate to the intercourse between the U. S. and foreign nations or which it may be necessary to communicate to the Ministers of these United States at foreign courts.

2nd. To return such answers as Congress shall direct to be given to the memorials petitions and communications: To keep a daily register account of all memorials, petitions and communications received by Congress, noting therein their object and the steps taken respecting them; and lay the said account or register every day, on the table of Congress for the inspection of the members.

3rd. To return such answers as Congress shall direct to be given to the memorials, petitions and communications, except where Congress shall judge it proper that the same be given by their President, or where it shall be the duty of any of the executive departments to return such answers:

4th. To attend Congress during their sessions, and, in their recess, to attend the committee of the states, to read the public despatches, acts, ordinances and reports of committees, and to make the proper entries in the journals; to authenticate all acts and proceedings not specially directed to be authenticated by their President; and to keep a register of all treaties, conventions and ordinances:

5th. to cause to be made and laid upon the table for every State represented in Congress, a copy of every ordinance or report upon a matter of importance, and not of a secret nature, for the consideration of which a day is assigned:

6th. To keep the public seal, and cause the same to be affixed to every act, ordinance or paper, which Congress shall direct:

7th. To superintend the printing of the journals and publications ordered by Congress:

8th. To keep a book in which shall be noted in columns, the names of the several members of Congress, the State which they represent, the date of their appointments, the term for which they are appointed, and the date of leave of absence.



1782 Great Seal of the United States designed by Charles Thomson 


In June 1782, the USCA enacted legislation creating a seal for the United States.  The Seal adopted was Secretary Charles Thomson’s drawing representing the assemblage of three different Committee designs of the Great Seal of the United States in Congress Assembled:


First Die of the Great Seal of the United States, 1782
                  
The device for an armorial achievement and reverse of the great seal for the United States in Congress assembled, is as follows: ARMS. Paleways of thirteen pieces, argent and gules; a chief, azure; the escutcheon on the breast of the American bald eagle displayed proper, holding in his dexter talon an olive branch, and in his sinister a bundle of thirteen arrows, all proper, and in his beak a scroll, inscribed with this motto, "E pluribus Unum." For the Cest. Over the head of the eagle, which appears above the escutcheon, a glory, or, breaking through a cloud, proper, and surrounding thirteen stars, forming a constellation, argent, on an azure field. REVERSE. A pyramid unfinished. In the zenith, an eye in a triangle, surrounded with a glory proper. Over the eye these words, "Annuit Coeptis." On the base of the pyramid the numerical letters MDCCLXXVI. And underneath the following motto, "Novus Ordo Seclorum."



By 1784, a now fully experienced as the USCA Secretary under the Articles of Confederation, had to contend with Congress launching the constitutional  provision that enabled the USCA to govern the nation by a committee.


On April 26, 1784, Congress decided to adjourn from June 3rd, to meet at Trenton on October 30th, following. The permanent session of Congress, and the carelessness of the members had created much uneasiness throughout the country; while some of the States recommended periodical sessions. Jefferson and other leading statesmen favored a recess in the interests of economy, as well as, to invigorate the government. The Confederation had not been organized into separate departments; but it was provided in the Articles of Confederation that the management of public affairs should be in charge of the Committee of the States, when Congress was not in session. This executive board consisted of one member from each State, and its powers were to embrace all the executive functions of Congress. The concurrence of nine members was required on all questions, except that of adjournment from day to day. 

Among other regulations, a Journal was to be kept, published monthly, and forwarded to the several States. The Committee met at Annapolis on June 4th and elected Mr. S. Hardy chairman. As it was necessary for Thomson to return to Philadelphia, he was granted a leave of absence, while Messrs. Bankson and Remsen were appointed to act as clerks in his place. The Committee then adjourned to meet again on June 26th, but it was not possible to get representatives present from nine States until July 8th.  Efforts were then made to have the Committee assemble either at Trenton or Philadelphia. On August 3rd, three of the members returned home, and it appears that nothing was accomplished even as late as October 1st, for Thomson wrote on that date: "But it does not appear to me that any Committee will be formed before the meeting of Congress, which is to be at Trenton on the 30th of this month."

