Portrait; Benjamin Crispin to the Honorable James Buchanan, Secretary of State, Holmesburg, December 4,1847, Buchanan Papers, XR506.13, HSP.
The son of Silas and Esther Dougherty Crispin of Philadelphia County, Benjamin Crispin was a grandson of early Philadelphia settler Captain William Crispin. Benjamin was born in 1792 at Belleview, the family estate in Lower Dublin Township, receiving his education at Lower Dublin Academy. He married Maria Foster of Collegeville, October 17, 1816. At thirty, Crispin received a lieutenant’s commission in the Pennsylvania Militia, and a year later received an executive appointment as justice of Byberry, Lower Dublin, and Oxford Townships, a post he maintained through 1837. Crispin became a public school director before accepting an 1837 seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, serving through 1839. He proceeded to the state Senate in 1840 as a Democrat, becoming upper-house Speaker in 1843. While a legislator, Crispin fought repeal of the fugitive slave act and supported the Supreme Court’s Prigg v. Commonwealth ruling, asserting Pennsylvania’s non-jurisdiction in passing laws that restricted interstate slave trafficking: such actions compromised state comity with Southern slavers.
Senator Crispin opposed high-tariffs, the “State Street Bill” and subsequent retrenchment proposals, and the re-chartering of the U.S. Bank in Philadelphia. He assumed a Jackson stance in support of the sub-treasury act and the hard-money “Loco Foco” specie circular bill. The senator backed the sale of the state improvements, especially the Commonwealth’s canal and railroad right-of-ways, embracing the notion that Pennsylvania’s financial problems would disappear when it divested the public works program’s overhead. He figured instrumental in the sale of the Erie Division of the Pennsylvania Canal and the 1846 chartering of the “Pennsylvania Central Railroad Company,” serving as its first commissioner.” After legislative service, during the consolidation of Philadelphia County and City, Crispin became the 23rd Ward’s first common councilman. Committed to public education, Benjamin was a mainstay on the local school-board. To honor Ben’s dedication to learning, in 1906 the board of education renamed the Holmesburg Public School, the Crispin School. He was a trustee of the Dublin Academy in 1837 and 1838, and the institution’s president until his death. The senator was a founder of the Emanuel Church at Holmesburg, serving 20 years as vestryman, eight years as accounting warden, and Diocesan Convention representative from 1854 to 1860. He was a founding member and president of the trustees of the Holmesburg Athenaeum Association, chairman of the building committee, organized the Crispin Burial Ground Community, and during his freshman year in the state Senate, introduced a bill to secure a charter for the “Crispin Cemetery Corporation.”
Benjamin Crispin was a “stout man of medium height and a massive head. Described deliberate, even slow, he was a person of firm conviction and an ardent supporter of James Buchanan.” The Honorable Benjamin Crispin died at Holmesburg on July 4, 1864.