Jared Ingersoll, signer of the Constitution of the United States

October 24, 2014



Jared Ingersoll was an early American lawyer and statesman from Philadelphia. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress and signed the U.S. Constitution for Pennsylvania. Ingersoll also served as Pennsylvania state attorney general, 1791–1800 and 1811–1816 and as the United States Attorney for Pennsylvania, 1800-1801.[1][2]

He joined DeWitt Clinton on the Federalist Party ticket for the U.S. presidential election, 1812, but was defeated by James Madison and Elbridge Gerry.[2]


Delegate to the Second Continental Congress

Jared Ingersoll was a supporter of the Revolutionary cause. His training as a lawyer convinced him that the problems of the newly independent states were caused by the inadequacy of the Articles of Confederation. He became an early and ardent proponent of constitutional reform, although, like a number of his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention, he believed this reform could be achieved by a simple revision of the Articles. Only after weeks of debate did he come to see that a new document was necessary.[3] Ironically, his major contribution to the cause of constitutional government came not during the Convention, but later during a lengthy and distinguished legal career when he helped define many of the principles enunciated at Philadelphia.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, on October 24, 1749, Ingersoll was the son of Jared Ingersoll (1722–1781),[1] a prominent British official whose strong Loyalist sentiments would lead to his being tarred and feathered by radical Patriots.[3]

In 1765, the year the Stamp Act was imposed on the colonies in America, the British Crown appointed the elder Jared Ingersoll as Stamp Master, the colonial agent in London, for the colony of Connecticut. As the next few months passed and animosity over the Stamp Act grew, Ingersoll became the most hated man in the Colony. On August 21 of that year the Sons of Liberty hung his effigy in New London, Connecticut and in Norwich, Virginia.[4] He wrote an account of Isaac Barre’s speech [5] made during the Parliamentary debate on the Stamp Act to the governor of Connecticut, Thomas Fitch. He would later be involved in a controversial role as the agent who enforced the resulting Stamp Act in Connecticut.[1][6]

The younger Ingersoll completed Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven in 1762,[7] graduated from Yale College in 1766, studied law in Philadelphia, and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1773.[8][9] Although by training and inclination a Patriot sympathizer, the young Ingersoll shied away from the cause at the outset because of a strong sense of personal loyalty to his distinguished father. On his father’s advice, he sought to escape the growing political controversy at home by retiring to London to continue his study of the law at the Middle Temple School (1773–76) and to tour extensively through Europe.[10] But shortly after the colonies declared their independence, Ingersoll renounced his family’s views, made his personal commitment to the cause of independence, and returned home. In 1778 he arrived in Philadelphia as a confirmed Patriot. With the help of influential friends he quickly established a flourishing law practice, and shortly after he entered the fray as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1780–81). In 1781 Ingersoll married Elizabeth Pettit.[9] Always a supporter of strong central authority in political affairs, he became a leading agitator for reforming the national government in the postwar years, preaching the need for change to his friends in Congress and to the legal community.[2]

At the Convention, Ingersoll was counted among those who favored revision of the existing Articles of Confederation, but in the end he joined with the majority and supported a plan for a new federal government. Despite his national reputation as an attorney, Ingersoll seldom participated in the Convention debates, although he attended all sessions.

Once the new national government was created, Ingersoll returned to the law. Except for a few excursions into politics—he was a member of Philadelphia’s Common Council (1789) and, as a stalwart Federalist who considered the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 a “great subversion;’ he ran unsuccessfully for Vice President on the Federalist ticket in 1812—his public career centered on legal affairs. He served as attorney general of Pennsylvania (1790–99 and 1811–17),[1] as Philadelphia’s city solicitor (1798–1801), and as U.S. district attorney for Pennsylvania (1800–1801). For a brief period (1821–22) he sat as presiding judge of the Philadelphia district court. His major contribution to the cause of constitutional government came not during the Convention, but later during a lengthy and distinguished legal career when he helped define many of the principles enunciated at Philadelphia.

Ingersoll made his contributions to the Constitutional process through several Supreme Court cases that defined various basic points in Constitutional law during the beginning of the new republic. In one definitive case he represented Georgia in Chisholm v. Georgia (1793), a landmark case in states’ rights. Here the court decided against him, ruling that a state may be sued in federal court by a citizen of another state. This reversal of the notion of state sovereignty was later rescinded by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution. In representing Hylton in Hylton v. US (1796), Ingersoll was also involved in the first legal challenge to the constitutionality of an act of Congress. In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the government’s right to impose a tax on carriages.[3] Ingersoll also served as counsel in various cases that helped clarify constitutional issues concerning the jurisdiction of federal courts and U.S. relations with other sovereign nations, including defending Senator William Blount of Tennessee against impeachment.

Jared Ingersoll died in Philadelphia at the age of 73 on October 31, 1822, and was survived by three children; interment was in the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Fourth and Pine Streets.[9]


Ingersoll Street in Madison, Wisconsin is named after Jared Ingersoll.[11]