Charles Thomson signed Broadside as Secretary of the The United States
in Congress Assembled  at the Annapolis session in 1784
During his absence, Thomson kept in close touch with the Committee at Annapolis. On June 20th, 1784, he wrote to Mr. Hardy, the chairman:
Pursuant to the order of Congress, I prepared three commissions for our ministers for negotiating treaties with the commercial powers of Europe, one empowering them to negotiate additional treaties of commerce with France, conformable to the instructions given, another doing the same with the United Netherlands, and a third for the like purpose with Sweden. These, I forwarded yesterday, together with the duplicate of the instructions given May 30th and October 29th, 1783, the answer of Congress of October 29th, to the letter from the Burgomasters and Senate of the imperial free city Hamburg, the act of November 1st, 1783, the act of March 16th, 1784, on the letters of November 1st and December 25th from Doctor Franklin, the instructions of the 7th and nth of last month and those given on the 3rd instant, which comprehend the whole business now before them; and for their further information, I have forwarded to them a copy of the Journal of the last session of Congress up to May 28th, and a newspaper containing the ordinance for putting the treasury into commission, and the appointment and powers of the Committee of the States.
Rayner writes on the Committee of the States: The scheme was found to be an impracticable one, though it was the best within the authority of Congress at that time to adopt. And on the whole, it was a happy circumstance for our Republic, that the theory proved as impracticable as it did; for it developed, in a clear light, the palpable defect of the confederation, in not having provided for a separation of the legislative, executive and judiciary functions; and this defect, together with the want of adequate powers in the general government to collect their contributions and to regulate commerce, was the great cause which led to the formation and adoption of our present constitution."— Life Of Thomas Jefferson, by B. L. Rayner, p. 206.

