first american republic
This website is designed to be an introduction to, supplement to, and companion to the book 'THE FIRST AMERICAN REPUBLIC: 1774-1789
(The First Fourteen American Presidents Before Washington)'


Chapter 13: President ARTHUR ST. CLAIR of Pennsylvania 

Triumph & Tragedy

first american republic Of the tens of thousands of courageous patriots who served as soldiers or statesmen during the American Revolution, Major General Arthur St. Clair earned several unique distinctions. He was the only individual born outside the United States who has held, or will ever hold, the title of President. He was also the only officer, except Washington, who served in uniform throughout the entire Revolutionary War and then went on to become Head of State of his new Nation. Later, after he left the Continental Congress, Arthur St. Clair labored for fifteen years as the first and only Governor of the vast Northwest Territory (which now encompasses five midwestern states). And, of all the Founding Fathers who debated and dreamed of western expansion, only Arthur St. Clair actually reached the banks of the mighty Mississippi.

Unlike Hancock or Mifflin, Arthur was definitely not a politician; nor was he primarily a legislator like Huntington or Lee. Arthur St. Clair was a soldier. His selection as the thirteenth President of the Continental Congress was itself a most unusual step, justified by his reputation for public service and his devotion to duty. Throughout his career, both in and out of uniform, Arthur St. Clair consistently took what he perceived to be the noble course even at great personal cost to his family, his career and his fortune. His sense of right and wrong was as firmly rooted in his soul as his proud Scottish heritage.

In a letter to a friend, Arthur once articulated his core philosophy which never wavered throughout his long and tumultuous life: "I hold that no man has a right to withhold his services when his country needs them," he wrote. "Be the sacrifice ever so great, it must be yielded upon the altar of patriotism."