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House Speaker Biographies

Photo credit:

Black, Nellie Peters, ed.  Richard Peters: His Ancestors and Descendants, 1810-1889.  Atlanta: Foote & Davies Company, 1904.


Photo credit:

Black, Nellie Peters, ed.  Richard Peters: His Ancestors and Descendants, 1810-1889.  Atlanta: Foote & Davies Company, 1904.

 

Richard Peters II

Born: June 22, 1744, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA.  Died: August 28, 1828, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA.  Member of the General Assembly: Philadelphia County, 1787-1790.  Affiliation: Republican.

Richard Peters II was born and raised on his family’s estate, known as Belmont, on land that is now Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. His uncle and namesake, the eminent Philadelphian and Rev. Dr. Richard Peters I ministered at Christ Church and St. Peter’s Church in Philadelphia. Richard Peters II studied at the Academy of Philadelphia and graduated from the College of Philadelphia (now University of Pennsylvania) in 1761.  He earned a master of arts degree in 1765, and much later in life, was awarded an honorary doctorate in law from the university in 1827.  Peters II was also a trustee of the University from 1788-1790.  Upon completion of his studies, he began his career as a lawyer and was admitted to the bar in Philadelphia in 1763.  In his private life, he maintained an experimental interest in agriculture and farmed land at Fairmount Park.  He was also responsible for founding and acting as first president of the Philadelphia Agricultural Society.  Peters II was married to the former Sarah Robinson, and together the couple had 6 children: Ralph, Richard, Maria Wilhelmina, Thomas, Sarah Robinson, and another son named Thomas as well.

As a Republican, and later a Federalist, Peters II supported the Revolution.  He became active in the military when he took the position of register of the admiralty from 1771-1776.  Also in 1771, he was part of the Continental Army.  His military service was recognized with promotion by Congress to the Continental Board of War from 1776-1781, on which he served as secretary.  Peters II was a delegate in the Second Continental Congress from 1782-1783.

Peters II was elected as a Republican to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 1787-1788 session.  He was re-elected for 2 more consecutive sessions.  On November 1, 1788, Peters II was elected the 36th Speaker of the General Assembly. Peters II was unanimously re-elected Speaker on December 2, 1789, making him the last Speaker of the unicameral General Assembly.  After the death of Benjamin Franklin in April of 1790, Speaker Peters was part of the funeral procession from Franklin’s home to his burial location at Christ Church.

After the 1790 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention, Pennsylvania’s Assembly transitioned from a unicameral to a bicameral legislature.  Peters II was elected to the newly created Pennsylvania Senate to represent Philadelphia city, as well as Philadelphia and Delaware Counties, from 1790-1791.  He was elected as the Senate’s first Speaker in 1790.  Peters was re-elected to the Senate for the 1791-1792 session. Peters II resigned his Senate seat on January 31, 1792, to fulfill an appointment by George Washington as United States district judge for the district of Pennsylvania, a position he held until his death. 

Richard Peters II died on August 28, 1828.  He is interred at St. Peter’s Episcopal Churchyard in the city of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.