Thomson was greatly disappointed that the Committee should persist in remaining at Annapolis, while there were a number of more suitable places where its sessions might be held. He wrote to Mr. Read, of South Carolina, July 23, 1784, expressing his displeasure, as follows:
I acknowledge, my dear sir, the beauties and agreeable situation of Annapolis, and will admit that the graces and charms of its nymphs are not excelled by those of the inhabitants of Calypso's isle. And were you and your associates in pursuit only of love and pleasure, I would allow there is no place where you could more properly fix your habitation. But these are not the objects of the patriot's pursuit. The dance, the ball, and continued round of pleasure are not the means of promoting the interests of his country, guarding its rights, and advancing its happiness and prosperity. I confess, therefore, I should not be sorry if some kind of monster, I care not whether in the form of a mosquito, or a fever and ague were to drive you from that enchanting place into the walks of politics, and force you to turn your attention to the concerns of this young and rising empire which demands your care.
When Mr. Bankson wrote to Thomson on August 13, 1784, that the dissolution of the Committee was imminent, the old patriot was filled with indignation, and he at once addressed the following note to Mr. Hardy:
Can it be possible that gentlemen will take such a rash step as to dissolve the Committee and leave the United States without any head or visible authority? Have they considered what may be the consequences? At this moment, if I am rightly informed, there is a war carrying on between the people of Connecticut and Pennsylvania at Wyoming. The frontiers are in a state of anxiety respecting the disposition of the Indians Who is to convene the States if the Committee is dissolved? If Annapolis is become inconvenient or dangerous on account of the sickly season approaching, could not the Committee have adjourned to this place or to Trenton?
Thomson's letters to our foreign ministers contain much valuable information on the state of the country. On June, 18, 1784, he wrote to John Jay:  
"I have the pleasure to inform you that on the 7th of May Congress elected you Secretary of Foreign Affairs. I do not know how you will be pleased with the appointment but this I am aware of, that your country stands in need of your abilities in that office. I feel sensibly that it is not only time, but highly necessary for us to think and act like a sovereign as well as a free people, and I wish this sentiment were more deeply impressed on the members of every State in the Union. The opportunities you will have of corresponding not only with the executives, but with the several legislatures, in discharging the duties of your office, will I trust, greatly contribute to raise and promote this spirit. And this is a reason why I wish you were here to enter on the business. On the same day that you were elected to the office for foreign affairs, Congress appointed Mr. Jefferson in addition to Mr. J. Adams and Mr. B. Franklin for the purpose of negotiating commercial treaties with the powers of Europe."
Probably one of the most interesting of Thomson's letters is the one he wrote to Benjamin Franklin in France on August 13, 1784. This letter, the original of which is among the Thomson papers in the library of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, gives a lengthy review of the political condition of the Union. On account of its important bearing upon United States history, it is transcribed in full:
My Dear Friend: The renewal of our ancient correspondence and receipt of your letter excited those sensations which real friends feel on meeting unexpectedly after a long separation. As Mr. Jefferson, who I hope is by this time safe arrived, will explain matters to you and make you fully acquainted with the state of our affairs, I shall no longer conceal from you the circumstance of the omission of the signature of letter on June 7th last, which procured me the favor of hearing from you oftener than I had done. The letter was to have been signed by the President as the latter was on the point of sailing, and the captain only waiting for the dispatch. I copied the letter in Congress and delivered it to the President, who sealed it up in a hurry without putting his name toit. So that my letters to you are all private, and this will explain the reason why they generally contain nothing of public affairs.
I am sensible you must have been for a considerable time past greatly at a loss for want of official communications, and though I often wished to give you some, yet I forbore for reasons which if ever I shall be so happy as to have a personal interview I can express, which I am persuaded you will deem satisfactory. But this inconvenience will be obviated if Mr. Jay, who with his family arrived at New York the 24th of July, and who as I mentioned to you in a former letter, is appointed Secretary of Foreign Affairs, accepts that office as I hope he will. Though I must confess my hope is founded more on my wishes than on any solid reason. I have written and informed him of his appointment and urged his acceptance, but have not yet received his answer.Colonel Harmer, who arrived with the Marquis de Lafayette after a fine passage of thirty-five days, delivered me on the 8th instant your letter of the I4th of June, with a copy of that of the I3th of May, which I had received before, announcing the exchange of the ratification of the definitive treaty of peace ; on this happy completion of our hazardous enterprise I most sincerely congratulate you. It is an event which I have devoutly wished, and yet I cannot but say, the prospect of it has often excited many uneasy apprehensions. From the first appeal to arms, and through the whole contest, I never had a doubt of the issue, but I was afraid it would come upon us before we were prepared to receive it, and before we had acquired national principles, habits and sentiments which would enable us to improve it to advantage and to act becoming our station and dignity.
I need not mention to you who know so well the peculiar circumstances of America at the commencement of this revolution. The several colonies were distinct and separate governments, each jealous of another, and kept apart by local interests and prejudices. Being wholly dependent on Great Britain, they were secluded from all negotiations with foreign courts and almost from all intercourse with foreign nations. Having never been much taxed, nor for any length of time they had no funds whereon to ground public credit. Those who know the difficulty which old established nations experience in their attempts to introduce new arrangements either in government, police, or finance, will readily conceive what we have had to encounter, more especially when it is considered that the ancient governments being dissolved, the people were thrown into a state of nature, that property being equally divided, and the feudal system unknown in this country, there were no individuals to whom the people were accustomed to look up and who could influence their conduct or opinions. And even when new governments were adopted, the ideas of liberty which prevailed, threw the whole power into the hands of the people, and the rotation which took place in the legislatures and executives of the several states afforded little opportunity of acquiring national sentiments.
Notwithstanding all this, we have made considerable progress in the short space of eight years, the time elapsed since we became a nation.and I am happy to think that the people every day become more and more impressed with the necessity of honorably discharging our debts, supporting public credit, and establishing a national character. And though Rhode Island still holds out and refuses her assent to the impost of five per cent, yet as all the other states have agreed to the measure, I have strong hopes that she may be induced to come into it, or that some means will be devised to overcome the obstacle which her refusal throws in the way. In like manner, I am persuaded the people of these states will quickly find it to be their interest as well as of absolute necessity to be faithful in the observance of treaties and to avoid internal contentions and divisions. There is no doubt but Great Britain will watch for advantages, if not to recover what she has lost, at least to be revenged for what she has suffered. And that everything will be attempted and every artifice used which malice can suggest to break our connection with France and sow dissensions among the states. The easy access which foreigners have to these states and the ready reception they meet with afford favorable opportunities of putting their arts in practice. And it is worthy of observation that it is strangers lately come among us whom we know nothing of, joined with men who to say the least of them, were lukewarm in our cause and of doubtful characters, who are now most active in sowing jealousies of France from an affected regard for our liberty, and a zeal to preserve this country from foreign influence. I think it therefore highly necessary both for France and America to be on their guard and not to suffer themselves to be duped by the arts of their common enemy.
The atrocious unprovoked outrage lately committed in this city by one Longchamps, a vagabond Frenchman, seems to carry strong marks of a premeditated design to embroil us with France, and what makes this still more probable, is the palliating account given of this affair in a paper newly set up here as if for the purpose, entitled the Courier de I' Amerique, which is conducted by Boniod and Gaillard, who came to this place last fall about the same time as Longchamps. The whole complexion of this paper evidences a marked inveteracy against France and a strong desire to excite fears and jealousies, or at least to give an unfavorable impression of her. I am glad to find that the zeal of the authors has hurried them into a palpable manifestation of their design, and that suspicions are already raised which I trust will guard against the influence of the poison they mean to convey.
I send you the Courier de I' Amerique as far as published, and some other papers of the day, which will explain the circumstances of the outrage committed by Longchamps and the measures taken by the government, and in consequence thereof, I must inform you that the judges have not yet given an answer to the last letter of the President. The question whether Longchamps can be legally delivered up by Council according to the claim made by the late Minister of France, was publicly argued by lawyers before the Judges, who still have it under advisement. In the meanwhile, Longchamps is confined in prison. The matter is laid before the legislature who have now under consideration a bill which I have no doubt they will pass, effectually securing the rights and immunities of public ministers and punishing the violators of them.
It may not be amiss to acquaint you that from his own showing, it appears that Longchamps had been an officer in the French service; that in 1776, he came to America and went to our camp before Boston, where he -was cordially received ; that after being in our camp and about headquarters for some weeks, he took advantage of a pass given for the purpose of going into the country, to slip into Boston, which we were besieging; that he wanted permission of General Gage to come again into our camp, but for some reason that does not appear, it was not granted. In short, from many circumstances there is reason to suspect that at that time he either was or wished to be employed as a spy by the British General. Whether his late crime is the effect of sudden passion or the result of premeditated plan may possibly in time be manifested.
There is a circumstance in the conduct of Longchamps not mentioned in any of the papers, which it may not be improper to inform you of. On the 17th, he committed the first insult; on the 18th, he went to a justice of the peace and took an oath of allegiance to the State, after which he perpetrated the outrage of the 19th. His views in taking the oath have dow and children enjoy a pension from the Assembly of that State agreeably to a recommendation of Congress. I need not mention with what marks of cordiality and affection the Marquis de la Fayette, who came to this place last Monday, was received by all ranks of people. His stay was short, as he was anxious to see General Washington. He left town this morning and expects to be back in three or four weeks. Mr. Laurens is arrived at New York, but not yet come forward. I intended to have troubled Mr. Jefferson with a line by this opportunity, but my letter to you has insensibly become so long that I shall not have time. You will please to make my respectful compliments to him and to Mr. Adams. With sincere affection and esteem,   I am, Dear Sir,  Your old friend, Charles Thomson.


