- Arthur St. Clair
name = Arthur St. Clair
imagesize = 200px
office = 9th
President of the United States in Congress Assembled
term_start = February 2, 1787
term_end = November 4, 1787
birth_date = birth date|1736|3|23|mf=y
Thurso, Caithness, Scotland
death_date = death date and age|1818|8|31|1736|3|23
death_place = Greensburg,
Arthur St. Clair (March 23, 1736ndash August 31, 1818) was the ninth
President of the Continental Congressunder the Articles of Confederation, a general in the Continental Armyduring the American Revolutionary War, the highest-ranking officer in the US Army (1791–1792), and the only territorial governor of the Northwest Territory.
Early life and career
St. Clair was born in
Thurso, Caithness, Scotland, probably to William Sinclair, a merchant, and Elizabeth Balfour. He attended the University of Edinburghand studied medicine under the renowned anatomist William Hunter.
In 1757, St. Clair purchased a commission in the
British Army, Royal American Regiment, and came to America with Admiral Edward Boscawen's fleet for the French and Indian War. He served under General Jeffrey Amherstat 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
prothonotaryof Bedford and Westmoreland counties.
In 1774, the
colony of Virginiatook claim of the area around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and some residents of Western Pennsylvania took up arms to eject them. St. Clair issued an order for the arrest of the officer leading the Virginia troops. Lord Dunmore's Wareventually settled the boundary dispute.
By the mid-1770s, St. Clair considered himself more of an American than a British subject. In January 1776, he accepted a commission in the
Continental Armyas a colonelof the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment. He was appointed a brigadier generalin August 1776, and was sent by Gen. George Washingtonto help organize the New Jerseymilitia. He took part in Washington's crossing of the Delaware Riveron 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 Jerseyin the following days.
In April 1777, St. Clair was sent to defend
Fort Ticonderoga. His small garrison could not resist British Gen. John Burgoyne's larger force in the Saratoga Campaign. St. Clair was forced to retreat at the Battle of Ticonderoga on July 5 1777. He withdrew his forces and played no further part in the campaign. In 1778 he was court-martialed for the loss of Ticonderoga. The court exonerated him and he returned to duty, although he was no longer given any battlefield commands. He still saw action, however, as an aide-de-campto General Washington, who retained a high opinion of him. St. Clair was at Yorktown when Lord Cornwallis surrendered his army.
President of Congress
St. Clair was a member of the Pennsylvania Council of Censors in 1783, and was elected a delegate to the
Continental Congressfrom November 2 1785 until November 28 1787. From November 2 1786 until February 2, 1787 the government known as the United States in Congress Assembled was unable to form a quorum and hence no president was elected. Chaos ruled the day in early 1787 with Shays' Rebellionin full force and the states refusing to settle land disputes or contribute to the now six year-old federal government. On February 2, 1787 the Delegates finally gathered into a quorum and elected Arthur St. Clair as the 9th President of the United States in Congress Assembled. St. Clair's tenure as president (February 2, 1787ndash October 29, 1787) was during an effective period, as Congress enacted both the Northwest Ordinanceand the current United States Constitution.
Northwest Ordinanceof 1787, which created the Northwest Territory, General St. Clair was appointed governor of what is now Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, along with parts of Wisconsinand Minnesota. He named Cincinnati, Ohioafter the Society of the Cincinnati, and it was there that he established his home. When the territory was divided in 1800, he served as governor of the Ohio Territory.
As Governor, he formulated
Maxwell's Code(named after its printer, William Maxwell), the first written 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 further resistance in what is sometimes known as the " Northwest Indian War" (or "Little Turtle's War"). Mutual hostilities led to a campaign by General Josiah Harmar, whose 1,500 militiamen were defeated by the Indians in October 1790.
In 1791, St. Clair succeeded Harmar as the senior general of the
United States Army. He personally led a punitive expeditioncomprising of two Regular Army regiments and some militia. This force advanced to the location of Indian settlements on the Wabash River, but on November 4they were routed in battle by a tribal confederation led by Miami Chief Little Turtleand Shawnee chief Blue Jacket. More than 600 soldiers and scores of women and children were killed in the battle, called St. Clair's Defeat, the "Columbia Massacre," or the " Battle of the Wabash." It was the greatest defeat of the American army by Native Americans in history with some 623 American soldiers killed in action as opposed to about 50 enemy dead. After this debacle, he resigned from the army at the request of President Washington, but continued to serve as Governor of the Northwest Territory.
A Federalist, St. Clair hoped to see two states made of the Ohio Territory in order to increase Federalist power in Congress. However, he was resented by Ohio Democratic-Republicans for what were perceived as his partisanship, high-handededness and arrogance in office. In 1802, his opposition to plans for Ohio statehood led President
Thomas Jeffersonto remove him from office as territorial governor. He thus played no part in the organizing of the state of Ohioin 1803. The first Ohio Constitutionprovided for a weak governor and a strong legislature, in part due to a reaction to St. Clair's method of governance.
Death and Legacy
St. Clair died in
Greensburg, Pennsylvaniaon August 31 1818 in his eighties and in poverty; his vast wealth dissipated by generous gifts and loans, and by business reverses. St. Clair's remains are buried in a public park in downtown Greensburg that bears his name.
A portion of The Hermitage, St. Clair's home in
Youngstown, Pennsylvaniawas later moved to Ligonier, Pennsylvania, where it is now preserved at the Fort Ligonier Museum.
Places named in honor of Arthur St. Clair include:
Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania
St. Clairsville, Pennsylvania
*St. Clair Township,
Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
*East St. Clair Township,
Bedford County, Pennsylvania
*West St. Clair Township,
Bedford County, Pennsylvania
*St Clair Neighborhood in
Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaIn Ohio:
*St. Clair Township in
Columbiana County, Ohio,
St. Clairsville, OhioOther States:
St. Clair County, Illinois
St. Clair County, Missouri
St. Clair County, Alabama
* [http://www.ohiomemory.org Ohio Memory]
* [http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=354 Ohio History Central]
* [http://www.fortligonier.org/hermitag.htm The Hermitage - home of Arthur St. Clair]
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=11822 Find-A-Grave] gives 1736 as date of birth
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