  1. “Jared Ingersoll (1749-1822)”. University of Pennsylvania . http://www.archives.upenn.edu/people/1700s/ingersoll_jared.html
  2. “Jared Ingersoll, Find a Grave”. Find a Grave . http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=4719
  3. “Jared Ingersoll–Pennsylvania”. Center of Military History-United States Army, 1987 . http://www.history.army.mil/books/RevWar/ss/ingersoll.htm
  4. “The Story of the Connecticut Sons of Liberty”. Connecticut, Sons of the American Revolution, founded 1889 . http://www.connecticutsar.org/articles/scarlet_no6.htm
  5. Jared Ingersoll to Thomas Fitch, 11 Feb. 1765
  6. “Jared Ingersoll to Thomas Fitch, 11 Feb. 1765″. Prof.Jeffery Pasley, University of Missouri-Columbia . http://pasleybrothers.com/mocourses/texts/Barre.htm
  7. Thom Peters (Fall 2009). “From the Archives”. Views from the Hill (Hopkins School): p. 52. http://www.hopkins.edu/ftpimages/82/misc/misc_71333.pdf
  8. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. “INGERSOLL, Jared, (1749 – 1822)”. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=I000018
  9. “Jared Ingersoll, Pennsylvania”. The National Archives . http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_founding_fathers_pennsylvania.html
  10. “JBiographical Sketches, JARED INGERSOLL, Pennsylvania”. National Park Service . http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/constitution/bio19.htm
  11. http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/odd/archives/002071.asp
  • Jared Ingersoll at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

Samuel Morey, steamboat pioneer

October 23, 2014



Samuel Morey was an American inventor, who worked on early internal combustion engines and was a pioneer in steamships who accumulated a total of 20 patents.

He was the second of seven children to Israel Morey (1735–1809) and Martha Palmer (1733–1810) and was born on October 23, 1762, in Hebron, Connecticut,[1] but moved to Orford, New Hampshire, with his family in 1768. He later moved across the Connecticut River to Fairlee, Vermont, but was buried in Orford after his death on April 17, 1843. Lake Morey in Vermont is named in his honor.

Morey’s first patent, in 1793,[1] was for a steam-powered spit, but he had grander plans. Morey realized that steam could be a power source in the 1780s, and he probably appreciated a steamboat’s potential from work on his father’s ferry and the locks he designed along the Connecticut river. In the early 1790s he fitted[1] a paddle wheel and steam engine to a small boat and powered it up and down the Connecticut River. Legend has it, this was done on a Sunday morning, when the town was at church, to avoid ridicule if he failed.


A.C. Gow illustration of Samuel Morey from Volume VI (1910-1911) of “Granite State Monthly” magazine.

The most important aspect of this craft was the paddle wheel. It was an old idea – supposedly dating to antiquities– and previously tried with a steam engine. Jonathan Hulls of England used a rear-mounted paddle wheel in 1737[1] but an inefficient method of turning the steam engine’s reciprocating motion into the circular motion hobbled it. In 1789, Nathan Reed of Massachusetts experimented with a paddle wheel, and considered patenting it, but eventually patented a different method instead. The American John Fitch experimented with side-mounted paddle wheels, but in 1791 used and patented oars instead.[1] Thus, Morey’s may have been the first[1] successful use of a steam power paddle wheel, which was the best method of propulsion[1] until the propeller, invented by Fitch,[1] was perfected.

Morey’s first boat was little more than a proof of concept, so he built another in New York. In a letter to New York legislator William Duer, Morey describes how over the next three summers he traveled down to New York, and the following summer to Hartford, Connecticut to improve and exhibit his boat. Finally, in 1797 he went to Bordentown, New Jersey (a stop on Fitch’s failed Philadelphia to Trenton passenger service), because it was “sickly in New York,” and built a boat employing two side-mounted paddle wheels. At this point, Morey considered his boat ready for commercial use and sought financial backers.

For reasons that are unclear, his backing fell through because of “a series of misfortunes”.[1] This is likely the end of Morey’s direct work with steamboats – although there are many tales of a later fourth steamboat– but not the end of his steam engine patents. In addition to one received in 1795 for improvements he made working on the steam engine in boat, he received patents for other applications and improvements in 1799, 1800, and 1803.

Despite Morey’s success in building a working steamboat, credit for the first successful steamboat line goes to Robert Fulton and his financier, Chancellor Robert Livingston.[1] This was a cause for contention, as Morey claims that they took some of his ideas. His account, which seems more reasonable than later, derived accounts, is laid out in his letter to Duer and is as follows. The summer after the one Morey spent at Hartford, he returned to New York and gave Livingston a ride in his boat (perhaps at the advice of Benjamin Silliman—the publisher of Morey’s papers—who knew Livingston to be a supporter of the arts ). He was impressed and offered Morey a “considerable sum” if he could improve the boat’s speed to 8 miles per hour. He also offered $7,000 for the rights to use his current work around New York but Morey declined the offer. However, he continued working towards Livingston’s speed goal. Morey also had conversations with Fulton and Livingston, and Livingston even traveled to Orford to see him (although Morey doesn’t say when or what was discussed). Later, Morey was on Fulton’s boat with Fulton, and he expressed his displeasure that his ideas had netted Fulton much but nothing for himself.

In 1815, Morey patented a “revolving” steam engine,[1] described at length in the American Journal of Science in 1819 by John Sullivan, its purchaser. With the exception of one harsh initial review predicting that it would barely work – which was rebuffed by Sullivan, it was apparently well received and Sullivan’s description appeared in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal along with an introduction praising American steam engine and boat refinements. Instead of a stationary cylinder driving a rod that turns a wheel through a second linkage, it seems that the cylinder is allowed to pivot as the rod moves, which then turns a crank. The cylinder’s pivot doubles as a valve that controls the direction and flow of steam according to its position. The claimed advantages of this configuration are lightweight, high-speed operation, durable construction, and low cost. This engine met with some commercial success; recorded applications include tugboats, a glass factory, and a sawmill in the Boston naval yard.[1] One tugboat even sailed to South Carolina, where its owner was pleased by its performance. Morey received one more steam patent in 1817 but his interest had been captured by experiments with flammable vapors, which had started some time before.

