Thomas Fitzsimons
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Thomas Fitzsimons
Thomas Fitzsimons
Thomas Fitzsimons.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania's At-large district

March 4, 1789 - March 3, 1795
(District created)
John Swanwick
Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg
Richard Thomas
Samuel Sitgreaves and John Richards
Daniel Hiester
John Andre Hanna
John W. Kittera
Thomas Hartley
Andrew Gregg
David Bard and Samuel Maclay
William Findley
Albert Gallatin
Personal details
DiedAugust 26, 1811(1811-08-26) (aged 69-70)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Resting placeSt. Mary's, Philadelphia
Political partyPro-Administration
Occupationstatesman, merchant, soldier

Thomas Fitzsimons (1741-1811) was an American merchant and statesman of Philadelphia. He represented Pennsylvania in the Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and the U.S. Congress.


He was born in Ireland in 1741 and in 1760 he immigrated to Philadelphia where his father soon died, looking for religious freedom.[1] However, Fitzsimons had enough education that he could begin work as a clerk in a mercantile house. He married Catherine Meade on November 23, 1761 and formed a business partnership with her brother George. Their firm, which specialized in the West Indies trade, would successfully operate for over 41 years.[2]

Revolutionary bent

However, this firm was soon hit by the new revenue measures created to help support the finances of the British Empire, including the much reviled Stamp Act of 1765. Concerned with these ideas, Fitzsimons became active in the Irish merchant community in Philadelphia, he was a founding member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in 1771 and later, in 1774, a steering committee organized to protest the Coercive Acts.[2]

When Pennsylvania began mobilizing and organizing a militia to fight the British, Fitzsimons was soon involved. He served as captain of a company of home guards, which he raised, under the command of Colonel John Caldwalader. Initially his company served as part of the soldiers who manned posts along the New Jersey coast to defend against British actions. His unit later served as part of the reserve at the Battle of Trenton in 1776. Later in the war, he served on the Pennsylvania Council of Safety and headed a board to oversee the newly formed Pennsylvania Navy. Under this role, he helped organize the strategic resources of Pennsylvania, and later provided supplies, ships, and money in support of Pennsylvanian and French forces.


Thomas Fitzsimons entered active politics as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1782 and 1783. He was a member of Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1786 until 1795.[3] He was also a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787. Although not a leading member of that convention, he supported a strong national government, the end of slavery, the United States Congress's powers to impose a tariff on imports and exports, the granting the house of representatives, and the equal power in making treaties to the United States Senate in making treaties. Based on debates had during the Convention, he was not a supporter of universal suffrage.[4] He was one of only two Catholic signers of the United States Constitution, the other being Daniel Carroll of Maryland.

It does not come as a surprise that Fitzsimons was a supporter of the military, and he was not shy on sharing his opinion. He is known to have been open about his agreement on not dissolving the army until absolutely necessary.[3]

After the Constitution was established, he served in the first three sessions of the House of Representatives as a Federalist, where he favored protective tariffs and a strong navy, co-drafting the 1794 law authorizing the original six frigates of the United States Navy.[5] Fitzsimons failed to win re-election in 1794, being defeated by John Swanwick, who carried seven of Philadelphia's twelve districts with 57% of the vote. This was partially attributed to public opinion turning against the Federalist Party over the forceful suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion. Although he never held elective office again, Fitzsimons served in 1798 as head of the committee of merchants overseeing the subscription-loan to build a warship at private expense for use in the Quasi-War.[5]

In 1796, FitzSimons, along with James Innes of Virginia, was appointed by President John Adams to serve as one of two American members on the five-man debt commission charged under Article VI the Jay Treaty with examining the claims of British subjects unable to collect debts that were incurred by Americans prior to the American Revolution.[6] FitzSimons, Innes, and, Samuel Sitgreaves, who replaced Innes upon the latter's death, became annoyed with the arguments used by their three British counterparts, Thomas Macdonald, Henry Pye Rich, and John Guillemard, to inflate the claims total, and FitzSimons and Sitgreaves angrily and permanently seceded from the board in July 1799.[7] The claims were eventually disposed of by a lump-sum payment, agreed upon by United States Minister to Britain Rufus King with British Foreign Secretary Robert Banks Jenkinson and approved by President Thomas Jefferson and the Senate in 1802.[8]

While withdrawing from politics, Fitzsimons remained active in civic and business affairs. He served as president of Philadelphia's Chamber of Commerce, as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, Director of the Delaware Insurance Company and a director of the Bank of North America from 1781-1803. He was a founder of the bank, and supported efforts to found the College of Georgetown.[2] Fitzsimons had also helped found the Insurance Company of North America.

Fitzsimmns died on August 26, 1811 in Philadelphia, where he was buried in the cemetery of St. Mary's Catholic Church, which is in present-day Independence National Historical Park.[9][10]


Statue of Fitzsimons in Philadelphia
  1. ^ Flanders, Henry (1878). "Thomas Fitzsimmons". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 2 (3): 306-314. JSTOR 20084352.
  2. ^ a b c Wright, Jr., Robert K.; MacGregor Jr., Morris J. "Thomas Fitzsimons". Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution. Washington D.C.: United States Army Center of Military History. CMH Pub 71-25.
  3. ^ a b Flanders, Henry. "Thomas Fitzsimmons." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 2, no. 3, 1878, pp. 306-314.
  4. ^ Flanders, -Henry. "Thomas Fitzsimmons." The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 2, no. 3, 1878, pp. 306-314.
  5. ^ a b Frederick C. Leiner, Millions for Defense: The Subscription Warships of 1798 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000), 55.
  6. ^ Bradford Perkins, The First Rapprochement: England and the United States, 1795-1805 (Berkeley, Calif. and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1955), 53.
  7. ^ Bradford Perkins, The First Rapprochement: England and the United States, 1795-1805 (Berkeley, Calif. and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1955), 53, 117-19.
  8. ^ Bradford Perkins, The First Rapprochement: England and the United States, 1795-1805 (Berkeley, Calif. and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1955), 138-41.
  9. ^ Thomas Fitzsimons at Find a Grave
  10. ^ National Aegis Newspaper (Worcester, MA), Vol. X, Issue 502, p. 3: Died, also, at an advanced age, Thomas Fitzsimmons, Esq, an old inhabitant of Philadelphia, and formerly a member of Congress, and a member of the Federal Convention of 1787.

External links

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