William Finlay (1768 - 1846)

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Death: Died
Managed by: Doug Robinson
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About William Finlay


William Findlay (June 20, 1768 – November 12, 1846) was the fourth Governor of Pennsylvania from 1817 to 1820, and was later a United States Senator.


After receiving a common-school education, he became a farmer, and early took part in politics as a Jeffersonian Democrat. He served as brigade inspector in the state militia, studied law, was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Franklintown, Pennsylvania. He served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1797 and 1804-1807, and was state treasurer 1807-1817.

In 1817, Findlay was nominated for the post of governor in the state's first open convention. He was elected governor and served until 1820. He was the first governor to lead the state from its new capital of Harrisburg, running many of the functions of government out of his own home while the new capitol building was under construction. He was defeated for re-election in 1820 by Joseph Hiester.

In 1821, he was elected as a Democratic Republican (later Jacksonian Democrat) to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy in the term commencing March 4, 1821, caused by the failure of the legislature to select someone. He served from December 10, 1821, to March 3, 1827. He was not a candidate for re-election in 1826. In the U.S. Senate, he served as chairman of the Committee on Agriculture (19th Congress). Later, he served as the fifth treasurer of the U.S. Mint, 1827-1841. He resigned due to illness.

He sold the Findlay Farm to Benjamin Jordan and Edward Crouch in 1823. He died in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and his remains were interred at Harrisburg Cemetery.


He was the brother of United States Congressman John and United States Congressman and Cincinnati mayor James Findlay. William Findlay's son John King Findlay (born near Mercersburg, May 12, 1803; died in Spring Lake, New Jersey, September 13, 1885) was a noted jurist. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1824, and was assigned to the 1st Artillery of the U.S. Army. He was assistant professor of chemistry, mineralogy, and geology at West Point from August 29 until November 4, 1824, of geography, history, and ethics until April 17, 1825, and was on topographical duty until May 13, 1828, when he resigned. In 1831, he was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar. He was recorder of Lancaster in 1841–1845, judge of the Philadelphia District Court 1845–1851, and president of the 3rd Judicial District of Pennsylvania in 1857–1862. After this he practised law in Philadelphia. John King Findlay was a captain of militia 1840–1845 and 1852–1856. He published an enlarged edition of Archbold's Law of Nisi Prius (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1852).


Findlay Township in Western Pennsylvania and Findlay Commons on the campus of Penn State University are both named for Governor Findlay.

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William Findlay, Governor, U.S. Senator's Timeline

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Age 78