The letters of Thomson during the last five years of his public life have but little bearing upon the politics of the day. He frequently wrote to Jefferson and other prominent statesmen, but chiefly upon scientific subjects. He was a wise and shrewd leader. He had no time to harangue the people on the eternal rights of man, a pursuit that would only tend to increase factional strife. His opportunity lay in the committee of correspondence and in the secret deliberations of Congress; for as Sydney George Fisher remarked, "The child of liberty which they were nursing could bear no noise."   Thomson described his own political methods in a letter to Hon. J. Montgomery, August 22, 1784. He said:
"I have received your favor of the 2d in which you seem to think hard of your not receiving an answer to your letter on C.'s affair. I thought by this time your experience had taught you that there are mysteries in government which little folks are not to be permitted to pry into, and which are only to be communicated to such as are deeply skilled in what the wise King James used to call kingcraft."


The most important piece of legislation passed by the United States in Congress Assembled was executed by Charles Thomson as Secretary and sent onto the states.  On July 13, 1787 , the world was now put on notice that the land north and west of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi would be settled and utilized for the creation of  "… not less than three nor more than five territories." Additionally, this plan for governing the Northwest Territory included freedom of religion, right to trial by jury, the banishment of slavery, and public education as asserted rights granted to the people in the territory. This ordinance was and still remains one of the most important laws ever enacted by the government of the United States and it begins:


An Ordinance for the government of the Territory of the United States northwest of the River Ohio.[11]

Section 1. Be it ordained by the United States in Congress assembled, that the said territory, for the purposes of temporary government, be one district, subject, however, to be divided into two districts, as future circumstances may, in the opinion of Congress, make it expedient. …[12] 



Specifically, this ordinance was an exceptional piece of legislation because Article V permitted the people North and West of the Ohio River to settle their land, form their own territorial government, and take their place as a fully-fledged state, equal to the original 13. The Northwest Ordinance's Article V became the principle that enabled the United States rapid westward expansion, which ended with the inclusion of Alaska and Hawaii as our 49th and 50th states, respectively. This ordinance also guaranteed that inhabitants of the Territory would have the same rights and privileges that citizens of the original 13 States enjoyed.



