Timothy Matlack

Timothy Matlack

Overview
Timothy Matlack was a merchant, surveyor, architect, statesman, and patriot in the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. A delegate from Pennsylvania to the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 in 1780, he emerged during the Revolutionary period as one of Pennsylvania's most provocative and influential political figures.

Timothy Matlack was born in Haddonfield, New Jersey
Haddonfield, New Jersey
Haddonfield is a borough located in Camden County, New Jersey. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough had a total population of 11,593....

, to Martha Burr and Timothy Matlack, a Quaker
Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, or Friends Church, is a Christian movement which stresses the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Members are known as Friends, or popularly as Quakers. It is made of independent organisations, which have split from one another due to doctrinal differences...

 merchant and brewer. In 1745, the family relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

, where young Timothy attended the Quaker Friends' School.
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Encyclopedia
Timothy Matlack was a merchant, surveyor, architect, statesman, and patriot in the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. A delegate from Pennsylvania to the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 in 1780, he emerged during the Revolutionary period as one of Pennsylvania's most provocative and influential political figures.

Biography


Timothy Matlack was born in Haddonfield, New Jersey
Haddonfield, New Jersey
Haddonfield is a borough located in Camden County, New Jersey. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough had a total population of 11,593....

, to Martha Burr and Timothy Matlack, a Quaker
Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, or Friends Church, is a Christian movement which stresses the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Members are known as Friends, or popularly as Quakers. It is made of independent organisations, which have split from one another due to doctrinal differences...

 merchant and brewer. In 1745, the family relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

, where young Timothy attended the Quaker Friends' School. In 1748 he married Ellen Yarnall, the daughter of Quaker preacher Mordecai Yarnall, with whom he had five children (William, Mordecai, Sibyl, Catharine, Martha). After Ellen's death in 1791, Matlack married widow Elizabeth Claypoole Copper in 1797; they had no children.

Known to be a sword-toting patriot around the streets of Philadelphia, Matlack was active in the revolutionary politics of Philadelphia, serving on committees of inspection and observation, and attending the conference in June 1776 that called for a convention to draft a new state constitution. As a delegate to that convention he, along with his radical Whig faction, was instrumental in drafting the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776
Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776
The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 was the state's first constitution following the Declaration of Independence, and has been described as the most democratic in America. It was drafted by Robert Whitehill, Timothy Matlack, Dr. Thomas Young, George Bryan, James Cannon, and Benjamin Franklin...

 and its declaration of rights. He was an ardent defender of the constitution against its moderate Republican critics, most notably James Wilson
James Wilson
James Wilson was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. Wilson was elected twice to the Continental Congress, and was a major force in drafting the United States Constitution...

. During this period Matlack authored a number of newspaper articles under the pseudonym T.G. (Tiberius Gracchus) attacking opponents of the constitution. He served in a variety of officers thereafter, most importantly as the first Secretary to the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For his patriotic devotion to the cause of freedom and independence from Great Britain and the many services rendered by him throughout the struggle, Matlack was presented a silver urn by the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety
Committee of Safety (American Revolution)
Many Committees of Safety were established throughout Colonial America at the start of the American Revolution. These committees started to appear in the 1760s as means to discuss the concerns of the time, and often consisted of every male adult in the community...

 of which he was a member. After the Revolution, Matlack served in a variety of government posts in Pennsylvania, including as the first Director of the Bank of North America
Bank of North America
The Bank of North America was a private business chartered on December 31, 1781 by the Congress of the Confederation and opened on January 7, 1782, at the prodding of Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris. This was thus the nation's first de facto central bank. It was succeeded in its role as...

 from 1781-1782.

On April 8, 1776, the 5th Rifle Battalion of Philadelphia met to select officers in Carpenters' Hall
Carpenters' Hall
Carpenters' Hall is a two-story brick building in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that was a key meeting place in the early history of the United States. Completed in 1773 and set back from Chestnut Street, the meeting hall was built for and is still owned by the...

, where Matlack was elected and later commissioned a Colonel in a local militia known as the Philadelphia Associators, also known as the "Shirt Battalion". Campaigning in New Jersey under General John Cadwalader
John Cadwalader (general)
John Cadwalader was a commander of Pennsylvania troops during the American Revolutionary War.-Early life:...

, Matlack's battalion was engaged in the battles of Trenton
Battle of Trenton
The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, after General George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey. The hazardous crossing in adverse weather made it possible for Washington to lead the main body of the...

 and Princeton
Battle of Princeton
The Battle of Princeton was a battle in which General George Washington's revolutionary forces defeated British forces near Princeton, New Jersey....

 that later helped rally the Continental Army under General Washington to victory in the American Revolution. During the Revolution
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 Matlack was also appointed as overseer of provisions to the Continental Army.

On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 was approved by twelve colonies. New York approved the DOI on July 9th, and on July 19 the Continental Congress ordered that the Declaration be "fairly engrossed on parchment" and signed by every member of Congress. As a clerk to the Secretary of the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

, Matlack was chosen to inscribe the historic document that now rests on display in the National Archives
National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent agency of the United States government charged with preserving and documenting government and historical records and with increasing public access to those documents, which comprise the National Archives...

. Matlack is also known to have penned in 1775 George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

's commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the United Colonies (Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

), among other important documents of the time.

