Biography of De Witt Clinton
Famous American Biographies

DE WITT CLINTON. - Probably there were but few men who were so popular in their time, or who have had so much influence in moulding events as the individual whose name honors the head of this article.

De Witt Clinton was the son of General James Clinton, and a nephew of Governor George Clinton, who was the fourth vicepresident of the United States. He was a native of Orange county, New York, born at Little Britain, March 2, 1769. He graduated from Columbia College, in his native state, in 1796, and took up the study of law. In 1790 he became private secretary to his uncle, then governor of New York. He entered public life as a Republican or anti Federalist, and was elected to the lower house of the state assembly in 1797, and the senate of that body in 1798. At that time he was looked on as "the most rising man in the Union." In 1801 he was elected to the United States senate. In 1803 he was appointed by the governor and council mayor of the city of New York, then a very important and powerful office. Having been re-appointed, he held the office of mayor for nearly eleven years, and rendered great service to that city. Mr. Clinton served as lieutenant-governor of the state of New York, 1811-13, and was one of the commissioners appointed to examine and survey a route for a canal from the Hudson river to Lake Erie. Differing with President Madison, in relation to the war, in 1812,, he was nominated for the presidency against that gentleman, by a coalition party called the Clintonians, many of whom were Federalists. Clinton received eight-nine electoral votes. His course at this time impaired his popularity for a time. He was removed from the mayoralty in 1814, and retired to private life. In 1815 he wrote a powerful argument for the construction of the Erie canal, then a great and beneficent work of which he was the principal promoter. This was in the shape of a memorial to the legislature, which, in 1817, passed a bill authorizing the construction of that canal. The same year he was elected governor of New York, almost unanimously, notwithstanding the opposition of a few who pronounced the scheme of the canal visionary. He was re-elected governor in 1820. He was at this time, also, president of the canal commissioners. He declined a re-election to the gubernatorial chair in 1822 and was removed from his place on the canal board two years later. But he was triumphantly elected to the office of governor that fall, and his pet project, the Erie canal, was finished the next year, He was re-elected governor in 1826, but died while holding that office, February 11, 1828.

A Biographical Record
Of Schuyler County, New York
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
New York and Chicago 1903.


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