In an 1834 letter to Professor Benjamin Silliman Morey writes, “It is now more than twenty years since I have been in the constant, I may say daily practice of making experiments on the decomposition of water, by mixing with its vapor that of spirits of turpentine, and a great portion of atmospheric air.”[1] This would seem to understate the scope of some research that led to such diverse discoveries as the liquid fueled internal combustion engine, a method for carbonating water, and odd bubbles formed by molten resin. The last two appeared in journals in England and Germany, respectively.[1]

Morey noted differences in flames near knots, perhaps rich in sap, or in wet wood. Eventually he experimented with anything he could find: “tar, rosin, rough turpentine, or the spirit, or alcohol, or any kind of oil, fat, or tallow; mineral coal, pitch-pine wood, and the knots, birch bark, pumpkin, sun-flower, flax, and other seeds; as well as many other substances.”

His experiments are described at length over several articles in the American Journal of Science and Arts.[1] They are light on theory, and Silliman comments that “[Morey’s] results are often very valuable, and perhaps, in some cases, not the less so, for having been sought without the direction of preconceived, theoretical views.”[1] This is mostly true; theory enters into these articles mostly for possible explanations. However, in 1834, 15 years after his first publication on the subject, he proposes a theory of combustion that has electricity[1] as its basic force. Hints of this theory may be visible in his first paper, but his early experiments were not guided by it.[1]

His first practical application was to heat water for his revolving engine. He observed that passing steam over burning coal or tar caused the flames to burn brighter and without smoke, and he theorized that the steam was decomposed in this process. Word of these experiments reached the eminent French chemist Gay-Lussac, and he commented on them in Annales de Chimie et de Physique in 1819.[1] He contended that the temperature was insufficient to cause decomposition. Instead, the steam freed more flammable vapors in the fuel causing the flame’s change.

It turns out that Morey was correct. He produced what is now known as town gas.[1] The oxygen from the water combines with carbon from the fuel to form carbon monoxide and the hydrogen forms a diatomic molecule. Both later burn to form water and carbon dioxide. Morey was not the first to use water-gas for lighting, and his devices, including the patented 1818 American Water Burner, simply used the gas immediately instead of piping it to be burnt elsewhere, done as early as 1792 in England.[1] It seems that Morey did not know of this advance or at least did not recognize it as the same process. Strangely, in 1819 J. F. Dana of Dartmouth and Harvard proposed attaching steam boilers to street lamps to take advantage of Morey’s discovery, but water-gas was already being piped to some London street lamps from a central source in 1812.[1] Still, Morey’s device did produce more light, and there is evidence that it resulted in more efficient combustion.[1]

During his experiments, Morey discovered that the vapor of turpentine, when mixed with air, was explosive. He recognized its potential, developed an engine, and wrote an unpublished description in 1824, which he modified in 1825 and 1826. He finally published and patented the idea later in that year.[1] The revisions between the drafts are small, and deal mostly with reworking of the engine’s valves.

The engine has much in common with modern ones. It has two cylinders,[1] a carburetor,[1] a familiar arrangement of valves and cams.[1] However, unlike modern engines, and unlike the earlier 1807 François Isaac de Rivaz engine, the explosion did not directly provide power. Instead, the explosion expelled air from the cylinder through a one-way valve. The cylinder was cooled by a water jacket and water injected into the combustion chamber after it fired. The cooling gasses caused a vacuum and atmospheric pressure drove the piston.[1] Morey did mention trying direct action, and elaborated on it in other descriptions.[1] However, his method was more complicated and possibly less efficient because it used more of the engine’s stroke to draw in fuel.

Morey demonstrated his engine in New York and Philadelphia and there are eyewitness reports for both. In Philadelphia, he demonstrated it powering a boat and a wagon.[1] Unfortunately, when he decided to demonstrate the car on the street, he fell off after starting the engine and the vehicle powered across Market Street into a ditch.[1] This was the second car ride in the world, and the first in the United States.[1] Despite these mostly successful demonstrations, Morey could not find a buyer, and became frustrated. A letter from Reverend Dana of Orford written in October 1829 tells of Morey’s trip to Baltimore, “I am told, the Capt. Is determined to make one more vigorous effort, to sell his patent right for some of his modern inventions [he later singles out the vapor engine], and if he does not now succeed, he will give the matter up, and return to Orford, to spend his days in quiet.”[1] Morey did not find a buyer,[1] and as he was then in his late 60s, it made sense to stop traveling up and down the east coast and call it quits.

While the engine was state of the art,[1] it was not novel in many respects. Morey seemed aware of contemporary internal combustion work – Hardenberg, who wrote a book on Morey’s engine, adeptly noted that in his 1825 draft Morey “stated that he named his invention ‘vapor engine, to distinguish it from the… gas engine.’”[1] However, Hardenberg concludes that Morey could only have known of three engines similar to his. He never mentioned them, and Hardenberg concludes that they did not influence Morey.[1] His internal combustion engine is the first[1] documented in the United States, and his use of liquid fuel and a heated surface carburetor was world’s first.[1] Another interesting feature was the wire mesh used to prevent the combustion from reaching the carburetor.[1] This feature was reinvented and patented again in 1872 because the patent office had lost Morey’s patent in the 1836 patent office fire.[1]

The lack of interest in his vapor engine is unfortunate, because the vapor engine was his most[1] farsighted invention. Morey notes in his unpublished 1824 draft that:

“Is there not some reason to expect that the discovery will greatly change the commercial and personal intercourse of the country. There is good reason I trust to conclude that transportation on good roads or railroad may be done much cheaper as well as quicker than by locks and canals, besides having the great advantage of being done, much of it, in the winter a time much the most convenient of the farmer. In their personal intercourse, if it should be generally thought most prudent to continue their intercourse on the earth’s surface, yet I think there will be little use of horses for that purpose.”