While serving as Secretary of the Supreme Executive Council, Matlack played an instrumental role in the May, 1779 court martial of General Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold V was a general during the American Revolutionary War. He began the war in the Continental Army but later defected to the British Army. While a general on the American side, he obtained command of the fort at West Point, New York, and plotted to surrender it to the British forces...

 in Morristown, serving as one of the prosecution's chief witnesses during the trial. The third charge read against General Arnold claimed that he imposed "menial offices on the sons of freemen of the State," a reference to an incident involving Matlack's son, William.

At the height of his political and social influence, Matlack was elected a trustee (1779–1785) of the University of the State of Pennsylvania (presently the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

). During this period he was also elected to the American Philosophical Society
American Philosophical Society
The American Philosophical Society, founded in 1743, and located in Philadelphia, Pa., is an eminent scholarly organization of international reputation, that promotes useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, publications,...

, where he served as Secretary of the organization from 1781-83. In 1780, Matlack delivered the first address before the Society, where he advocated for the institutionalization of agricultural in the interest of national development. “In our endeavors to promote the interest and happiness of our country,” Matlack declared, “let us apply to intelligent husbandmen in every part of the state and collect the real knowledge among us" and "arrange it into science”. Matlack called upon the University of the State of Pennsylvania, as well as other colleges, to foster the development of modern agricultural research and education in America. "The Star-bespangled Genius of America..." he proclaimed, "points to Agriculture as the stable Foundation of the rising mighty Empire."

In 1781, Matlack helped found along with Samuel Wetherill the Society of Free Quakers, which consisted mostly of Quakers disowned for their support of or participation in the armed conflict with Great Britain during the American war for independence. One of the earliest opponents of slavery in British colonies in America, Matlack felt the Quakers were not moving quickly enough on abolition. Along with Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

, Robert Morris and others, Matlack helped raise a substantial sum of money to construct the Free Quaker Meeting House at the corner of Fifth and Arch streets in downtown Philadelphia, where he and other members of the society, including his brothers Josiah and White
White Matlack
White Matlack was a New York Quaker and abolitionist, and a brother of Timothy Matlack.He married Mary Hawhurst on 6 March 1768. They had four children; White, Timothy, Mary, and Hannah....

, openly worshiped. Matlack has been attributed with the architectural design of the Free Quaker Meeting House and its masonry vaults. He was also hired in 1794 by Philadelphia merchant and politician Anthony Morris to design a late Georgian style mansion in the countryside just outside of Philadelphia. The estate is known today as the Highlands
The Highlands (Pennsylvania)
The Highlands is a historic building and property located at 7001 Sheaff Lane in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, in the United States.The Highlands was built in the years 1794-1796 by Philadelphia merchant and politician Anthony Morris , and was designed by Philadelphia architect Timothy Matlack...

.

In 1790, Matlack was commissioned along with Samuel Maclay and John Adlum by the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania to survey the "headwaters of the Susquehanna River
Susquehanna River
The Susquehanna River is a river located in the northeastern United States. At long, it is the longest river on the American east coast that drains into the Atlantic Ocean, and with its watershed it is the 16th largest river in the United States, and the longest river in the continental United...

 and the streams of the New Purchase," the northwestern portion of the state purchased from the American Indians. They were also charged with exploring a route for a passageway to connect the West Branch
West Branch Susquehanna River
The West Branch Susquehanna River is one of the two principal branches, along with the North Branch, of the Susquehanna River in the northeastern United States. The North Branch, which rises in upstate New York, is generally regarded as the extension of the main branch, with the shorter West Branch...

 with the Allegheny River
Allegheny River
The Allegheny River is a principal tributary of the Ohio River; it is located in the Eastern United States. The Allegheny River joins with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River at the "Point" of Point State Park in Downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania...

.

After his death in Holmesburg, Pennsylvania on April 14, 1829, Matlack was interred in the Free Quaker Burial Ground on South Fifth Street, Philadelphia. His remains were removed from the Burial Ground in 1905 and reinterred in Matson's Ford, Montgomery Co., Pennsylvania, in the Flatlands of the Schuylkill River opposite Valley Forge.

Popular culture


Matlack's penmanship in the Declaration and other historical documents of the time has inspired a number of modern typefaces, or fonts, such as American Scribe or Declaration Script. Handwriting in the colonial period was heavily influenced by Europe, in particular by 18th century English writing masters. By the mid-18th century, there were special schools established to teach handwriting techniques, or penmanship
Penmanship
Penmanship is the technique of writing with the hand using a writing instrument. The various generic and formal historical styles of writing are called hands, whilst an individual personal style of penmanship is referred to as handwriting....

. Master penmen like Timothy Matlack were employed to copy official documents such as land deeds, birth and marriage certificates, military commissions, and other legal documents. The development of copperplate engraving allowed for the use of very delicate type faces with many flourishes and curlicues in the script-like letters, which greatly influenced handwriting. Elegant handwriting became a sign of social status. One can readily see these influences in Matlack's penmanship in the Declaration of Independence. In particular, his use of English Roundhand script stands out. This form of script was executed with a feather quill pen and was actually a form of handwriting. The script is known today as Copperplate
Copperplate script
Copperplate, or English round hand, is a style of calligraphic writing, using a sharp pointed nib instead of the flat nib used in most calligraphic writing. Its name comes from the fact that the copybooks from which students learned it were printed from etched copper plates...

.

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