Two hundred and thirty-four years ago today, the independent state of New York elected its first governor, Brigadier General George Clinton.
In addition to being New York’s longest-serving governor, he was also the longest-serving governor of the United States. Clinton held the post from 1777-1795 and again from 1801-1804. He was also elected to the position of vice president of the United States and served under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison until his death in 1812.
When we think of political families George Clinton certainly is a member of the ranks. His father Charles immigrated to New York from Ireland and served in the New York colonial assembly. His brother James was a major general during the war for Independence and his son DeWitt Clinton served as New York’s governor from 1817-1823.
Clinton hated the New York Tories and his friendship with George Washington likely enhanced his career. As governor he tried to keep the public tax burden low by confiscating and selling land belonging to Tories to support state coffers.
He went on to represent New York in the Continental Congress and voted for the Declaration of Independence. He was unable to be present at the signing because he had left to serve Washington in the field.
Clinton refused to endorse the U.S. Constitution until the Bill of Rights was added and remained a dedicated supporter of the federal government. At Washington’s first inauguration he rode with him to the event and threw a celebratory feast in his honor.