—Samuel Morey, unpublished

He mentions “the earth’s surface” because elsewhere he proposed using the engine to propel balloons.[1]

Now that the internal combustion engine’s potential has been realized, people often focus on his engine. The first push to popularize his work was done by Charles Duryea, a fellow inventor who produced the first gasoline engine in America around 1890.[1] He funded the creation of two working replicas of Morey’s Engine—one is in the possession of the Smithsonian and the other is owned by Dean Kamen—and wrote about how Morey’s engine was a direct precursor of the modern engine. He overstates Morey’s influence, which unfortunately is nearly nonexistent.[1] Still the popularization of Morey’s work continues. Recently, this task has been taken up by people other than locals and engineers – including comedian Jay Leno – an avid car collector.

In 2004, 10 of Morey’s patents, including the one for the internal combustion engine, were “found” in the Dartmouth College archives. In truth, they had never really been lost.[1]


  1. Maurer, Leon. “The Unsolved Mystery of Samuel Morey”

Thomas Cooper: "a learned ingenious scientific and talented madcap"

October 22, 2014



Thomas Cooper was an economist, college president and political philosopher. Cooper was described by Thomas Jefferson as “one of the ablest men in America” and by John Adams as “a learned ingenious scientific and talented madcap.” Dumas Malone stated that “modern scientific progress would have been impossible without the freedom of the mind which he championed throughout life.”[1] His ideas were taken very seriously in his own time: there were substantial reviews of his writings, and some late eighteenth-century critics of materialism directed their arguments against Cooper, rather than against the better-known Joseph Priestley.

Cooper was born in Westminster, England, on October 22, 1759. He attended University College, Oxford, but did not graduate, supposedly refusing the religious test. He then studied law at the Inner Temple, medicine and the natural sciences. He travelled the northern court circuit for a few years; it is unclear in the records whether he practiced as a qualified barrister. At the same period he went into the calico printing business at Raikes near Bolton, Lancashire.[2]


Engraving of Thomas Cooper by A.B. Durand from a painting by C. Ingham, October 22, 1829.

Cooper took on a prominent role in the reforming politics of the time. In early 1790 he took part in the campaign by Dissenters for greater religious tolerance. His approach was considered too extreme by some, and he shed much moderate support after a meeting in Cheshire. Edmund Burke mentioned Cooper in the House of Commons in March of that year.[3] In October 1790 the Manchester Constitutional Society was set up, with Cooper, author of Letters on the Slave Trade (1787), and other members such as Thomas Walker, noted as radicals and abolitionists.[2][4] The Constitutional Society had members in common with the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. But in July 1791 the Priestley Riots took place, driving Joseph Priestley from his home. The whole radical group resigned en masse, in 1791, when the Literary and Philosophical Society refused to send Priestley a message of sympathy.[5]

In the rapid developments stemming from the French Revolution, Cooper was sent to Paris in 1792 with James Watt Jr., by the Constitutional Society of Manchester. They travelled with an introduction from Walker to political circles through Jérôme Pétion de Villeneuve, and another to a man of science, Antoine Lavoisier, from Priestley. Cooper was for some purposes a representative of the British democratic clubs to those of France, but the situation on both sides of the Channel was by now becoming complex. The Manchester group favored the Jacobins in the emerging split with the Girondins. Edmund Burke again censured Cooper in the House of Commons, and Cooper replied with a vehement pamphlet.[6]

Cooper came to represent the Society for Constitutional Information (SCI) alone, in dealings with the Jacobins. The Whig Friends of the People took steps to exclude him, out of concerns that its membership should not overlap with that of the more radical SCI: Burke had called the Manchester reformist group “some of the worst men in the kingdom” to score a political point off Charles Grey, who had been instrumental in setting up the Friends in April 1792.[7] While in France Cooper learned the process of obtaining chlorine from sea salt. He tried to apply this knowledge on his return to England to bleaching of textiles, but was unsuccessful.

By 1793, Cooper became disillusioned with the violent course of events in France. Both he and Watt later represented themselves as always favoring moderate elements (which is doubted now by scholars). But Cooper was in some danger of prosecution at home because of his views. He ruled out France as a destination, and made a preliminary journey to the United States in early 1794.[8]

Cooper came to a decision, and emigrated to America with Joseph Priestley later in 1794. He began the practice of law in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Like his friend Priestley, who was then also living in Northumberland, he sympathized with the Jeffersonian Republicans, and took part in the agitation against the Alien and Sedition Acts.


Faculty portrait of Thomas Cooper, circa 1810, artist unknown. Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania.

On October 26, 1799, the Reading, Pennsylvania Advertiser published a strong attack he wrote against President John Adams. This led to his being tried for libel under the Sedition Act, and he was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, with a fine of $400. It was during this trial that Cooper stated that he knew the king of England could do no wrong, “but I did not know till now that the President of the United States had the same attribute.”[9]

In 1806 Cooper was appointed a land commissioner and succeeded in overcoming the difficulties with the Connecticut claimants in Luzerne county. That year he was also appointed president-judge of the Fourth District of Pennsylvania in 1806. In 1811, having become obnoxious to the members of his own party, he was removed from his position as judge on a charge of arbitrary conduct.

Like Priestley, Cooper was very highly esteemed by Thomas Jefferson, who secured for him the appointment as first professor of natural science and law in the University of Virginia — a position which Cooper was forced to resign under the fierce attack made on him by the Virginia clergy. He later served as the chair of chemistry at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (1811–1814) and at the University of Pennsylvania (1818–1819).

He became a professor of chemistry at South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) in 1819. Later he would also provide instruction in political economics. In 1820, he became acting president of this institution and was president from 1821 until 1833, when he resigned owing to the opposition within the state to his liberal religious views. In December 1834, owing to continued opposition, he resigned his professorship. Though he became increasingly controversial during his tenure as president, he was very popular with his students. Most of them came to his defense in the years of 1831–33, when Cooper was frequently challenged by the state legislature. Although many students disagreed with Cooper’s philosophies, they liked the man personally.

