DeWitt Clinton, Governor, U.S. Senator

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DeWitt Clinton, Sr., Governor, Senator

Birthdate: (58)
Birthplace: Little Britain, Orange County, New York, United States
Death: Died in Albany, Albany County, New York, United States
Place of Burial: Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Maj. Gen. James Clinton, Continental Army and Mary Clinton
Husband of Maria Clinton and Catherine Clinton
Father of James Henry Clinton; George William Clinton; Maria Jones; Charles Alexander Clinton; 4 Clinton and 7 others
Brother of Alexander Clinton; Charles Clinton; George Clinton; Mary Spencer; Elizabeth Stuart and 1 other
Half brother of Caroline Hannah Dewey; Emma Little Clinton; James Graham Clinton; Letitia Bolton and Anna Ross

Occupation: U.S. Senator From NY
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About DeWitt Clinton, Governor, U.S. Senator

DeWitt Clinton (March 2, 1769 – February 11, 1828) was an early American politician who served as United States Senator and the sixth Governor of New York. In this last capacity he was largely responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal. Unlike his adversary Martin Van Buren, who invented machine politics, Clinton became the leader of New York's People’s Party. Clinton is an authentic but largely forgotten hero of American democracy, according to Daniel Walker Howe (2007). Howe explains, "The infrastructure he worked to create would transform American life, enhancing economic opportunity, political participation, and intellectual awareness."

Early life and political career

DeWitt Clinton was the second son born to James Clinton and his wife Mary DeWitt (1737–1795, aunt of Simeon De Witt), and was educated at what is now Columbia University. He became the secretary to his uncle, George Clinton, who was then governor of New York. Soon after he became a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. He was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1798, and of the New York State Senate from the Southern District from 1798 to 1802, and from 1806 to 1811. He was a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention in 1801. He was a member of the Council of Appointments in 1801-1802 and 1806-1807.

He won the by-election for U.S. Senator from New York after the resignation of John Armstrong, Jr. and served from February 23, 1802, to November 4, 1803. He resigned, unhappy with living conditions in newly built Washington, DC, and was appointed Mayor of New York City. He served as Mayor in 1803-1807, 1808–1810, and 1811-1815. While serving as Mayor, he organized the Historical Society of New York in 1804 and was its president. He also helped re-organizing the American Academy of the Fine Arts in 1808 served as its president between 1813 and 1817. He was Regent of the University of New York from 1808 to 1825.

He was married twice. On February 13, 1796, he married Maria Franklin, daughter of the prominent New York Quaker merchant, Walter Franklin. By her he had ten children, four sons and three daughters surviving at the time of her death in 1818. On May 8, 1819, he married Catharine Jones, daughter of a New York physician, Thomas Jones; she outlived her husband. His son, George William Clinton (1807–1885), served as Mayor of Buffalo, New York, 1842 - 1843.

Later political career and governorship

From 1810 to 1824, he was a member of the Erie Canal Commission. He was among the first members, appointed in 1810, who projected and surveyed the route to be taken. After 1816, he became the driving force during the construction of the canal.

In 1811, the death of John Broome left a vacancy in the office of Lieutenant Governor of New York. In a special election, Clinton defeated the Federalist Nicholas Fish and the Tammany Hall candidate Marinus Willett, to become Lieutenant Governor under Governor Daniel D. Tompkins until the end of the term in June 1813.

In 1812, Clinton ran for President of the United States as candidate for both the Federalist Party and a small group of anti-war Democratic-Republicans. In the close Election of 1812, Clinton was defeated by President Madison; Clinton received 89 electoral votes to James Madison's 128.

After the resignation of Governor Tompkins, who had been elected Vice President, he won a special gubernatorial election in which he was the only candidate. 1,479 votes were cast for Peter Buell Porter - against Clinton's 43,310 - because the Tammany organization, which fiercely hated Clinton, had printed ballots with Porter's name and distributed among the Tammany followers in New York City. On July 1, 1817, Clinton took office as Governor of New York. He was re-elected in 1820, defeating the sitting Vice President Tompkins in a narrow race - DeWitt Clinton 47,447 votes, Tompkins 45,900 - and served until December 31, 1822.

During his second term, the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1821 shortened the gubernatorial term to two years, and moved the beginning of the term from July 1 to January 1, actually cutting off the last 6 months of the 3-year-term he had been elected to. Also the gubernatorial election was moved from April to November, but Clinton was not renominated by his party to run for re-election in November 1822. Even so, he still kept his post as President of the Erie Canal Commission. In April 1824, a majority of his political enemies, the Bucktails, voted in the New York State Legislature for his removal from the Canal Commission. This caused such a wave of indignation among the electorate, that he was nominated for Governor by the "People's Party", and was re-elected governor, against the official candidate of the Democratic-Republican Party, fellow canal commissioner Samuel Young. He served another two terms until his sudden death in office.

