Arthur St. Clair

From Academic Kids

Arthur St. Clair (March 23, 1734-1736?–August 31 1818) was the ninth President of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, holding office from February 2, 1787 to October 29, 1787. He was preceded in office by Nathaniel Gorham and succeeded by Cyrus Griffin. He was also a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and the only territorial governor of Ohio.

Portrait of St. Clair

St. Clair was born Thurso, Caithness, Scotland on March 23, sometime between 1734 and 1736. He attended the University of Edinburgh and studied medicine under the renowned anatomist William Hunter. In 1757, St. Clair purchased a commission in the British Army and came to America with Admiral Edward Boscawen's fleet for the French and Indian War. He served under General Jeffrey Amherst at the capture of Louisburg, Nova Scotia on July 26, 1758. On April 17, 1759 he received a lieutenant's commission and was assigned to the command of General James Wolfe, under whom he served at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

On April 16, 1762, he resigned his commission, and in 1764 he settled in Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania, where he purchased land, and erected mills. He was the largest landowner in western Pennsylvania.

In 1770 St. Clair became a justice of the court, of quarter sessions and of common pleas, a member of the proprietary council, a justice, recorder, and clerk of the orphans' court, and prothonotary of Bedford and Westmoreland counties.

In 1774, the colony of Virginia took claim of the area around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and some residents of western Pennsylvania took up arms to reject them. St. Clair issued an order for the arrest of the officer leading the Virginia troops. Lord Dunmore's War eventually settled the boundary dispute.

Revolutionary War

After this event St. Clair broke with the British government and, in January, 1776, took a commission in the Continental Army, as a Colonel of Pennsylvania militia. He was appointed a Brigadier General in August of 1776, and was sent by George Washington to help organize the New Jersey militia. He took part in Washington's crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night 1776 before the Battle of Trenton. Many biographers credit St. Clair with the strategy which led to Washington's capture of Princeton, New Jersey in the following days.

In April of the same year, St. Clair was sent to defend Fort Ticonderoga. Unfortunately, his small garrison, could not resist John Burgoyne's force in the Saratoga Campaign. He was foced to withdraw at the Battle of Ticonderoga on July 5, 1777. He was able to withdraw his foces and continue resisting the advance. In 1778 he was court martialed for the loss of Ticonderoga. The court exonerated him, and he was returned to duty. St. Clair was at Yorktown, Virginia when Charles Cornwallis surrendered.

St. Clair was a member of the Pennsylvania council of censors in 1783 and was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress from November 2, 1785 until November 28, 1787. He was President of the United States in Congress assembled when Shays' Rebellion took place.

Northwest Territory

Under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which created the Northwest Territory, General St. Clair was appointed governor of what is now Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, along with parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota. He named Cincinnati, Ohio after the Society of the Cincinnati, and it was there that he made his seat. When the territory was divided in 1800, he served as governor of the Ohio Territory.

As Governor he formulated Maxwell's Code, the first laws of the territory. He also sought to end Native American claims to Ohio land and clear the way for white settlement. In 1789 he succeeded in getting certain Indians to sign the Treaty of Fort Harmar, but many Native leaders had not been invited to participate in the negotiations, or had refused to do so. Rather than settling the Indian's claims, the treaty provoked them to resistance. Conflict led to a campaign by General Josiah Harmar, whose 1500 militiamen were defeated by the Indians in October 1790.

In 1791, St. Clair personally led a punitive expedition comprised of militia, and two Regular Army regiments. This force advanced to the location of Indian settlements on the Wabash river, but on November 4 they were routed in battle by a tribal confederation led by Miami Chief Michikinikwa. More than 600 soldiers and scores of women and children were killed in thee battle, called the Columbia Massacre. It was the greatest defeat of the American army by Native Americans in history. After this debacle, he resigned from the Army at the demand of President George Washington, but he continued to serve as Governor of the Northwest Territory.

A Federalist, he hoped to see two states made of the Ohio Territory in order to increase Federalist power in Congress. In 1802, his partisan opposition to plans for Ohio statehood led President Thomas Jefferson to remove him from office as territorial governor. He thus played no part in the organizing of the state of Ohio in 1803.

St. Clair died in Greensburg, Pennsylvania on August 31, 1818, in poverty, his vast wealth dissipated by liberal gifts and loans, and by business reverses.

External links

Preceded by:
Nathaniel Gorham
President of the United States in Congress Assembled
February 2, 1787November 4, 1787
Succeeded by:
Cyrus Griffin

Template:End boxde:Arthur St. Clair


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