Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/De Witt Clinton

From volume VI of the work.
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CLINTON, De Witt (1769-1828), an American statesman, born at Little Britain, in the State of New York, was the son of a gentleman of English extraction who served as brigadier-general in the war of independence, and of a lady belonging to the famous Dutch family of De Witts. He was educated at Colombia College; and in 1788 he was admitted to the bar. He at once joined the republican party, among the leaders of which was his uncle, George Clinton, governor of New York, whose secretary he became. At the same time he held the office of secretary to the board of regents of the university, and to the commissioners of fortifications. In 1797 he was elected member of the Assembly, in 1798 member of the Senate of the State of New York, and in 1801 member of the Senate of the United States. For twelve years, with two short breaks, which amounted only to three years, he occupied the position of mayor of New York. He was also again member of the Senate of New York from 1803 to 1811, and lieutenant-governor of the State from 1811 to 1813. In 1812 he became a candidate for the presidency; but he was defeated by Madison, and lost even his lieutenant-governorship. Throughout his whole career Clinton had been distinguished by his intelligent support of all schemes of improvement, and he now devoted himself to carrying out the proposal for the construction of canals from Lakes Erie and Champlain to the River Hudson. The Federal Government refused to undertake the work; but some time after, in 1815, the year in which he finally lost the mayoralty, he presented a memorial on the subject to the Legislature of New York, and the Legislature appointed a commission, of which he was made a member, to make surveys and draw up estimates. Having thus recovered his popularity, in 1816 Clinton was once more chosen governor of the State; in 1819 he was re-elected, and again in 1824 and 1826. In 1825 the Erie Canal was completed; and he afterwards saw the work which owed so much to him carried on by the construction of important branch canals.

De Witt Clinton published a Memoir on the Antiquities of Western New York (1818), Letters on the Natural History and Internal Resources of New York (1822), and Speeches to the Legislature (1823). His life was written by Kosack (1829) and Renwick (1840); and in 1849 appeared Campbell's Life and Writings of De Witt Clinton.