Upon his arrival in America, Cooper had a positive outlook towards the country saying he preferred America because, “There is little fault to find with the government of America, either in principle or in practice…we have no animosities about religion; it is a subject about which no questions are asked…the present irritation of men’s minds in Great Britain, and the discordant state of society on political grounds is not known there. The government is the government of the people and for the people”. By 1831 his perspective had changed: “In no other country is the wise toleration established by law, so complete as in this. But in no country whatever is a spirit of persecution for mere opinions, more prevalent than in the United States of America. It is a country most tolerant in theory, and most bigoted in practice”, not that this made him feel obliged to return to Mother England.

He was a born agitator. In 1832, he had been formally tried for infidelity. Before his college classes, in public lectures, and in numerous pamphlets, he constantly preached the doctrine of free trade, and tried to show that the protective system was especially burdensome to the South. His remedy was state action. Each state, he contended, was a sovereign power and was in duty bound to protest against the tyrannical acts of the Federal government.

Cooper was a relentless campaigner for political freedom. He believed freedom of speech was the most fundamental of those freedoms and that America had major improvements to make in this area: “the value of free discussion is not yet appreciated as it ought to be in these United States”. He blamed the clergy in particular for this state of affairs: “the clergy of this country…are united in persecuting every man who calls in question any of their metaphysical opinions, or who hints at their views of ambition and aggrandizement”. Not surprisingly, the evangelical Charles Colcock Jones, who was a missionary to slaves as well as a professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, was unimpressed with Cooper. Jones called him “the Father” of the “infidel Party” in South Carolina. “That old man,” he wrote, “has done this state more evil than fifty years can remove. He has a world of iniquity to answer for in poisoning the State with his infidel principles.”[10]

Cooper was at the center of the nullification movement and taught South Carolina about the dangers of consolidation. In 1827, as the tariff controversy grew, Cooper publicly questioned the benefit of the Union. In a speech, he described the South as the perennial loser in an “unequal alliance.” Cooper predicted that South Carolina would in the near future “be compelled to calculate the value of our union.” The idea that the South should withdraw “received its first extensive advertising as a result of that speech.”[11]

He exercised considerable influence in preparing the people of South Carolina for nullification and secession; in fact he preceded Calhoun in advocating a practical application of the state sovereignty principle. By nature of being an adamant advocate of states’ rights was in favor of Interposition. Cooper was one of the most vocal supporters of secession. Cooper’s political views made him enemies, and his religious views made even more.

He supported the institution of slavery, although he had strenuously opposed the slave trade. In the mid to late 1780s Cooper fought passionately against “that infamous and impolitic traffic”. He wrote that “negroes are men; susceptible of the same cultivation with ourselves”, claimed that “as Englishmen, the blood of the murdered African is upon us, and upon our children, and in some day of retribution he will feel it, who will not assist to wash off the stain”. But in America Cooper accepted slavery itself, as he doubted that “in South Carolina or Georgia…the rich lands could be cultivated without slave labour”.

In addition to Thomas Jefferson, he was friends with James Madison and several Governors of South Carolina. As a philosopher he was a follower of David Hartley, Erasmus Darwin, Priestley, and François-Joseph-Victor Broussais; he was a physiological materialist, and a severe critic of Scottish metaphysics.

The last years of his life were spent in preparing an edition of the Statutes at Large of the state, which was completed by David James McCord (1797–1855) and published in ten volumes (1836–1841). Cooper died in Columbia on May 11, 1839.


He is interred in the churchyard at Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbia, South Carolina.


  1. Quoted in Cohen (2000)
  2. Newman, Stephen L. “Cooper, Thomas”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/6231. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. Graham, p. 150
  4. David Turley (14 January 2004). The Culture of English Antislavery, 1780-1860. Taylor & Francis. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-203-16933-9
  5. Eric Robinson, An English Jacobin: James Watt, Junior, 1769-1848, Cambridge Historical Journal Vol. 11, No. 3 (1955), pp. 349-355, at p. 351. Published by: Cambridge University Press. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3021128
  6. Graham, p. 261
  7. Graham, p. 303, p. 307 and p. 311
  8. Graham, pp. 511–3
  9. Hoffer (2011)
  10. Erskine Clarke, Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 172
  11. Malone, Dumas. The Public Life of Thomas Cooper (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1926), pp. 309-310


  • Anderson, P. R. and M. H. Fisch, Philosophy in America (1939), pp. 247–71
  • Cohen, Seymour S. “Cooper, Thomas” American National Biography Online Feb. 2000
  • Conkin, Paul K. Prophets of Prosperity (1980), pp. 141–52
  • Dorfman, Joseph. The Economic Mind in American Civilization, vol. 2 (1946), pp. 527–39
  • Hoffer Peter Charles. The Free Press Crisis of 1800: Thomas Cooper’s Trial for Seditious Libel (University Press of Kansas; 2011) 149 pages; history of the landmark case involving the Sedition Act of 1798
  • Hollis, D. W. University of South Carolina, vol. 1 (1951), pp. 74–118
  • Encyclopedia Dickinsonia biography of Thomas Cooper
  • Malone, Dumas. The Public Life of Thomas Cooper (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1926)
  • Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). “Cooper, Thomas”. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton


  • Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). “Cooper, Thomas (educationalist)”. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press


  • Jenny Graham (2000). The Nation, the Law, and the King: Reform Politics in England, 1789-1799 (two volumes). University Press of America. ISBN 0-7618-1484-1

Oliver Phelps, Deputy Commissary of the Continental Army

October 21, 2014



Oliver Phelps was born on October 21, 1749, in Poquonock, Connecticut and moved to Suffield, Connecticut, where he apprenticed to a local merchant. He shortly thereafter became a tavern keeper in Granville, Massachusetts. During the Revolution, he was Deputy Commissary of the Continental Army and served until the end of the war. He supplied troops and was commended by General George Washington.