Equally important; Article VI provided that slavery and involuntary servitude were outlawed in the Northwest Territory.  This was a law that finally gave some merit to the Declaration of Independence's "... all men are created equal..." It took three years and a Congress led by Arthur St. Clair to pass this ordinance, making the legislation one of the great documents in American History.



Theism was also openly expressed in the legislation, as Article III stated:



Religion, Morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, Schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged.[13]



This measure essentially legislated that religion and morality were indispensable to good government but it was not carried out by the federal government because the Third United American Republic faded away just after the Northwest Territorial government was barely established. Several state governments, however, adopted similar Article III legislation that provided financial assistance to the Western Christian churches in the 18th and 19th Centuries. 



Meanwhile, in 1787 Philadelphia a reasonable quorum of States assembled in convention to “revise” the Articles of Confederation. James Madison reports:



Friday 25 of May … Mr. Robert Morris informed the members assembled that by the instruction & in behalf, of the deputation of Pennsylvania he proposed George Washington Esqr. late Commander in chief for president of the Convention. Mr. Jno. Rutlidge seconded the motion; expressing his confidence that the choice would be unanimous, and observing that the presence of Genl Washington forbade any observations on the occasion which might otherwise be proper.



General (Washington) was accordingly unanimously elected by ballot, and conducted to the chair by Mr. R. Morris and Mr. Rutlidge; from which in a very emphatic manner he thanked the Convention for the honor they had conferred on him, reminded them of the novelty of the scene of business in which he was to act, lamented his want of (better qualifications), and claimed the indulgence of the House towards the involuntary errors which his inexperience might occasion.


The “more or less” United States’ Assembly was attended by 12 States[14] whose delegates elected George Washington as the Philadelphia Convention’s president.  Washington began the first session by adopting rules of order which included the provision of secrecy.  No paper could be removed from the Convention without the majority leave of the members.  The yeas and nays of the members were not recorded and it was the unwritten understanding that no disclosure of the proceedings would be made during the lives of its delegates.  At the end of the convention Washington ordered that every record be burned except the Journals which were merely minutes, of which he took personal possession.  “We the People of the United States, therefore, knew very little about the Convention until the Journals were finally published in 1819.  It was not until the death of President James Madison that his wife, Dolley, revealed she possessed his account of the convention.  Dolley Madison sold these journals to the Library of Congress in 1843.

Although Charles Thomson was not present at the Philadelphia Convention, he was recording the USCA debate regarding the new Constitution submitted to the USCA on September 17, 1787.  The Convention delegates called for the Plan of The New Federal Government to be sent to the states for their consideration with only 2/3rds of their legislatures being required to discard the Articles of Confederation for the new constitution.   The convention overstepped the authority granted by the seventh USCA on February 21st, 1787, by first discarding the Articles instead of revising that constitution and second, by completely dismissing the modification requirements set forth in Article XIII of the federal constitution that stated:

Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.[15]

The proposed obliteration of the Articles of Confederation by convention was to be accomplished without the unanimous approval by the States. It was a constitutional crisis that, to this day, has not been equaled in the United States save by the southern secession of the 1860’s forming the Confederate States of America.[16]

Only sketches of the great debate that ensued in the 1787 USCA exist due to the veil of secrecy that surrounded the sessions. We do know from the notes of New York delegate Melancton Smith, which became available to the public in 1959, that most USCA Delegates believed they had the authority to alter the new proposed Constitution of 1787 before it was sent on to the States. James Madison, Rufus King, and Nathaniel Gorham argued, however, to the contrary.

Since there was no Supreme Court, the USCA was the final authority on the new constitution judicially as well as legislatively.  Virginia Delegate Richard Henry Lee would lead the “9-13 opposition” that insisted on unanimous State convention ratification.

