Thomas Fitzsimons, one of two Catholics to sign the U.S. Constitution, represented Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Convention. He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for three terms.
Thomas Fitzsimons was born in Ireland in 1741. He immigrated to America around 1760, settling with his family in Philadelphia. One year later, he married Catherine Meade, the daughter of a prominent merchant. Fitzsimons entered into a partnership with his wife’s brother George, and they established a successful mercantile business focused on trade with the West Indies.
From the early days of the Revolution, Fitzsimons strongly supported the Patriot cause. He became a captain in the local militia and also served on the Philadelphia committee of correspondence, council of safety, and navy board. Fitzsimons also provided supplies, ships, and money to the Continental Army.
In 1782, Fitzsimons entered politics as a delegate to the Continental Congress. He was later elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, serving from 1786 until 1795.
In 1787, Pennsylvania nominated Fitzsimmons to attend the Constitutional Convention on its behalf. He was one of only two Catholics to sign the U.S. Constitution.
Fitzsimmons regularly attended the proceedings, but was not a major player. William Pierce stated that “Mr. Fitzsimons is a Merchant of considerable talents and speaks very well I am told, in the Legislature of Pennsylvania.”
Fitzsimmons was a vocal proponent of a strong national government. He also advocated for abolishing slavery, authorizing Congress to impose a tariff on imports and exports, and granting the House of Representatives equal power to the Senate in making treaties.
In the new government, Fitzsimmons served three terms as one of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Representatives, holding office from 1789 – 1795. A strong supporter of the military, Fitzsimmons helped draft the Navy Act of 1794, which authorized the original six frigates of the U.S. Navy.
After losing his bid for re-election in 1794, Fitzsimmons returned to the private sector. He served as president of Philadelphia’s Chamber of Commerce, as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, Director of the Delaware Insurance Company and co-founded the Bank of North America. Fitzsimons died on August 26, 1811, in Philadelphia.