During the Revolution, Phelps was Deputy Commissary of the Continental Army. He was introduced to Robert Morris, the great financier of Revolutionary times.[1] He was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1778 to 1780. He was a member of the Massachusetts Senate in 1785, and of the Governor’s council in 1786. He was elected as a Jefferonian-Republican to the Eighth United States Congress, serving from March 4, 1803, to March 3, 1805, and ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor of New York in 1804 on the ticket headed by Aaron Burr.

The connections he thus established aided his efforts in forming in 1789 a syndicate with Nathaniel Gorham. They purchased title to most of western New York from the state of Massachusetts.

At first they thought to make (modern day) Geneva their headquarters, but discovered by survey, just in time, that their site was just east of their boundary. So they chose Canandaigua, New York, at the head of Canandaigua Lake, as the seat of the new Ontario County. The name Canandaigua is derived from the Iroquois word “Kanandarque” which means chosen spot. It was the site of the principal village of the Seneca Indians, burned by the whites during the war in the Sullivan Expedition.

After the purchase, Phelps returned to Suffield, Connecticut, bought the Hatheway House, and opened a land sales office there and another in Canandaigua. He was appointed the first judge of Ontario County (1789–1793), even before he moved there. He built the first framed house in Canandaigua in 1792, then built a mill. Phelps retained extensive holdings in the infant Ontario County. He maintained an interest in its affairs—and in further land speculations.

Despite vast land holdings that were worth a fortune, changing money values on mortgages held on the tracts of land sold and a depressed land market caused Phelps to get into financial difficulty. In about 1800, the reverses forced him to sell his Suffield home and his interest in the Hartford National Bank and Trust Co. Phelps moved to Canandaigua, where he built a grist mill and endowed an academy. He was also appointed the first judge of Ontario County.

After additional entanglements in western real estate ventures which resulted in “personal embarrassment” and, for a time, the prospect of debtor’s prison, Phelps settled down in Canandaigua in 1802.

His troubles were not over, however. Purchasers of his land had continued difficulty paying off the mortgage loans which he held. He was generous in extending terms to them, to his own detriment.

Phelps died on February 21, 1809, in debtors prison in the town he sold and helped develop. He was interred in the Pioneer Cemetery in Canandaigua, New York.


  1. Osgood, Howard Lawrence (1891). The title of the Phelps and Gorham purchase. Rochester Historical Society. p. 33 http://books.google.com/books?id=gZwvAAAAYAAJ

Additional reading

Continental Association created by the Articles of Association

October 20, 2014



The Continental Association, often known simply as the “Association“, was a system created by the First Continental Congress on October 20, 1774, for implementing a trade boycott with Great Britain. Congress hoped that by imposing economic sanctions, Great Britain would be pressured to redress the grievances of the colonies, and in particular repeal the Intolerable Acts passed by the British Parliament. The Association aimed to alter Britain’s policies towards the colonies without severing allegiance.

The boycott became operative on December 1, 1774. The Association was fairly successful while it lasted. Trade with Great Britain fell sharply, and the British responded with the New England Restraining Act of 1775. The outbreak of the American Revolutionary War effectively superseded the attempt to boycott British goods.

The British Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in 1774 to reform colonial administration in British America and, in part, to punish the Province of Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party. Many American colonists saw the Coercive Acts as a violation of the British Constitution and a threat to the liberties of all of British America, not just Massachusetts. As they had done during the 1760s—most effectively during the Stamp Act crisis of 1765—colonists turned to economic boycotts to protest what they saw as unconstitutional legislation. The word boycott had not yet been coined; colonists referred to their economic protests as, depending upon the specific activity, “non-importation”, “non-exportation”, or “non-consumption”.


Portrait of Samuel Adams by John Singleton Copley, 1772

On May 13, 1774, the Boston Town Meeting, with Samuel Adams acting as moderator, passed a resolution that called for an economic boycott in response to the Boston Port Act, one of the Coercive Acts. The resolution said:

That it is the opinion of this town, that if the other, Colonies come, into a joint resolution to stop all importation from Great Britain, and exportations to Great Britain, and every part of the West Indies, till the Act for blocking up this harbour be repealed, the same will prove the salvation of North America and her liberties. On the other hand, if they continue their exports and imports, there is high reason to fear that fraud, power, and the most odious oppression, will rise triumphant over right, justice, social happiness, and freedom.[1]

Paul Revere, who often served as messenger, carried the Boston resolutions to New York and Philadelphia.[2] Adams also promoted the boycott through the colonial committees of correspondence, through which advocates of colonial rights in the various provinces kept in touch. The First Continental Congress was convened at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774, to coordinate a response to the Coercive Acts. Twelve colonies were represented at the Congress.

On October 20, 1774, Congress created the Association, based on the earlier Virginia Association. The Association signified the increasing cooperation between the colonies. As a sign of the desire still prevalent at the time to avoid open revolution, the Association notably opened with a profession of allegiance to the king, and they placed the blame for “a ruinous system of colony administration” upon Parliament and lower British officials rather than the king directly. The Association alleged that this system was “evidently calculated for enslaving these colonies, and, with them, the British Empire.”


The Association adopted by the Continental Congress was published and often signed by local leaders. Thomas Jefferson, who was not yet a delegate to Congress, signed this copy (lower left) with other Virginians.