The September 28th, 1787, resolution passed by President Arthur St. Clair’s USCA is recorded as:

Congress having received the report of the Convention lately assembled in Philadelphia: Resolved Unanimously that the said Report with the resolutions and letter accompanying the same be transmitted to the several legislatures in Order to be submitted to a convention of Delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof in conformity to the resolves of the Convention made and provided in that case. [17]

The Constitution of 1787 was ratified by 11 States by August 1787, which was two more then the nine required to dissolve the United States in Congress Assembled government.   On September 13th, 1788 the Delegates “finally passed, without a dissentient voice or the least apparent animosity,” a federal capital location and the USCA enacted this enabling resolution: 
… whereas the constitution so reported by the Convention and by Congress transmitted to the several legislatures has been ratified in the manner therein declared to be sufficient for the establishment of the same and such ratifications duly authenticated have been received by Congress and are filed in the Office of the Secretary therefore Resolved That the first Wednesday in January next be the day for appointing Electors in the several states, which before the said day shall have ratified the said constitution; that the first Wednesday in February next be the day for the electors to assemble in their respective states and vote for a president; and that the first Wednesday in March next be the time and the present seat of Congress the place for commencing proceedings under the said constitution.
US Constitution of 1787,  United States in Congress Assembled  Enabling Resolution Broadside date September 13th, 1788, and signed by USCA Secretary Charles Thomson.
   On October 2nd Congress debated on where to relocate Secretary Thomson’s office and the nation’s records.  The USCA, in an arrangement to keep the capitol in NYC, exacted an agreement from Mayor James Duane and city council to completely renovate the building they were currently occupying for the new tripartite government.  The extensive work that was planned required the USCA to find other quarters for Thomson, federal staff, member meetings, and the nation’s records.  The War Office and Department of Foreign Affairs had occupied six rooms at Fraunces Tavern since 1785. The initial two year lease had expired in May 1787 but the USCA had renewed the space for another year along with adding some Treasury Offices. 

Now in 1788 the USCA whose Continental Congress first caucused in a Philadelphia Tavern was now considering leasing this New York Tavern as the final federal capital building of the United States under the Articles of Confederation.  On October 2, 1788 the USCA resolved:

The committee consisting of Mr [Thomas Tudor] Tucker, Mr [John] Parker, and Mr [Abraham] Clark to whom was referred a letter from the Mayor of the city of New York to the Delegates having reported, That it appears from the letter referred to them, that the repairs and alterations intended to be made in the buildings in which Congress at present Assemble, will render it highly inconvenient for them to continue business therein, that it will therefore be necessary to provide some other place for their accommodation, the committee having made enquiry find no place more proper for this purpose than the two Apartments now appropriated for the Office of Foreign Affairs. They therefore recommend that the said Apartments be immediately prepared for the reception of Congress and the papers of the Secretary. Resolved, that Congress agree to the said report. - Journals of the USCA, October 2, 1788

On October 6, 1788 renovations began on the building that would be called thereafter, Federal Hall. The USCA moved their offices to Fraunces Tavern and convened on October 8th and on motion by Henry Lee that was seconded by John Armstrong Congress resolved:

That considering the peculiar circumstances attending the case of Muscoe Livingston, late a Lieutenant in the navy of the United States, in the settlement of his accounts, Resolved, that the Commissioner for the marine department adjust the said account, any resolution of Congress to the contrary notwithstanding.  

The rest of the session was spent reviewing Governor Arthur St. Clair’s letter and five enclosures from the Northwest Territory. On the 9th they assembled as before and passed a resolution  permitting the Board of treasury to satisfy a lottery claim providing that the beneficiaries “do give security that no further Claim on account of said Prize Ticket shall be made upon the United States by the Heirs, Executors or Administrators of the said deceased, Gail, or either of them.”

On October 10, 1788 Massachusetts, Connecticut New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina assembled as the USCA along with only one delegate under representation from New Hampshire, from Rhode Island Delaware and Maryland.   Only Georgia, as in the first Continental Congress, failed to send delegates.   The USCA in their last official act suspended the work of the commissioners that were appointed to settle the states' Continental accounts.   The USCA last motion, made by Abraham Clark and seconded by Hugh Williamson,

That the Secretary at War be and he hereby is directed to forbear issuing warrants for bounties of land to such of the officers of the late army who have neglected to account for monies by them received as pay masters of Regiments, or for recruiting or other public service, until such officers respectively shall have settled their accounts with the commissioner of army accounts, or others legally authorized to settle the same, and have paid the balances that may be found due from them, into the treasury of the United States, anything in the land ordinance passed the 9th . day of July 1788 to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Delegates tabled the measure and “the question was lost” and USCA adjourned.  Despite the adjournment and several unsuccessfully attempts at forming more quorums, it was necessary for some delegates to serve in New York, including President Griffin, and conduct the nation's business until the new government took office on March 4, 1789. Secretary  Charles Thomson records the final days of the USCA:

