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American merchant, b. in Ireland, 1741; d. at Philadelphia, U.S.A., 26 Aug., 1811. There is no positive date of his arrival in America, but church records in Philadelphia show he was there in 1758. In 1763 he was married to Catherine, sister of George Meade, and he was Meade's partner as a merchant until 1784. In the events that led up to the revolt of the colonists against England he took a prominent part. He was one of the deputies who met in conference in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, out of which conference grew the Continental Congress that assembled 4 Sept., 1774, and of which he was a member. His election as one of the Provincial Deputies in July, 1774, is the first instance of a Catholic being named for a public office in Pennsylvania. At the breaking-out of hostilities he organized a company of militia and took part in the Trenton campaign in New Jersey. After this service in the field he returned to Philadelphia and was active with other merchants in providing for the needs of the army.
On 12 Nov., 1782, he was elected a member of the Congress of the old Confederacy and was among the leaders in its deliberations. He was a member of the Convention that met in Philadelphia 25 May, 1787, and framed the Constitution of the United States. Daniel Carroll of Maryland being the only other Catholic member. In this convention Fitz-Simons voted against universal suffrage and in favour of limiting it to free-holders. Under this constitution he was elected a member of the first Congress of the United States and in it served on the Committee on Ways and Means. In politics he was an ardent Federalist. He was re-elected to the second and the third Congresses, but was defeated for the fourth, in 1794, and this closed his political career. Madison wrote to Jefferson, on 16 Nov., 1794, that the failure of Fitz-Simons to be selected was a "stinging blow for the aristocracy". The records of Congress show that he was among the very first, if not the first, to advocate the fundamental principles of a protective tariff system to help American industries. When Washington was inaugurated the first president, Fitz-Simons was one of the four laymen, Charles and Daniel Carroll of Maryland, and Dominic Lynch of New York being the others, to sign the address of congratulation presented to him by the Catholics of the country. He was among the founders of Georgetown College, and was considered during his long life one of the most enlightened merchants in the United States. On all questions connected with commerce and finance his advice was always sought and regarded with respect in the operations that laid the foundation of the commercial prosperity of the new republic.
THOMAS F. MEEHAN