McKINLY, JOHN. (1721–1796). President of Delaware. Ireland and Delaware. Born in Ireland on 24 February 1721, McKinly moved to Wilmington, Delaware, in the 1740s. He practiced medicine and was active in local civil and militia affairs. He served as sheriff (1757–1759) and was twelve times elected chief burgess of the borough of Wilmington, between 1759 and 1776. In October 1771 he was elected to the colonial assembly, two years later he became a member of the assembly's five-man standing Committee of Correspondence, and he had a part in the major events leading to his state's joining the Continental Association (28 November 1774). He served as chairman of the Committee of Vigilance, and was charged with the enforcement of that Committee's rulings.
In September 1775 he became president of the Delaware Council of Safety and brigadier general of the New Castle County militia. The following year he was elected speaker of the new House of Representatives. In February 1777 McKinly was chosen president and commander in chief of Delaware for a term of three years. When the British occupied Wilmington on the night of 12-13 September 1777, shortly after the battle of Brandywine (11 September), they took McKinly prisoner and evacuated him to Philadelphia after the capture of that city. When the British left Philadelphia, they took him to New York City, where he was paroled in August 1778. Having gone to Philadelphia to get agreement of the Continental Congress, he was exchanged for William Franklin, former Royal governor of New Jersey, and in September he was free to resume his medical practice in Wilmington. McKinly took no further part in public life, refusing his election to the Continental Congress in 1784. He died in Wilmington, Delaware, on 31 August 1796.
SEE ALSO Brandywine, Pennsylvania.
McKinly Papers. Wilmington, Del.: Historical Society of Delaware.
revised by Michael Bellesiles