of New York and two-time Vice-President of the
George Clinton was born at
Little Britain, Ulster (now Orange) County, New York, on
July 26, 1739, the son of Charles Clinton, who
commanded a regiment of provincial troops in the French
and Indian War. He went
to sea at the age of 16 but found the sailor's
life distasteful. He then joined his father's
regiment and accompanied him as a Lieutenant in
an expedition against Fort Frontenac in 1758.
After the war he practiced law and held a number
of minor civil offices in Ulster County.
A member of the New York
Provincial Assembly from 1768 to 1775, Clinton
was an open advocate of independence from
Britain. In 1774 he was a member of the New York
Committee of Correspondence, and in 1775 was a
member of the Second Continental Congress. In
December of 1775 he was appointed a Brigadier
General of Militia by the New York Provincial
Congress. In the following summer, being ordered
by George Washington to assist in the defense of New York,
he left Philadelphia, after voting for the
Declaration of Independence but before he could
sign the final document. Although courageous and
popular, Clinton was not a competent commander.
He took part in the Battle of White Plains
(October 28, 1776), but was unable to prevent the
capture of Fort Montgomery or the burning of
Esopus, New York, in 1777. He was, however, able
to check the advance of Sir John Johnson and the
Indians in the Mohawk Valley, in 1780.
So great was Clinton's
popularity that at the first election under the
new New York State Constitution he was chosen
both Governor and Lieutenant Governor. He
declined the latter office, and, on July 30,
1777, entered upon his duties as Governor. He
went on to serve as Governor for 18 successive
years (1777-1795), longer than any other Governor
since, and for another triennial term from 1801
to 1804. In the elections of 1780, 1783 and 1786
he had no opponent. He was a member of the State
Assembly from 1800 to 1801.
Clinton vigorously opposed
ratification of the Constitution because he
believed it would diminish his state's power and
was one of the leaders of the opposition in New
York. But in the state convention of 1788, over
which he presided, his party was defeated and New
York ratified the Constitution.
In 1789, 1792 and 1796 Clinton
received a number of votes in the Electoral
College, but not enough to secure him the
vice-presidency, which at the time was awarded to
the recipient of the second highest number of
votes. In 1804, however, after the method of
voting had been changed, he was nominated for the
vice-presidency by a congressional caucus and was
subsequently elected Vice-President under Thomas Jefferson. In 1808 he sought the presidential
nomination but lost out to James Madison.
He was again elected Vice-President, however, and
was serving in that capacity when he died on
April 20, 1812. One of his last important acts
while presiding in the Senate was to break a tie
on rechartering the Bank of the United States by
voting against it.
Originally buried in the
congressional cemetery, Clinton's remains were
removed to Kingston, New York, in May 1908.
French and Indian War
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