Mifflin, Thomas

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Mifflin, Thomas

MIFFLIN, THOMAS. (1744–1800). Continental general, politician. Pennsylvania. Born in Philadelphia of Quaker parents on 10 January 1744, Mifflin graduated from the College of Philadelphia in 1760 and entered a business partnership with his brother before entering politics. He was in the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly in 1772 and 1773, one of the most radical members of the Continental Congress in 1774, and an ardent Whig in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives until 1775. In the early stages of the war he was active in recruiting and training troops, which led his Quaker meeting to expel him. He was elected major of a volunteer company of troops. On 4 July he became one of General George Washington's aides-de-camp, and on 14 August he became quarter-master general. He was promoted to colonel on 22 December, brigadier general on 16 May 1776, and major general on 19 February 1777. Mifflin had been exceptionally valuable as a soldier-politician, famous for enhancing troop morale with his speeches. But his tenure as quartermaster general was marked by controversy and charges of corruption and inefficiency. He resigned that post in October 1777. Blamed for the sufferings during the Valley Forge Winter Quarters and closely linked with the Conway cabal that sought to dismiss George Washington, Mifflin resigned from the army in August 1778.

Despite its many suspicions regarding Mifflin's conduct, Congress appointed him as one of the commissioners charged with reorganizing the military in 1780. He was a delegate to Congress from 1782 to 1784. He was elected president of that body in 1783 and received Washington's resignation of his military commission (December 23, 1783). Continuing an active career in state and national politics, Mifflin attended the 1787 Constitutional Convention, supporting the federal Constitution. He presided over the Pennsylvania constitutional convention of 1790, served as governor of Pennsylvania from 1790 to 1799, and personally commanded the militia to put down the Whiskey insurrection of 1794. Mifflin remained remarkably inconsistent in his politics, inspiring profound anger from his many political opponents; yet he kept winning elections. He died at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on 20 January 1800.

SEE ALSO Supply of the Continental Army; Valley Forge Winter Quarters, Pennsylvania.


Rossman, Kenneth R. Thomas Mifflin and the Politics of the American Revolution. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1952.

                           revised by Michael Bellesiles