Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PETTIT, Charles, patriot, born near Amwell, New Jersey, in 1736; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 4 September, 1806 His ancestors, who were Huguenots, emigrated to this country about the middle of the 17th century and settled in southern New York. Charles received a classical education, and early in life married the sister of Joseph Reed, to which connection he owed his first success When Reed was appointed provincial surrogate by Governor William Franklin in 1767, Pettit was commissioned surrogate under him, and succeeded Reed as deputy secretary of the province in 1769. He was admitted to the bar in 1770, became a councilor in 1773, was secretary to Governor Franklin in 1772-'4, and went with him when he removed from Burlington to South Amboy; but when Franklin adhered to the royal cause, Pettit took sides with the people, and rendered valuable service in behalf of the colonies. He retained the secretaryship under Governor William Livingston, and held office until 1778, when he resigned to become assistant quartermaster-general of the Continental army. He declined the post of quartermaster-general to succeed General Nathanael Greene, and served in his original office until the close of the war. He then settled in Philadelphia as a merchant, and while a member of the legislature in 1783-'4 originated the funding system of Pennsylvania. He was chosen by that body a delegate to congress in April, 1785, and served till 1787. He was a powerful advocate of the adoption of the Federal constitution in the general convention in Harrisburg, and in 1791 was chosen to present to congress the claims of Pennsylvania for expenditures during the Revolution. He was a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania in 1791-1802, an active member of the American philosophical society, and in 1796-'8 and in 1799-1806 was president of the Insurance company of North America. --His grandson, Thomas McKean, lawyer, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 26 December. 1797; died there, 30 May, 1853, was graduated at the University of Pennsylvania in 1815, and admitted to the Philadelphia bar, became city solicitor in 1820, and shortly afterward was deputy state attorney-general. He was in the legislature in 1830-'1, associate judge of the district court in 1832-'5, and its presiding judge for the next ten years, subsequently declining further service. He then resumed practice, but was soon afterward appointed by President Polk U S. attorney for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, and in March, 1853, became director of the United States mint, which post he held for a month before his death. He was a vice-president of the Historical society of Pennsylvania. Mr. Pettit was active in the service of the Democratic party in Pennsylvania, and promoted the election of General Jackson to the presidency, he assisted Thomas Sergeant to prepare "The Common Law Reports of England" (Philadelphia, 1822); and published numerous addresses, which include discourses before the Historical society of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1828); the Philomathean society of Pennsylvania (1830); and "Memoirs of Robert Vaux" in the "Memorials" of the former body.
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