Birthplace: Maghera, County Derry, Ireland
Location of death: Lower Merion Township, PA
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, PA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Politician, Translator
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Designed Great Seal of the U.S.
The American patriot Charles Thomson was born in Maghera, County Derry, Ireland, on 29th November 1729, and died in Lower Merion, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 16th August 1824. He was brought to this country with three other brothers by his father in 1740. The father died just in sight of land, and the young Thomsons were thrown on their own resources when they landed at New Castle, Delaware. An elder brother, who had emigrated before them, gave them such aid as he could, and persuaded a countryman, Dr. Francis Allison, to take Charles into his seminary in New London, Pennsylvania. Here he made rapid progress, and while yet little more than a boy he was chosen to conduct a Friends' academy at New Castle. He often visited Philadelphia, met Benjamin Franklin there, and was brought to the notice of many other eminent men. His reputation for veracity was spread even among the Indian tribes, and when the Delawares adopted him into their nation in 1756 they called him in their tongue "man of truth." Rev. Ashbel Green, in his autobiography, says that it was common to say that a statement was "as true as if Charles Thomson's name was to it." He was one of the first to take his stand with the colonists, and he exercised immense influence, owing to the confidence of the people in his ability and integrity. He travel led through the country ascertaining the wishes of the farmers, and trying to learn whether they would be equal to the approaching crisis. "He was the Samuel Adams of Philadelphia", said John Adams, "the life of the cause of liberty." He had just come to Philadelphia in September, 1774, with his bride, a sister of Benjamin Harrison, the signer, when he learned that he had been unanimously chosen Secretary of the 1st Continental congress. "He was the soul of that political body", says Abbe Robin, the chaplain of Rochambeau. He would receive no pay for his first year's services, and Congress presented his wife with a silver urn, which is still preserved in the family. He remained in this post under every Congress up to 1789, not only keeping the records but taking copious notes of its proceedings and of the progress of the Revolution. When he retired into private life he made these notes the basis of a history of the Revolution but he destroyed the manuscript some time before his death, as he feared that a description of the unpatriotic conduct of some of the colonists at that period would give pain to their descendants. Mr. Thomson wrote An Enquiry into the Causes of the Alienation of the Delaware and Shawaneese Indians, etc., with Notes by the Editor on Indian Customs (London, 1759), and The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Covenant, commonly called the Old and New Testament; translated from the Greek [the Old Covenant from the Septuagint] (4 vols., Philadelphia, 1808.) This work is now very rare. It contained the first English version of the Septuagint that had been published at the time, and was considered by biblical scholars in Great Britain to have reflected high honor on American scholarship. His own copy of this translation, with his last manuscript corrections, is in the Philadelphia library. He also published A Synopsis of the Four Evangelists, or a Regular History of the Conception, Birth, Doctrine, Miracles, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ, in the Words of the Evangelists (Philadelphia, 1815), and left in manuscript Critical Annotations on Gilbert Wakefield's Works, which were presented in 1832 by John F. Watson to the Massachusetts Historical Society. Thomson designed the Great Seal of the United States, adopted 20 July 1782.
American Philosophical Society
Author of books:
A Synopsis of the Four Evangelists (1815, religion)
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