Profiles in Liberty: Thomas Mifflin

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By Dave Smith, Senior Contributor, USADC.

A signatory of the United States Constitution, Thomas Mifflin (January 10, 1744 – January 20, 1800) had a colorful career.  Born in Philadelphia, Mifflin was an early critic of the British treatment of the colonies, serving in the First Continental Congress as one of its youngest members. He had traveled extensively in Europe after graduating from the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania), and his business ventures following his return to Pennsylvania influenced his resistance to British taxation of the colonies.

When the Continental Army was formed, Mifflin resigned from the Congress to take up arms against the British.  His participation in the military violated the pacifist beliefs of the Quakers, leading to his expulsion from the Society of Friends.  In the Continental Army, Mifflin served bravely, helping coordinate the withdrawals from New York, Trenton, and Princeton.  He was known as an inspiring orator to the troops, and he is said to have convinced many who were wishing to leave military service to remain and continue the fight for independence.

Not all of Mifflin’s decisions were good ones, however.  During a time serving as Quartermaster General of the Continental Army, Mifflin became disinterested in his administrative duties, and his subsequent neglect is considered to have contributed to the difficulties Washington’s army endured at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78.  Upon leaving the active military amid criticism, he then served on the Congressional Board of War.  While serving on the Board, he became disillusioned with Washington’s leadership and became part of the “Conway Cabal” – a movement that sought to replace Washington as commander of the Continental Army and replace him with Horatio Gates following his victory over the British at Saratoga.

Following the war, Mifflin joined the new Congress that was established under the Articles of Confederation, serving as its fifth President from 1783-1784; it was he who signed the Treaty of Paris, officially ending the Revolutionary War.

Returning to Pennsylvania, Mifflin then served in the state legislature, rising to the position of House Speaker, then as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.  One of eight Pennsylvania delegates that signed the new Constitution in 1787, he then returned to Pennsylvania to follow Benjamin Franklin in the office then known as President of Pennsylvania.  Upon the ratification of a new state constitution under his direction, Mifflin was then elected the first Governor of Pennsylvania in 1790.  During his governorship, federal troops were dispatched to Pennsylvania by President George Washington to quell the Whiskey Rebellion.

In December 1799, Mifflin left the office of governor, succeeded by Thomas McKean.  He died barely a month later and is buried at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, PA. Less well-known than many of the Founding Fathers, he nevertheless left an interesting legacy.


Born in the same county as Davy Crockett in East Tennessee, Dave found his way to Texas where he works in the petrochemical industry. He’s written and spoken about politics on various media outlets including Fox, ABC, and Townhall. He is a graduate of Tennessee Tech with a degree in chemical engineering. Dave writes a popular feature at USDR called “Dave Smith Said That”. Follow Dave on Twitter: @semperlibertas.

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