CLINTON, DE WrrT (ante), 1769-1828; b. N. Y., was the son of James Clinton and Mary De Witt, and grandson of Charles the immigrant from Ireland. His paternal ances • tors, although long resident in Ireland, were of 'English origin, and his mother was of Dutch-French biotic'. Ile was educated at Columbia college, graduating with high honors. Choosing the law for his vocation, he studied under Samuel Jones, afterwards chief justice of the United States superior court. Admitted to the bar in 1788, C. entered immediately into political life, becoming an ardent supporter of his uncle, George Clinton, who was governor of the state (from 1777 to 1795 and from 1801 to 1804), and the leader of the republican party. Young C. took an active interest in the adoption of the federal constitution, and reported for the press the proceedings of the convention held for that purpose; about the same time and afterwards acting as his uncle's private secretary. His first office was secretary of the board of regents of the university; and the next, secretary of the board of commissioners of state fortifications. He opposed the adminis tration of John Adams, and also that of John Jay, governor of the state; but while oppos ing Adams's hostility to France, lie raised and commanded an artillery company to resist the French in case war should come. In 1797, he was elected to the state assem bly as a representative of New York city, where he made his residence, and the next year was chosen state senator for four years. By virtue of his senatorial office, C. became a member of the council of appointment, a body consisting of one senator from each district to whom the governor made nominations for state and local offices. Up to this time the governor had exercised the exclusive right to make nominations; but C. vigorously attacked the system, and succeeded in procuring an amendment to the con stitution giving the members of the council of appointment equal rights of nomination with the governor. During this period C. found time to devote himself to scientific and social questions, studying natural history, and other sciences. The protection and improvement of the public health, and the enactment of laws in favor of agriculture, manufactures, and the arts, and especially the use of steam in navigation, engaged his restless mind. Ile labored also for the abolition of slavery, and of its kindred Unbar ism, imprisonment for debt. In 1799, when but 33 years of age, he was appointed a senator of the United States, where he greatly increased his popularity, particularly by his wise and moderate counsel in a high excitement then existing against Spain in con sequence of alleged violation of treaty stipulations affecting the Mississippi and its trade. Before his term in the senate expired, C. resigned to accept the office of mayor of New York, an appointment made by his uncle, the governor, and the council of appointment. He held the mayor's office four years; was removed; again appointed in 1809; again removed in 1810; finally appointed in 1811, again holding four years, through the period of the war with England. He was also a member of the state senate front 1805 to 1811; lieutenant-governor for the next two years, and for part of this time again a member of the council of appointment. In 1804, his uncle, the governor, was elected vice-president of the United States, and soon afterwards, by reason of age, retired from political life, leaving the partisan scepter of the Clintons in the hands of De Witt., who speedily became the leader of the republican party in New York, and their candidate for president, near the close of Madison's first term. Madison, backed by his war record,
was easily nominated by the republican congressional caucus; but the New York sec tion of the party insisted on running Clinton. The result was a disastrous defeat for the latter, he having but 89 electoral votes to 123 for Madison. This severe blow led C. to a temporary cessation of political work, and he turned his attention to less exciting subjects. His partisan opponents considered his political life at au end; but they were wrong. He tools a leading part in establishing the free-school system of New York city, and in the establishment and promotion of various institutions of science; in the improvement and modification of criminal laws; in the extension of agriculture and manufactures; in the relief of the poor, the improvement of morals, and the advance ment of all worthy objects. For many years no important movement was made in these and kindred matters with which he was not identified, and oftener than otherwise as the master spirit. All these, however, were little in comparison with the great object on which his fame securely rests—the Erie canal. He was an early and energetic advo cate of internal improvements. especially such as could connect the great lakes by navi gable channels with the tide-water of Hudson river, and no man so eloquently or so prophetically set forth the great advantages that such works would bring to New York city. How these prophecies have been fulfilled the position of that city as the commercial center of the two Americas will attest. It would require many pages to record with what zeal, tireless energy, patience, and hope, he labored for this great object. "Clin ton's folly" was the by-word of scoffers through dark years of discouragement, but he never despaired, never yielded an inch, until, a dozen years after his great political defeat, a line of cannon stationed at intervals along the much ridiculed "ditch," and starting their firing at Buffalo. awakened the people of the "Empire State" to the fact that the waters of lake Erie were pouring through the canal, bearing on their waves the message that the great lakes were on that day wedded to the ocean. In the mean time he was never entirely out of the political field. In 1816, the governor (Daniel D. Tomp kins) was chosen vice-president, and resigned the governorship. C. was brought for ward for the place, bearing not only the odium of advocating the "big ditch" and of the crushing defeat as a presidential candidate four years before, but the additional ignominy of having been but one year before removed from the office of mayor of New York by a council of appointment controlled by his own party. To run for governor seemed madness, yet the innate power and greatness of the man gave him an easy vic tory, and he was elected by a heavy majority. He was re-elected in 1820, in 1824. and in 1826. In 1822, he was out of the field, and his enemies once more celebrated his political funeral, adding, in the course of their two years' rule, the indignity of remov ing hint from the office of commissioner of the canal then under way. This outrage was more than the people could bear, and C. was at once brought forward for governor, running against Samuel Young. The disgraced canal commissioner was elected by 17,000 majority. He died suddenly in his chair while engaged in official duty at Albany. Among his published works are Discourse before the Kew YorkHistorical Society; Memoir on the Antiquities of Western New Vork• Letters on the History and Internal Resources of New York; Speeches to the Legislature; and many historical and scientific addresses.