He was originally buried at the Clinton Cemetery in Little Britain, New York, later he was re-interred at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. Clinton was able to accomplish many things as a leader in civic and state affairs, such as improving the New York public school system, encouraging steam navigation, and modifying the laws governing criminals and debtors. The 1831 DeWitt Clinton locomotive was named in his honor.

Erie Canal

While governor, Clinton was largely responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal. He was persuaded by Canal proponent Jesse Hawley to support construction of a canal from the eastern shore of Lake Erie to the upper Hudson River. Many thought the project was impracticable, and opponents mocked it as "Clinton's Ditch". But in 1817, he got the legislature to appropriate $7,000,000 for construction. When the Canal was finished in 1825, Governor Clinton opened it, sailing in the packet boat Seneca Chief along the Canal into Buffalo. After sailing from the mouth of Lake Erie to New York City he emptied two casks of water from Lake Erie into New York Harbor, celebrating the first connection of waters from East to West. The Canal was an immense success, carrying huge amounts of passenger and freight traffic. It provided cheap transportation from the Atlantic to the West, drawing traffic to New York state and New York City, which became the most important state and city in America.


List of places named for DeWitt Clinton:


Clinton, Arkansas

DeWitt, Arkansas

Clinton, Illinois which is located in DeWitt County

Clinton, Indiana

Clinton, Iowa

Clinton, Massachusetts

Clinton, Mississippi

Clinton, Missouri

Clinton, New Jersey

DeWitt, Iowa

DeWitt, Michigan which is located in Clinton County

DeWitt, New York

[edit] Counties

Clinton County, Iowa, the county seat of which is Clinton, Iowa

Clinton County, Kentucky

Clinton County, Michigan

Clinton County, Pennsylvania

Clinton County, Illinois

DeWitt County, Illinois, the county seat of which is Clinton, Illinois

(Note that the naming of two counties in Illinois after Clinton is the only instance in the United States of two counties in the same state being named after the same person.)

Non-geographic namesakes

DeWitt Clinton High School, Bronx, NY

An engraved portrait of Clinton appeared on the Legal Tender (United States Note) issue of 1880 in the $1000.00 denomination. An illustrated example can be found on the website of Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's "American Currency Exhibit".

Dewitt Clinton Elementary School, Chicago, Ill

Dewitt Clinton Elementary School, Lockport, NY

Dewitt Clinton Elementary School, Detroit, MI

Ted DeWitt Clinton, a character from the animated series Daria.

DeWitt Clinton Park, Manhattan, NY. The neighborhood around it, Hell's Kitchen, has also become known as Clinton, or the Special Clinton District (a City Government preservation zone) in recent years.

New York Governor, US Senator. Born in Little Britain, New Windsor, Orange County, New York, he was the son of James Clinton, a veteran of the French and Indian War and a Continental Army General of the American Revolution. He graduated from Columbia in 1786 and studied law in New York where he was admitted to the bar in 1788. He became the secretary to his uncle, George Clinton, the governor of New York. He then served in the New York state legislature from 1797 until 1802 where he pushed for the passage of sanitary laws, the relief of prisoners for debt, and the abolition of slavery in the state. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1802 but resigned a year later to take up the post of Mayor of New York, an office he held from 1803 to 1807, 1808 to 1810 and 1811 to 1815. Under his management, city planning demanded the leveling of hills and the filling of low spots on Manhattan, making the city a level grid ready to fill. In 1812 Clinton ran for United States President under the Federalists and anti-war Republican nomination but was defeated by James Madison. Elected Governor of New York in 1817, he spearheaded the drive for the construction of a canal 363 miles long, 40 feet wide, and four feet deep from Lake Erie to Albany. His opponents called the canal "Clinton's Ditch". The Erie Canal was completed in 1825 and, with great fanfare, opened by the Governor. Clinton died suddenly while he was still in office. His influence had done much toward developing a canal system in other states. (bio by: Iola)

DeWitt Clinton was an early American politician and naturalist who served as a United States Senator and was the sixth Governor of New York. In this last capacity, he was largely responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal. Clinton was the leader of New York's People’s Party and was a major rival of Martin Van Buren, who was the Attorney General of New York during Clinton's governorship. Clinton believed that infrastructure improvements could transform American life, drive economic growth, and encourage political participation; and he heavily influenced the development of the New York State and the United States.

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DeWitt Clinton, Governor, U.S. Senator's Timeline

March 2, 1769
Little Britain, Orange County, New York, United States
Age 32
New York, New York, United States
April 24, 1807
Age 38
New Town, NY, USA
February 8, 1809
Age 39
New York City, New York County, New York, United States
February 11, 1828
Age 58
Albany, Albany County, New York, United States