October 1 Rejects Silas Deane settlement of Beaumarchais' accounts. October 2 Receives report on war department inquiry. October 6-7 Fails to achieve quorum. October 8 Receives communications on Indian relations in the western territory. October 10 Suspends the work of the commissioners appointed to settle the states' Continental accounts; adjourns what proves to be its final session under the Articles of Confederation. October 13-16 Fails to achieve quorum. October 21

November 1 Fails to achieve quorum. November 3 Assembles for the new federal year; only two delegates attending. November 15- 1789 March 2 Secretary Charles Thomson records occasional attendance of 17 additional delegates.

July 25, 1789 Secretary Thomson delivers papers and records of the Confederation to new federal government.


Thomson maintained a secret correspondence with a few trusted friends, who transmitted to him on several occasions valuable information concerning the enemy. Mrs. Wright, the celebrated modeler in wax, was particularly active in this direction, and it was through intelligence given by her that the military store ships were captured.  Thomson had an understanding with Rivington, the King's printer at New York, who informed him of a plot to poison General Washington while quartered on the Hudson River. Some authorities state that Thomson himself was poisoned while there, and owed his recovery to the excellence of his constitution.  The time had now arrived for Thomson to sever his relations with Congress. The adoption of the Constitution brought other men into prominence, while many of the leading figures of the Revolutionary period retired from the cares of public life. Thomson was always treated in the most gracious manner by Congress. As no compensation was received for the first service, that body presented him with a silver urn, inscribed as their gift, and also as a compliment to his wife. Mrs. Thomson was consulted to learn what the present should be, and she chose an urn.




Twenty years later, Charles Thomson put down his pen on a work on his 15 year  history of his tenure as Secretary. Instead Thomson in 1808 turned to the Christian Bible and provided the first American translation from Greek of the oldest version of the Old Testament of the Bible. Few now remain of the original one thousand published editions of Thomson's four-volume 1808 translation. That same year, Thomson also published his translation of the New Testament.






Appleton's Biography



THOMSON, Charles, patriot, born in Maghera, County Derry, Ireland, 29 November, 1729; died in Lower Merion, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 16 August, 1824. He was brought to this country with three other brothers by his father in 1740. The father died just in sight of land, and the young Thomsons were thrown on their own resources when they landed at New Castle, Delaware An elder brother, who had emigrated before them, gave them such aid as he could, and persuaded a countryman, Dr. Francis Allison, to take Charles into his seminary in New London, Pennsylvania Here he made rapid progress, and while yet little more than a boy he was chosen to conduct a Friends' academy at New Castle.



He often visited Philadelphia, met Benjamin Franklin there, and was brought to the notice of many other eminent men. His reputation for veracity was spread even among the Indian tribes, and when the Delawares adopted him into their nation in 1756 they , called him in their tongue "man of truth." Reverend Ashbel Green, in his autobiography, says that it was common to say that a statement was "as true as if Charles Thomson's name was to it."



He was one of the first to take his stand with the colonists, and he exercised immense influence, owing to the confidence of the people in his ability and integrity. He travel led through the country ascertaining the wishes of the farmers, and trying to learn whether they would be equal to the approaching crisis. "He was the Sam Adams of Philadelphia," said John Adams"the life of the cause of liberty." He had just come to Philadelphia in September, 1774, with his bride, a sister of Benjamin Harrison, the signer, when he learned that he had been unanimously chosen secretary of the 1st Continental congress. "He was the soul of that political body," says Abbe Robin, the chaplain of Rochambeau. He would receive no pay for his first year's services, and congress presented his wife with a silver urn, which is still preserved in the family. He remained in this post under every congress up to 1789, not only keeping the records but taking copious notes of its proceedings and of the progress of the Revolution. When he retired into private life he made these notes the basis of a history of the Revolution but he destroyed the manuscript some time before his death, as he feared that a description of the unpatriotic conduct of some of the colonists at that period would give pain to their descendants.



Mr. Thomson wrote "An Enquiry into the Causes of the Alienation of the Delaware and Shawaneese Indians, etc., with Notes by the Editor on Indian Customs" (London, 1759), and"The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Covenant, commonly called the Old and New Testament; translated from the Greek [the Old Covenant from the Septuagint]" (4 vols., Philadelphia, 1808). This work is now very rare. It contained the first English version of the Septuagint that had been published at the time, and was considered by biblical scholars in Great Britain to have reflected high honor on American scholarship His own copy of this translation, with his last manuscript corrections, is in the Philadelphia library.



