Thomas Willing

Last updated

Anne McCall
(m. 1763;died 1781)
Thomas Willing
Thomas Willing by John Wollaston (1706-1805).jpg
President of First Bank of the United States
In office
October 25, 1791 November 10, 1807
Children13, including Ann and Mary
Relatives Charles Willing (father)
James Willing (brother)
Mary Willing Byrd (sister)
Elizabeth Willing Powel (sister)
Edward Shippen (great-grandfather)
Education Inner Temple

Thomas Willing (December 19, 1731 – January 19, 1821) was an American merchant, politician and slave trader who served as mayor of Philadelphia and was a delegate from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress. He also served as the first president of the Bank of North America and the First Bank of the United States. [1] During his tenure there he became the richest man in America. [2]


Early life

Thomas Willing was born in Philadelphia, the son of Charles Willing (1710–1754), who twice served as mayor of Philadelphia, and Anne Shippen (1710-1791), granddaughter of Edward Shippen, who was the second mayor of Philadelphia. His brother, James Willing, was a Philadelphia merchant who later served as a representative of the Continental Congress and led a 1778 military expedition to raid holdings of British loyalists in Natchez, Mississippi. [3]

Thomas completed preparatory studies in Bath, England, then studied law in London at the Inner Temple. [4]


In 1749, after studying in England, he returned to Philadelphia, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits in partnership with Robert Morris. [5] [6] They established the firm Willing, Morris and Company in 1757, which exported flour, lumber and tobacco to Europe while importing sugar, rum, molasses, and slaves from the West Indies and Africa. [7] Their partnership continued until 1793. [5] Willing himself owned slaves, three in 1779, but none in 1782.

He was elected to the revived American Philosophical Society in 1768. [8]

Political career

A member of the common council in 1755, he became an alderman in 1759, associate justice of the city court on October 2, 1759, and then justice of the court of common pleas February 28, 1761. Willing then became Mayor of Philadelphia in 1763. In 1767, the Pennsylvania Assembly, with Governor Thomas Penn's assent, had authorized a Supreme Court justice (always a lawyer) to sit with local justices of the peace (judges of county courts, but laymen) in a system of Nisi Prius courts. Governor Penn appointed two new Supreme Court justices, John Lawrence and Thomas Willing. Willing served until 1767, the last under the colonial government. [9] :52 [5]

A member of the Committee of Correspondence in 1774 and of the Committee of Safety in 1775, he served in the Continental Congress. In 1775 and 1776 he voted against the Declaration of Independence, [10] but later subscribed £5,000 to supply the revolutionary cause. [5]


From 1781 to 1791, Willing served as president of the Bank of North America, preceding John Nixon. In 1791, President George Washington appointed Willing along with two others as commissioners of the newly created First Bank of the United States. He was elected president of the bank later that year, and during his tenure, he became the richest man in America. [11] In August 1807, Willing suffered a slight stroke, and within a few months, he resigned his position with the bank for health reasons. [9] [12]

Personal life

Anne McCall Willing and William Shippen Willing, by Charles Willson Peale Mrs. Thomas Willing (Ann McCall) and Her Son William Shippen Willing.jpg
Anne McCall Willing and William Shippen Willing, by Charles Willson Peale
Portrait of Willing, by Charles Willson Peale Charles Willson Peale - Portrait of Thomas Willing.jpg
Portrait of Willing, by Charles Willson Peale

In 1763, Willing married Anne McCall (1745–1781), daughter of Samuel McCall (1721–1762) and Anne Searle (1724–1757). Together, they had thirteen children, including: [5]

Willing died in 1821 in Philadelphia, where he is interred in Christ Church Burial Ground. [14]


Willing was the great-uncle of John Brown Francis (1791–1864), who was a governor and United States Senator from Rhode Island. [15] [16]

Willing was also the grandfather of Ann Louisa Bingham (b. 1782), [17] who married Alexander Baring, 1st Baron Ashburton (1774–1848), in 1798, and Maria Matilda Bingham (1783–1849), who was briefly married to Jacques Alexandre, Comte de Tilly, a French aristocrat and later married her sister's brother-in-law, Henry Baring (1777–1848), until their divorce in 1824. Maria later married the Marquis de Blaisel in 1826.[ citation needed ] Their brother, and Willing's grandson, William Bingham (1800–1852) married Marie-Charlotte Chartier de Lotbiniere (1805–1866), the second of the three daughters and heiresses of Michel-Eustache-Gaspard-Alain Chartier de Lotbinière by his second wife Mary, daughter of Captain John Munro, in 1822. [5]

See also

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  1. "WILLING, Thomas, (1731–1821)". Biographical Information of the United States Congress. US Congress. June 11, 2009. Retrieved June 11, 2009.
  2. Burke, James (2007). American Connections: The Founding Fathers. Networked . New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. pp.  157–58. ISBN   978-0-7432-8226-0. richest man america 1800.
  3. The American Monthly Magazine. National Society. 1902. pp. 109–.
  4. "Thomas Willing (1731–1821), University of Pennsylvania University Archives". University of Pennsylvania . Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Balch, Thomas Willing (January 1, 1922). Thomas Willing of Philadelphia (1731–1821). The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  6. Wright, Robert E. "Thomas Wllling (1731–1821): Philadelphia Financier and Forgotten Founding Father". Biographical Directory of Early Pennsylvania Legislatures Project. Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  7. "Thomas Willing". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved March 19, 2020.
  8. Bell, Whitfield J., and Charles Greifenstein, Jr. Patriot-Improvers: Biographical Sketches of Members of the American Philosophical Society. 3 vols. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1997, I: 32, 33, 199, III: 27, 117–23, 118, 179.
  9. 1 2 Konkle, Burton Alva (1937). Thomas Willing and the First American Financial System. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  10. "Thomas Willing |". Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  11. Burke, James (2007). American Connections: The Founding Fathers. Networked . New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. pp.  157–58. ISBN   978-0-7432-8226-0. richest man america 1800.
  12. Wright, R. E. (1996). "Thomas Willing (1731–1821): Philadelphia Financier and Forgotten Founding Father". Pennsylvania History. 63 (4): 525–560. JSTOR   27773931.
  13. ALBERTS, ROBERT C (1969). The Golden Voyage . Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp.  435.
  14. Society, Sons of the Revolution Pennsylvania (1898). Decennial Register of the Pennsylvania Society of Sons of the Revolution: 1888–1898. F. B. Lippincott. p.  44 . Retrieved February 11, 2017. Thomas Willing (1731–1821).
  15. "FRANCIS, John Brown – Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress . Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  16. "Guide to the Francis Family Papers 1783–1901 (bulk 1783–1838)" (PDF). Rhode Island Historical Society. 2009. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  17. "Lady Ashburton". Maine Memory Network.


Further reading

Preceded by Mayor of Philadelphia
Succeeded by
Thomas Lawrence (II)