February 2, 1787 — Arthur St. Clair was elected the 9th president of the Continental Congress today. One of his first jobs was to deal with Shay’s Rebellion, because American farmers were up in arms against state and local enforcement of tax collections and judgments for debt.
Born in Scotland, St. Clair served in the British Army during the French and Indian War before settling in Pennsylvania, where he held local office. During the American Revolutionary War, he rose to the rank of major general in the Continental Army, but lost his command after a controversial retreat from Fort Ticonderoga.
After the war, he served as president of the Continental Congress. During his term, the Northwest Ordinance passed, which provided a method for admitting new states to the Union from the Northwest Territory.
St. Clair was then made governor of the Northwest Territory in 1788, and then the portion that would become Ohio in 1800. In 1791, St. Clair commanded the American forces in what was the worst ever US defeat against the American Indians. Politically out-of-step with the Jefferson administration, he was replaced as governor in 1802.
St. Clair died in poverty in Greensburg, PA, on August 31, 1818. At the time, he lived with his daughter, Louisa St. Clair Robb and her family on the ridge between Ligonier and Greensburg. He was buried under a Masonic monument in St. Clair Park in downtown Greensburg. His wife of 58 years, Phoebe Bayard, died shortly after and is buried beside him.
Words of Wisdom for February 2, 2017
“Sir I am sorry to inform you that the Murder of two Six Nation Indians has lately happened in our County. The Murderer is now in our Gaol. I had him taken to Fort Pitt and confined there for a few days that the Indians might see him and know that we were inclined to do them Justice and took the information against him before them. They appeared to be well satisfied with it and declared in their way that their Hearts should still be well towards their Brothers tho’ this affair had given them much uneasiness. It has unluckily fallen in a bad Family as the People killed were near Relations to the Chief of the Six Nations in that part of the Country. That you may be the better acquainted with the Circumstances I have inclosed a copy of the Information and you will please to give Order for the Fellows Trial when you think Proper.”
— Sir Your most obedient and very humble Servant, Arthur St. Clair (A letter to William Allen, September 24th, 1771)