He also published "A Synopsis of the Four Evangelists, or a Regular History of the Conception, Birth, Doctrine, Miracles, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ, in the Words of the Evangelists" (Philadelphia, 1815), and left in manuscript "Critical Annotations on Gilbert Wakefield's Works," which were presented in 1832 by John F. Watson to the Massachusetts historical society.








-His relative, William Thomson, soldier, born in Pennsylvania in 1727; died in Sweet Springs, Virginia, 22 November, 1796, is said in some Irish biographies to be the brother of Charles, to have been born in Maghera, Ireland, about 1726, and about fourteen years old when he arrived in this country. He was taken to South Carolina by some friends of his family, was brought up as a frontiersman, and became famous in the district for his skill with the rifle. He fought against the Regulators in 1771, at the head of a regiment under Governor William Tryon. He was sheriff of Orange-burg in 1772, and was elected a member of the first provincial legislature, and the first state convention. He was appointed colonel in 1775 of the 3d South Carolina regiment, which was known as the Rangers. His soldiers were all skilful marksmen, and he dispersed the guerillas of General Robert Cunningham, the Tory leader.





He fought at its head at Charleston in 1776, driving the English back from the eastern side of Sullivan's island, and was formally thanked for this service by Governor John Rutledge and congress. He also served with General Robert Howe in Georgia, was engaged with his command in the attack on Savannah under Count d'Estaing and General Benjamin Lincoln, and was taken prisoner after the capture of Charleston. He served afterward under the command of General Nathanael Greene. He displayed the greatest bravery during the war, and at the end of it was broken both in health and fortunes. He was elected sheriff of Orangeburg a second time, and was a member of the State constitutional convention. Thomson was engaged in the occupation of an indigo-planter until 1786, when, seeking to benefit his declining health, he visited the mineral springs in Virginia, where he died.




[1] The English in Ireland in the Eighteenth Century," by James Anthony Froude, Vol. I., p. 394.)

[2] Indeed, some of the most honored names in our history were redemptioners, such as Charles Thomson, Secretary of Congress during the Revolution; Matthew Thornton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the parents of Major General Sullivan."—Scharf's History Of Maryland, Vol. i, p. 373.

[3] Watson's Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania," Vol. I, p. 568.

[4]This institution was founded in 1749, as an academy and charitable school. In 1755, it was chartered as the College, Academy, and Charitable School of Philadelphia, and after a series of troubles during the Revolution, it was finally incorporated in 1791, as the University of Pennsylvania

[5] Journals of the Continental Congresss, July 12, 1776

[6] Winthrop Sargent, The Life and Career of Major John Andre, Adjutant-general of the British. New York: William Ahbatt, 1902.

[7] James McClure, Nine Months in York Town. York, PA: York Daily Record, 2001.

[8] Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 30 September 1777. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

[9] General John Burgoyne (24 February 1722 – 4 August 1792) was a British army officer charged with gaining control of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River valley. This would divide New England from the southern colonies ending the rebellion. On 17 October, 1777, during the Saratoga campaign he surrendered his army of 6,000 men to General Horatio Gates and the northern Continental Army.

[10] John Adams, 30 September, 1777, op. cit.




[11] Hereinafter referred to as the Northwest Ordinance or Ordinance of 1787.
[12] JCC, 1774-1789, July 13, 1787,An Ordinance for the government of the Territory of the United States northwest of the River Ohio
[13] JCC, 1774-1789, July 13, 1787
[14] Rhode Island sent no delegates.
[15] JCC, 1774-1789, November 15, 1777, the Articles of Confederation
[16] The Confederate States of America (1861-1865) was a government created by eleven Southern states that had declared their secession from the United States. Secessionists argued that the United States Constitution was a compact among states, an agreement which each state could abandon without consultation. The Union government rejected secession as illegal. A War ensued and the Confederacy was tactically lost with General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865.  President Jefferson Davis was capture the following month and by the end of June 1865 all CSA forces had surrendered.
[17] JCC, 1774-1789, September 28, 1787


Capitals of the United States and Colonies 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
Nov. 1788 to March 3,1789
New York City
March 3,1789 to August 12, 1790
Philadelphia
December 6,1790 to May 14, 1800
Washington DC
November 17,1800 to Present




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