On this day in 1734, Patriot politician Thomas McKean is born to Scots-Irish Presbyterian parents in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He will eventually serve as president of the state of Delaware, president of the U.S. Congress under the Articles of Confederation and chief justice of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court.
McKean’s revolutionary involvement began with the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, in which he served as a delegate from Delaware, where he had begun practicing law in 1755. As the representative of a small colony, McKean proposed the one colony, one vote system that endured in Congress throughout its existence under the Articles of Confederation. McKean also served in the first and second Continental Congresses from 1774 to 1776, where he advocated for independence from Britain.
McKean served as the interim president of the state of Delaware in the fall of 1777, during which time he was already serving as chief justice of Pennsylvania. McKean served Pennsylvania in this capacity from 1777 until 1799, helping to establish judicial practice and precedent in the new nation. In 1781, during his brief term as president of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, the British surrendered at Yorktown. McKean went on to serve in the Pennsylvania convention that voted to ratify the federal Constitution. In 1799, he became governor of Pennsylvania, a position he held until 1808.
While still governor in 1804, McKean County, Pennsylvania, was named in McKean’s honor. He remained an active political voice in Philadelphia until his death in 1817.