Thomas Wharton Evacuates Pennsylvania's Government

Thomas Wharton Evacuates Pennsylvania's Government

Thomas Wharton, Jr was a leading Pennsylvania Revolutionary.

Wharton became the first President of Pennsylvania and led his Government out of town the the British Occupation of Philadelphia began.

The Wharton Family

During my research I recently ran into the name of Wharton.

The Wharton family, as it turns out, was an important group of leaders in Philadelphia during the second half of the 18th century. Over the next two days we will be reviewing the parts played by two cousins, Thomas and Robert, in the American Revolution.

Today, we begin by discussing Thomas Wharton, Jr.

Thomas Wharton

Thomas Wharton, Jr was a Philadelphia merchant when issues began to arise between the colonies and Great Britain.

Although he signed several petitions against early British taxes, Thomas did not play an active part in the resistance movement until the Boston Port Act declared martial law in that northern city.

This was too much to bare, as the fear that the same might be done to his hometown was unacceptable.


Once he threw himself into the Patriot Cause, Wharton’s dedication could be matched by few. When the leaders of Philadelphia met and formed the Committee of Correspondence, Thomas was present and was immediately chosen as a member.

Soon thereafter a Committee of Safety was organized. This shadow government ran Pennsylvania in spite of the Royal Governor’s orders.

In the weeks after the Declaration of Independence many of the States made sweeping changes. In Pennsylvania, these changes included installing a new Chairman of the Committee of Saftey.

The position was given to Thomas Wharton.

Executive of Pennsylvania

Wharton was essentially the Governor of Pennsylvania during this time.

His first goal was to oversee the writing of a Constitution for the State. This was done and the government which was create was extremely democratic. Instead of a Governor, there was an Executive Committee which consisted of one person elected from each county. Then, a President was chosen by the members of this Committee.

According to many of Wharton’s contemporaries, the new government was too democratic. Thomas believed it was just right. This helped him, as he was soon chosen as President of the Executive Committee.

This makes Thomas Wharton, in essence, the first Governor of the State of Pennsylvania.


The responsibilities of the President of Pennsylvania during wartime are too numerous to list here. Let’s just say that Wharton kept up an extensive correspondence with many leaders of the Revolution, most notably perhaps is George Washington.

Additionally, when the British took over Philadelphia, Wharton led the State Government out to Lancaster.

While in exile, according to Pennsylvania Vice President George Bryan, “his Excellency Thomas Wharton… died here very unexpectedly.” Still in his early 40’s, this leading Revolutionary did not see the liberation of his country and, most probably, lost his spot among history’s most notable American Founders.

Do you want to read more about other Presidents of Pennsylvania?


Enjoy these articles on Thomas Mifflin and John Dickinson.

While there is no good book about the British Occupation of Philadelphia?

Bad News!

‘There really isn’t any good book about the occupation. However, there is a great book about the man who became Military Governor when they left: Benedict Arnold. ‘The Tragedy of Benedict Arnold’ discusses (in part) the mess that was left in their wake. Pick up a copy through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).

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