From Thomas Jefferson’s papers, this is a broadside copy of the w:Continental Association that was signed by Jefferson and other Virginians

The articles of the Continental Association imposed an immediate ban on British tea, and a ban on importing or consuming any goods (including the slave trade) from Britain, Ireland, and the British West Indies to take effect on December 1, 1774. It also threatened an export ban on any products from the American colonies to Britain, Ireland, or the West Indies, to be enacted only if the complained of acts were not repealed by September 10, 1775; the Articles stated that the export ban was being suspended until this date because of the “earnest desire we have not to injure our fellow-subjects in Great-Britain, Ireland, or the West-Indies.” This was a recognition of the need and demand for American goods abroad, though the ban was likely deferred to avoid inflicting immediate economic hardship on American merchants. All American colonists were to direct their agents abroad to also comply with these restrictions, as would all ship owners.

The Association set forth policies by which the colonists would endure the scarcity of goods. Merchants were restricted from price gouging. Local committees of inspection were to be established in the colonies by which compliance would be monitored, through strong-arming local businesses. Any individual observed to violate the pledges in the Articles would be condemned in print and ostracized in society “as the enemies of American liberty.” Colonies would also cease all trade and dealings with any other colony that failed to comply with the bans.

The colonies also pledged that they would “encourage frugality, economy, and industry, and promote agriculture, arts and the manufactures of this country, especially that of wool; and will discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation,” such as gambling, stage plays and other frivolous entertainment. Specific instructions were even set forth on properly frugal funeral observations, pledging that no one “will go into any further mourning-dress, than a black crepe or ribbon on the arm or hat, for gentlemen, and a black ribbon and necklace for ladies, and we will discontinue the giving of gloves and scarves at funerals.”

These delegates signed the Association in Congress. Many local signings also took place.

President of Congress

1. Peyton Randolph


2. John Sullivan 3. Nathaniel Folsom

Massachusetts Bay

4. Thomas Cushing 5. Samuel Adams 6. John Adams 7. Robert Treat Paine


8. Stephen Hopkins 9. Samuel Ward


10. Eliphalet Dyer 11. Roger Sherman 12. Silas Deane


13. Isaac Low 14. John Alsop 15. John Jay 16. James Duane 17. Philip Livingston 18. William Floyd 19. Henry Wisner 20. Simon Boerum


21. James Kinsey 22. William Livingston 23. Stephen Crane 24. Richard Smith 25. John De Hart


26. Joseph Galloway 27. John Dickinson 28. Charles Humphreys 29. Thomas Mifflin 30. Edward Biddle 31. John Morton 32. George Ross

The Lower Counties

33. Caesar Rodney 34. Thomas McKean 35. George Read


36. Matthew Tilghman 37. Thomas Johnson, Junr. 38. William Paca 39. Samuel Chase


40. Richard Henry Lee 41. George Washington 42. Patrick Henry, Junr. 43. Richard Bland 44. Benjamin Harrison 45. Edmund Pendleton


46. William Hooper 47. Joseph Hewes 48. Richard Caswell


49. Henry Middleton 50. Thomas Lynch 51. Christopher Gadsden 52. John Rutledge 53. Edward Rutledge

The Continental Association went into effect on December 1, 1774. The ban did succeed for the time it was in effect. However, the British retaliated by blocking colony access to the North Atlantic Fishing Area.

Only one colony failed to establish local enforcement committees; in the others, the restrictions were dutifully enforced—by violent measures on some occasions. Trade with Britain subsequently plummeted. Parliament responded by passing the New England Restraining Act, which prohibited the northeastern colonies from trading with anyone but Britain and the British West Indies, and they barred colonial ships from the North Atlantic fisheries. These punitive measures were later extended to most of the other colonies as well.

The outbreak of open fighting between the colonists and British soldiers in April 1775 rendered moot any attempt to indirectly change British policies. In this regard, the Association failed to determine events in the way that it was designed—Britain did not cave to American demands but instead tried to tighten its grip, and the conflict escalated to war. However, the true long-term success of the Association was in its effective direction of collective action among the colonies and expression of their common interests. This recognition of union by the Association, and its firm stance that the colonies and their people had rights that were being infringed by Britain, made it a direct precursor to the 1776 Declaration of Independence, which by contrast repudiated the authority of the king once it was clear that no other solution would preserve the asserted rights of the colonies.


  1. Ammerman, Common Cause, 24; for full text of Boston resolutions, see Peter Force, American Archives, 1:331
  2. Ammerman, Common Cause, 24


  • Ammerman, David. In the Common Cause: American Response to the Coercive Acts of 1774. New York: Norton, 1974

Colonel Hans Christian Febiger, confidante of George Washington

October 19, 2014



Hans Christian Febiger (or Fibiger) was an American Revolutionary War commander, confidante of General George Washington and an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati. Known by the moniker “Old Denmark”, Febiger also served as Treasurer of Pennsylvania from November 13, 1789 until his death nearly seven years later.


Hans Christian Febiger

Febiger (born Fibiger) was born in Faaborg on Funen Island in Denmark on October 19, 1749, and was the son of organist Jørgen Mathiasen Fibiger (1705-1776) and Sophie Dorthea Pedersdatter Østrup (1718-1781). After receiving the Studentereksamen, he journeyed with his uncle, Henrik Jakob Fibiger, somewhere in the late 1760s, to the Danish possession of St. Croix, where the latter had been appointed Customs duty manager. In 1772 Febiger traveled to the American colonies (possibly New England) and was engaged in several businesses when the American Revolution started. Febiger joined with the Massachusetts Militia on April 28, 1775, following the Lexington Alarm where he fell under the command of Col. Samuel Gerrish and soon became adjutant.

Febiger next became engaged in the Battle of Bunker Hill and proved a capable commander at several battles throughout New England. Febiger was soon afterward appointed to accompany General Benedict Arnold on his Quebec Expedition, which eventually led to the infamous Battle of Quebec. During the raid on December 31, 1775, Febiger was taken prisoner by the British and held captive in and around New York City until January 1777.

