Thomas McKean

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Thomas McKean (March 19, 1734 – June 24, 1817) was an American lawyer and politician from New Castle, in New Castle County, Delaware and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the American Revolution he was a delegate to the Continental Congress where he signed the United States Declaration of Independence and served as a President of Congress. He was at various times a member of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties, who served as President of Delaware, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, and Governor of Pennsylvania.


Early life and family

McKean was born in New London Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of William McKean and Letitia Finney. His father was a tavern-keeper in New London and both his parents were Ulster-Scots who came to Pennsylvania from Ireland as children. Mary Borden was his first wife. They married in 1763, lived at 22 The Strand in New Castle, Delaware. They had six children: Joseph, Robert, Elizabeth, Letitia, Mary, and Anne. Mary Borden McKean died in 1773 and is buried at Immanuel Episcopal Church in New Castle. Sarah Armitage was McKean’s second wife. They married in 1774, lived at the northeast corner of 3rd and Pine Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and had four children, Sarah, Thomas, Sophia, and Maria. They were members of the New Castle Presbyterian Church in New Castle and the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Sarah's son, Carlos Fernando de Yrujo, would later become Prime Minister of Spain.

Colonial career

McKean's education began at the Reverend Francis Allison's New London Academy. At the age of sixteen he went to New Castle, Delaware to begin the study of law under his cousin, David Finney. In 1755 he was admitted to the Bar of the Lower Counties, as Delaware was then known, and likewise in the Province of Pennsylvania the following year. In 1756 he was appointed deputy Attorney General for Sussex County. From the 1762/63 session through the 1775/76 session he was a member of the General Assembly of the Lower Counties, serving as its Speaker in 1772/73. From July 1765, he also served as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas and began service as the customs collector at New Castle in 1771. In November 1765 his Court of Common Pleas became the first such court in the colonies to establish a rule that all the proceedings of the court be recorded on un-stamped paper.

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