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House Speaker Biographies

Photo credit:

Peale, Charles Willson. Thomas Mifflin. 1783-1784. National Park Service Museum Collections, Second Bank of the United States, Philadelphia.


Photo credit:

Peale, Charles Willson. Thomas Mifflin. 1783-1784. National Park Service Museum Collections, Second Bank of the United States, Philadelphia.

 

Thomas Mifflin

Born: January 10, 1744, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA.  Died: January 20, 1800, Lancaster, Lancaster County, PA.  Member of the Colonial Assembly: Philadelphia City, 1774-1775.  Member of the General Assembly: Philadelphia City, 1778-1779; Berks County: 1780-1781; Philadelphia County: 1785-1788.  Member of the House: Philadelphia County, 1799-January 20, 1800.  Affiliation: Republican, Democrat-Republican.

Thomas Mifflin was born and raised in the city of Philadelphia into a prominent, wealthy Quaker family.  In 1760 he graduated from the College of Philadelphia (now University of Pennsylvania).  He went on to work for William Coleman, an eminent Philadelphia merchant.  He then established a successful mercantile career for himself.  On March 4, 1765, Mifflin married his cousin, the former Sarah Moore.

Mifflin was elected to represent Philadelphia City in the Colonial Assembly from 1774-1775.  In 1775 he requested that his election be voided which was approved on November 24, 1775, and his seat was filled by David Rittenhouse. 

In 1774 Mifflin was elected to serve in the First Continental Congress.  There he worked on drafting the Continental Association, an effort to boycott English goods, which was adopted by Congress.  Mifflin returned to serve in the Second Continental Congress in 1775.

Mifflin left the Second Continental Congress in June of 1775 after the creation of the Continental Army.  He was chosen by General George Washington to serve as an aide-de-camp on July 4, 1775, but he was quickly promoted to Quartermaster General in the Continental Army on August 14, 1775.  Mifflin was again promoted, this time to Major General, on February 19, 1776.  Mifflin remained active in the military until his resignation in 1779.  In 1782 Mifflin was elected to the Confederation Congress, in which he served until 1784.  From November of 1783 to June of 1784, Mifflin served as president of the Congress.  

Mifflin was re-elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly for the 1778-1779 session to represent Philadelphia City.  He was re-elected for the following session; this time, however, to represent Berks County. After a brief hiatus, Mifflin was re-elected, this time to represent Philadelphia County, for the 1785-1786 session.  He was re-elected for 2 more consecutive terms.  On October 27, 1785, Mifflin was elected the 35th Speaker of the Assembly.  He was re-elected Speaker on October 26, 1786.  Mifflin was re-elected for a third term as Speaker on October 24, 1787.[1]  During his time as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House, Mifflin served as a Commonwealth representative at the United States Constitutional Convention in 1787.  On November 25, 1789, he was elected president of the Constitutional Convention for Pennsylvania.

Mifflin was elected president of the Supreme Executive Council for the Commonwealth in 1788.  He held this title until the 1790 Constitution altered the name of the office to “Governor” of the Commonwealth.  In 1790 Mifflin was re-elected, this time with the new title and distinction of being the first Governor of Pennsylvania. Mifflin was re-elected Governor in 1793 and in 1796.  As Governor, he was considered responsible for diminishing Pennsylvania’s debt after the Revolutionary War, instigating public works development, and laying the groundwork for a modern penal code in the Commonwealth. Mifflin also oversaw increased political regulation, especially of banking and of political parties.

Following his time as Governor, Mifflin was elected one more time to serve Philadelphia County as a member of the House of Representatives for the 1799-1800 session; however, he died before the end of the term.

During his lifetime, on September 19, 1789, Mifflin County was named in his honor, created out of parts of Cumberland and Northumberland Counties.

Thomas Mifflin died on January 20, 1800 in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  He is interred at Trinity Lutheran Church Cemetery, Lancaster, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

 

 

[1] On December 21, 1786, Mifflin resigned his positon as Speaker due to illness.  He resumed the Speakership on December 26, 1787, after his recovery.  During his convalescence, Gerardus Wynkoop II was elected and served as Speaker during the 4 days in which the Assembly convened post-December 21, 1786.  While the Assembly went through a formal resignation and election process of a new Speaker during this time, Wynkoop’s temporary service is believed to be a precursor to the contemporary practice of assigning a Speaker Pro Tempore when the elected Speaker is unable to preside over session.