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Charles Thomson

Secretary of Continental Congress. Instigator for Independence.

Charles Thomson is best known as secretary of the Continental Congress. For nearly 15 years he kept the records of debate and saw the evolution from oratory to the revolution. He was a strong advocate of separation from Britain. And although he didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence, he urged others to sign and handed them the pen. ■ Thomson was born November 29, 1729, in Ulster, of Scottish ancestry. When his mother died, his father, John Thomson, took his six children to America. To compound the tragedy, his father died on the ship coming over. Charles was 10. He attended Alison Academy in Pennsylvania, taught school, and prospered in business. ■ Thomson gained a reputation for integrity that was his hallmark. He was trusted by the Indians in negotiations with the settlers. The Delaware Indians adopted him with the name meaning, “The man who tells the truth.” ■ He was active in Pennsylvania politics and was in the forefront in all of the Colonial controversies with the British. As the chief surviving link between the old colonial government and the new, Thomson was chosen to notify George Washington of his election to the presidency. He then resigned his post as secretary of the Continental Congress and custodian of the records. ■ He retired to his estate at Harriton near Philadelphia where he spent the next 20 years of his life making translations of the New Testament in four volumes which were declared “scholarly and felicitous.” ■ He had kept extensive personal diaries that detailed the foibles of the Founding Fathers. He destroyed them, because he didn’t think they reflected well on the men who founded the nation. He died in Merion, Pennsylvania, August 16, 1824.


Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546