The history of William Clayton, supposed 2nd (acting) governor of Pennsylvania

+4 votes

We are having a discussion about William Clayton's ancestry here and that thread is getting sidetracked talking about William Clayton's government service.

I would like to open this thread to discuss William Clayton's personal history and his role in the government of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, etc.

thanks and I welcome your comments/thoughts

WikiTree profile: William Clayton
in Genealogy Help by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)

"William Clayton was selected by William Markham, Proprietor of the Colony of West Jersey" -> William Markham wasn't the proprietor of West Jersey. I have some issues with these non-scholarly "Quaker" histories. Penn is such a notable person we really should try to cross-check this stuff with some more scholarly sources. William Penn has dozens of books written about him and Clayton doesn't appear in any of the histories of William Penn's life I've checked.  Also Markham never seems to rate much of a mention in Penn's life either.

commented 3 hours ago by Kirk Hess G2G6 Mach 4 
edited 2 hours ago by Kirk Hess

I did indeed find a "scholarly" source that names Clayton chairman or president of the council and in the same article it says that William Markham was a relative of Penn and that he was deputy governor & also president or chairman of the council.

"The chairmanship or presidency of the Council during this period was held principally by Thomas Lloyd, except when the Proprietor himself or his deputy governors, Markham, Fletcher, Blackwell, or Hamilton, were in office. Thomas Holme presided briefly in 1685, and two men of the Lower Counties, William Clayton in 1683 and William Clarke in 1687. The latter men, of course, were not First Purchasers" p. 159

Note the Lower Counties were Delaware and all these histories indicate he lived in Chester (now Delaware) county in a community right on the modern border. Like I said in the other G2G, he's trivial so any errors are ignored (and alas, no citation for this paragraph). 

Here's the one time he was presiding when Holmes and Lloyd were absent: Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania v.1 p. 71

"Like I said in the other G2G, he's trivial..."

Hasty Generalization fallacy.

Some might consider that statement as rude; it certainly doesn't strengthen your argument (fallacies rarely do).

Regarding your mention of inaccuracies: thanks for bringing them up.  I too have noticed a lot of inaccuracies surrounding this person and the reason that I have made these posts is to learn more about this historic figure, to correct the errors that I find, and to add more (sourced) information to the record.  I welcome a good debate about the facts and sources.

You had mentioned Markham & that he wasn't mentioned in most biographies of Penn.  I have since researched him a bit and I have learned that he was Penn's first cousin, the first Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania and he was actually sent ahead of Penn to the new colony as an agent for Penn and to act as Governor until Penn arrived.  He seems to have had an active role in the early Penn/Delaware government: in the Penn council minutes from 1683 to 1690 he appears on almost every following a during a cursory name search [Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania].  That he isn't listed in many Penn biographies may suggest an area of new research or that the previous biographers were focused on particular subjects or agendas.

As for William Clayton, in reading two papers on him, I cannot find any mention of him as acting governor.  Indeed, a good Wikipedia scrub is in order (and a few other websites as well).  I do see that Clayton was acting chairman (president) of the council in 1683 for some time [Pomfret, p. 156].  Clayton appears prominently in the council minutes in 1683 and 1684.  So far, I can confirm that he was a Chester judge, a judge in Philadelphia, a member of the council, and president of the council for a short time in 1683.

"Here's the one time he was presiding when Holmes and Lloyd were absent: Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania v.1 p. 71"

Thanks for that - I've been trying to determine what is the best descriptor for this profile without being too much or too little.  It would seem fair to claim that he was a Council Member but claiming chairmanship or presidency of the council would be a stretch.  I believe I will modify the profile(s) to read - in the intro bio section that he was a judge and a council member.  Later, in the == Occupation == section, I will mention that he served for a day as a substitute president of the council when the president was away.

On "trivial" - some people are notable in history. Most people are not. Everyone wants to be related to a princess and I know when you prove it wrong they get upset - I am sorry I have shown this particular person wasn't a governor.  I don't say this enough - in Colonial America, craftsmen like blacksmiths, carpenters, wheelwrights, glassmakers are all super-duper important people because often they are the only ones in a community and they make stuff everyone desperately needs. They were a lot more important than the politicians in most cases but we don't consider these jobs to be very important today.

"Trivial" -> trivia -> aka a Jeopardy question: A council member who presides over a council meeting when the actual President was absent becomes a governor because Penn granted the President of the Council some of the powers of deputy governor in a memo, and the presiding person is acting president which means he's acting governor, aka Governor of Pennsylvania.  

I am trying to look into Markham too - he not only wasn't a Quaker, but he was probably their chief antagonist so he doesn't get a treatment in these Quaker genealogies/histories.

"Everyone wants to be related to a princess and I know when you prove it wrong they get upset"

This is a generalization (see again: Hasty Generalization Fallacy).  You have brought a bias you have for folks who do this to this (and the other) thread.  No one is claiming anything here except for the truth.  If you were to make a statement that William Clayton wasn't x or y and you got resistance, then you might have some room to make such statements.  So far, we've welcomed your historical corrections and applied them to the record.  Don't see any princess hunting here ;-)

Quite to the contrary, I opened to the other thread with the express purpose of breaking a supposed family link that purportedly goes back to Charlemagne.  In fact, I already broke that connection and someone reconnected it (hence the post - I don't want to have to re-address fixing the profile every 3 months).  The whole point of the thread is to point out that there are problems with the wikitree (internet) history, to seek assistance and collaboration, and to fix them.  I don't understand how labeling someone's ancestor with your subjective opinion about their historical relevance serves to help them in finding the truth.

As for "trivial," it is a subjective characterization.  You could argue that many historical figures are trivial based on any number of criteria.  It is a subjective opinion and isn't really related to this or the other thread.

Take a step back and ask yourself, if you were to seek assistance on picking apart a questionable history about your ancestor's parentage.  Of the following, which would feel like a collaborative effort and make you want to work with the other person?

* "The claims made in the profile of Person-X appear to be exaggerated.  He wasn't a governor nor president of the council.  He did however, serve on the council and stepped in as chairman for one meeting when the regular president was not present."


* "Your illiterate ancestor is trivial.  He didn't even rate a mention in Penn's autobiography.  You must think you're descended from a princess."

LOL - perhaps a bit exaggerated but I hope you get my point.

Either way, thanks for your assistance with the record on this profile, it is getting straightened bit by bit each day.

I think it's more about the Wikipedia-clobberers.  Too many people are using Wikipedia to beef up their own (alleged) ancestry.
When I finish polishing my own tree I intend to sign up over there and to make a few edits.

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190 views asked Aug 23, 2022 in Genealogy Help by T Stanton G2G6 Pilot (386k points)

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