After his release, Febiger re-joined the Continental forces as the lieutenant colonel of the 11th Virginia Regiment under the command of Col. Daniel Morgan.

Febiger and his regiment fought with the Continental Army in the Philadelphia campaign before moving on to other engagements. Following his performance at the Battle of Brandywine, Febiger was promoted to the rank of colonel on September 26, 1777 and took command of the 2nd Virginia Regiment, a post he held until the end of the war though it is speculated that he did not accept his Colonelcy until after the Battle of Germantown.

In later parts of the American Revolutionary War Col. Febiger commanded the 2nd Virginia Regiment through several significant battles. He also fought with Major General Nathanael Greene at Germantown on the right wing; he led 4,000 men with two canon at the Battle of Monmouth; and he commanded the right column in the Battle of Stony Point where he distinguished himself by taking the British commander prisoner in person.

Febiger later served under General Peter Muhlenberg as a recruiting coordinator for the State of Virginia, and oversaw much of the shipment of supplies through the battle lines after being removed to Philadelphia. As with most of his military service, Febiger distinguished himself as master of the stores and transport of much of the Continental supply.

Febiger’s military career for much of the rest of the War was engaged in his recruiting and oversight efforts; however, he was in the field at intervals and present at the Battle of Yorktown and the official surrender of General Cornwallis. Febiger is listed in a February 1942 newspaper article under the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! section as having been the “only soldier who took part in every important battle of the Revolutionary War from Bunker Hill to Yorktown.”

Colonel Febiger finally retired from active duty, following eight years of service to the Revolutionary cause, on January 1, 1783. He was officially discharged from the Continental Army on November 30. During that period, the Continental Congress conferred to Febiger the rank of Brigadier General by brevet. Febiger, however, never truly assumed that title saying, it is “more to one’s business advantage’s in America to be known as ‘Colonel.'”

Following the war, “Old Denmark” settled in Philadelphia and engaged in several business ventures, many of which proved rather successful. Febiger also joined the Virginia branch of the Society of the Cincinnati, but later switched his affiliation to the Pennsylvania group. After briefly serving as Auctioneer of the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia (succeeding David Rittenhouse), he eventually came to hold the post of Treasurer for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and was appointed to that post for every successive year until he died on September 20, 1796. The cause of death is not quite clear. According to the Sons of the American Revolution, Pennsylvania Society, website, Febiger is buried in the historic Mount Vernon Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Col. Febiger was married to the former Miss Elizabeth Carson and though they had “no issue” by this marriage, they adopted Mrs. Febiger’s nephew, Christian Carson Febiger (son of Dr. John Carson, a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania). Febiger was the grandfather of the Civil War hero, Admiral John Carson Febiger who later became Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


  • Christian Febiger Bio
  • Salmonsens konversationsleksikon Anden Udgave / Bind VII, p. 939
  • The Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries, 1881
  • Ripley’s Believe it or Not! (February 20, 1942)
  • Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. VI
  • The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. I (1892, pg. 86)
  • The Writings of George Washington, 1889
  • “Febiger, Christian”. Appletons’ Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1900

Ann Putnam, witness at the Salem Witch Trials

October 18, 2014



Ann Putnam, along with Elizabeth “Betty” Parris, Mary Walcott and Abigail Williams, was an important witness at the Salem Witch Trials of Massachusetts during the later portion of 17th century Colonial America. Born on October 18, 1679, in Salem Village, Essex County, Massachusetts, she was the eldest child of Thomas Putnam (1652–1699) and Ann Carr (1661–1699). She was friends with some of the girls who claimed to be afflicted by witchcraft and, in March 1692, proclaimed to be afflicted herself.

In 1706, Ann Putnam publicly apologized for the part she had played in the witch trials.

I desire to be humbled before God for that sad and humbling providence that befell my father’s family in the year about ninety-two; that I, then being in my childhood, should, by such a providence of God, be made an instrument for the accusing of several people for grievous crimes, whereby their lives was taken away from them, whom, now I have just grounds and good reason to believe they were innocent persons; and that it was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time, whereby I justly fear I have been instrumental, with others, though ignorantly and unwittingly, to bring upon myself and this land the guilt of innocent blood; though, what was said or done by me against any person, I can truly and uprightly say, before God and man, I did it not out of any anger, malice, or ill will to any person, for I had no such thing against one of them; but what I did was ignorantly, being deluded by Satan.

And particularly, as I was a chief instrument of accusing Goodwife Nurse and her two sisters, I desire to lie in the dust, and to be humble for it, in that I was a cause, with others, of so sad a calamity to them and their families; for which cause I desire to lie in the dust, and earnestly beg forgiveness of God, and from all those unto whom I have given just cause of sorrow and offense, whose relations were taken away or accused.

Some historians have speculated that her parents, Thomas and Ann (Carr), Sr., coerced Putnam to accuse those they were feuding with or sought revenge on. Many of the accused had some sort of relationship with the powerful Putnam family.

When her parents died in 1699, Putnam was left to raise her nine siblings aged 7 months to 16 years. Putnam never married.[1]

Putnam died in 1716 and is buried with her parents in an unmarked grave in Danvers, Massachusetts.[2]


The mound, located top left of the headstone, is purported to be the remains of the tomb of Ann Putnam and her parents.

She was a first cousin once removed of Generals Israel Putnam and Rufus Putnam.

In Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, her name is Ruth, to avoid confusion with her mother, Ann Putnam Sr.


  1. Alvarez, Kate (2002). “Ann Putnam”. Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia
  2. Ann Putnam at Find a Grave
  • Biography of Ann Putnam


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