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Collection Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774 to 1789

Charles Thomson

Charles Thompson Esqr. Secretary to Congress. Pierre Eugène du Simitiére (1736-1784). Engraving, in Portraits of the Generals, Ministers, Magistrates, Members of Congress & others, 1783. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-44786.


Charles Thomson, Philadelphia merchant and politician, was active in colonial resistance against Britain for decades. Although Pennsylvania conservatives kept him from being elected a delegate to the Continental Congress, Thomson was chosen as its secretary in 1774, continuing in the position until the federal government came to power in 1789. Delegates came and went, but Thomson remained, faithfully recording the debates and decisions that shaped the infant government. Known for his fairness and integrity, the "perpetual secretary" provided the continuity and institutional memory so vital to a Congress whose members were ever-changing.