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George Clinton - Vice President - Patriot - Klos Family Project



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Clinton, George statesman, born in Little Britain, Ulster County, New York. 26 July, 1739; died in Washington, D.C., 20 April, 1812. On his return from a privateering cruise in 1758, he accompanied his father and brother James in the expedition against Fort Frontenac as a lieutenant, and, on the disbanding of the colonial forces. he studied in the law-office of William Smith, and settled in his birthplace, receiving shortly afterward a clerkship from the colonial governor, Admiral George Clinton, a connection of the family. He was elected in 1768 to the New York assembly, where he so resolutely maintained the cause of the colonies against the crown that, on 22 April, 1775, he was elected by the New York provincial convention one of the delegates to the second continental congress, taking his seat on 15 May. He did not vote on the question of independence, as the members of the New York provincial congress, which he represented, did not consider themselves authorized to instruct their delegates to act on that question. They purposely left it to the new provincial congress, which met at White Plains, 8 July, 1776, and which, on the next day, passed unanimously a resolution approving of the declaration. Clinton was likewise prevented from signing the declaration with the New York delegation on 15 July, by receiving, on the 7th of that month, an imperative call from Washington to take post in the Highlands, with rank as general of militia. 

In the spring of 1777 he was a deputy to the New York provincial congress, which framed the first state constitution, but was again called into the field by congress, and appointed, 25 March, 1777, a brigadier-general in the Continental army. Assisted by his brother James, he made a brilliant, though unsuccessful, defense, 6 Oct, 1777, of the Highland forts, Clinton and Montgomery, against Sir Henry Clinton. He was chosen first governor of the state, 20 April, 1777, and in 1780 was re-elected to the office, which he retained by successive elections until 1795. From the period of his first occupation of the gubernatorial chair until its final relinquishment he exhibited great energy of character, and, in the defense of the state, rendered important services, both in a civil and military capacity. 

In 1780 he thwarted an expedition led by Sir John Johnson, Brant, and Corn planter, into the Mohawk valley, and thus saved the settlers from the horrors of the torch and scalping-knife. He was active in preventing encroachments on the territory of New York by the settlers of the New Hampshire grants, and was largely instrumental with Timothy Pickering in concluding, after the war, lasting treaties of peace with the western Indians. In 1783 he accompanied Washington and Hamilton on a tour of the northern and western posts of the state, on their return visiting, with Schuyler as a guide, the High-Rock Spring at Saratoga. While on this trip he first conceived the project of a canal between the Mohawk and Wood creek, which he recommended to the legislature in his speech opening the session of 1791, an idea that was subsequently carried out to its legitimate end in the Erie and Champlain canals by his nephew, Governor De Witt Clinton. 

At the time of Shays's rebellion, 1787, he marched in person, at the head of the militia, against the insurgents, and by this prompt action greatly aided the governor of Massachusetts in quelling that outbreak. In 1788 he presided at the state convention to ratify the Federal constitution, the adoption of which he opposed, believing that too much power would thereby pass to the Federal congress and the executive. At the first presidential election he received three of the electoral votes cast for the vice-presidency. 

In 1792, when Washington was re-elected, Clinton had for the same office fifty votes, and at the sixth presidential election, 1809-'13, he received six ballots from New York for the office of president. In 1800 he was chosen to the legislature after one of the most hotly contested elections in the annals of the state; and in 1801 he was again governor. In 1804 he was elected vice-president of the United States, which office he filled until his death. His last important public act was to negative, by his casting vote in the senate, the renewal of the charter of the United States bank in 1811. He took great interest in education, and in his message at the opening session of the legislature of 1795 he initiated the movement for the organization of a common-school system. 

As a military man, Clinton was bold and courageous, and endowed with a will that rarely failed him in sudden emergencies. As a civil magistrate he was a stanch friend to literature and social order. In private life he was affectionate, winning, though dignified in his manner, strong in his dislikes, and warm in his friendships. The vast influence that he wielded was due more to sound judgment, marvelous energy, and great moral force of character, than to any specially high-sounding or brilliant achievements.


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