Henry Wynkoop: Princeton, Class of 1760.
Henry Wynkoop:
Princeton, Class of 1760.


Henry Wynkoop

Henry Wynkoop, farmer, jurist, public official, was the only son of Ann Kuypers and Nicholas Wynkoop, a prosperous farmer in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He was born on his father's estate, "Vredens Hoff" near Newtown on March 2, 1737. The 153-acre farm and its elegant stone mansion were inherited by Henry when Nicholas died in 1759.
    Although he had been prepared at home to attend the College, Wynkoop did not graduate with his class, possibly because of his father's death. He returned to Pennsylvania to tend the farm but quickly became involved in local politics. In 1760 he was elected to the colony's provincial assembly. Soon after his reelection in 1761 he married Susannah Wanshaer of Essex County, New Jersey. Between 1762 and 1764 Wynkoop served on local grand juries and on the assembly's committee of accounts. In 1764 he was named a justice of the peace for Bucks County. For the next six years he served alternately in that position and as an associate judge of the county court.

Henry Wynkoop, Class of 1760
Henry Wynkoop, Class of 1760.


    In July 1774 Wynkoop was one of the members of the Bucks County Committee of Safety named by the group to attend the first provincial conference in Philadelphia, which recommended an association to boycott British goods. In December Wynkoop was elected to the county Committee of Observation that enforced the association called for by the first Continental Congress. He was the treasurer and as such collected money for the relief of Boston. In 1775, Wynkoop was again a delegate from Bucks County to the provincial conference. When the Committee of Observation, of which he was clerk as well as treasurer in 1775, endorsed a plan for the organization of local militias in May of that year, Wynkoop enlisted as a private in one of the companies. Although he was addressed later as "Major," he neither held a commission nor actually served in the militia at any rank. He continued, instead, to hold various posts of responsibility in civilian revolutionary groups.
    After delivering more than 75 to John Adams for Boston in August 1775, Wynkoop was asked by the Bucks County government to raise money for the manufacture of arms for the militia. As a member of the Committee of Observation he reported in September 1775 that the number of Associators was only slightly higher than the number of non-Associators and expressed his frustration that more people were not joining the boycott. He was especially perplexed about the local Quakers, who refused to take either side. By mid-1776 he was a delegate to another provincial conference and was also in charge of collecting arms to be sent to Philadelphia. This final conference granted the franchise to free, adult, male Associators and called for a provincial convention to draft a constitution. Although too busy to be a member of the convention, Wynkoop was a judge to decide the election of delegates from Bucks County. After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Wynkoop represented his county on the state Committee of Safety at a salary of eight shillings per day. In September 1776 as a justice of the peace for the entire state, he presided at the opening of the reorganized Bucks County courts.
    By that time, Wynkoop was so prominent a rebel that British forces, advancing through New Jersey, were eager to arrest him. Although he managed to evade capture, his wife was drowned when she fled the house at night and fell into an open well. After the battle of Trenton in December 1776, General Washington personally asked Wynkoop to provide shelter for two British prisoners and an American officer who had been wounded. The American was James Monroe, who stayed with Wynkoop for nine weeks and was later said to have fallen in love with Christina, the eldest of Wynkoop's seven children.

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    In 1777 Wynkoop married Maria Cummings and continued to serve on state and local courts. At the end of 1778 he was appointed by the state assembly as a commissioner to settle the accounts of county lieutenants and he also served temporarily on a committee created by the Continental Congress to study available food supplies for the army. In March 1779 he was elected to fill a vacancy in the Continental Congress itself. He attended congressional sessions religiously and retained his judicial post in Bucks County, although he was forced to resign as county treasurer. In Congress he was a member of the treasury board. By 1780, as political factions began to congeal into parties, Wynkoop was clearly siding with the more conservative group in Congress. Arthur Lee saw Wynkoop's reelection in November 1780 as proof that "Toryism" had triumphed in Pennsylvania. Lee had good reason to resent Wynkoop's presence, for, although the Pennsylvanian was not entrenched in any political camp, he was a supporter of Silas Deane, and hence an opponent of Lee. One of Wynkoop's close associates in Congress was Alexander Hamilton.
    Wynkoop was reelected in 1781 and 1782. Never a particularly active member he took a forward position on very few issues, such as when he supported a plan to back a French attack of Bermuda. He seems to have been preoccupied with state business and was especially distressed at the low value of Pennsylvania's credit in 1780. After completing his third term in the Continental Congress he took a seat on the state's supreme tribunal, the high court of appeals and errors, to which he had been named by President Joseph Reed (A. B. 1757) in 1781. At the same time he served as the presiding judge of the Bucks County courts. After his second wife died in 1781 Wynkoop married for a third time. His bride in 1782 was Sarah Newkirk of Pittsgrove, New Jersey. She bore him one child.
    In 1787, Wynkoop was an ardent supporter of the constitution. He was a member of Pennsylvania's ratifying convention in November of that year. On March 1, 1789, an avowed Federalist, he was elected to the first United States Congress. Before taking his seat he resigned his judgeships and his position as an elder of the Presbyterian church in Northampton and Southampton.
    Three questions dominated the Congress at its original meeting. The first concerned the titles by which national officers were to be addressed. Unlike many other Federalists, Wynkoop dismissed titles as "European feathers." A colleague from Pennsylvania, Frederick Muhlenberg, took to calling Wynkoop "His Highness of the Lower House"-a jocular reference to Wynkoop's fervency on the issue as well as his six-foot, four-inch frame. Muhlenberg once said that if all future presi-


dents were sure to be as tall as Washington or Wynkoop he would not object to calling the Chief Executive "Your Highness." But he thought it would be foolish when applied to shorter men. Ultimately, the Congress rejected all titles.
    The second question of major importance was the permanent location of the national capital. Like almost every other member of Congress, Wynkoop hoped that the seat of government would be in his own state. But there were divisions among Pennsylvanians on the matter. At this first congressional session in New York, Wynkoop shared a room with his state's anti-Federalist Senator, William Maclay, who supported a new city on the Susquehanna, which later became Harrisburg, as the capital. Wynkoop preferred a site further east. The difference became an emotional chasm between the roommates. By September 1789 Maclay decided that Wynkoop was among the most "useless" members of Congress. He resented Wynkoop's readiness to vote in line with the Federalist members from Philadelphia and decided that Wynkoop had no mind of his own. "Well it is for him," Maclay growled to his journal, "that he is not a woman and handsome, every fellow would debauch him."
    The question of locating the capital was soon complicated by a third issue, that of federal assumption of state debts. Most Pennsylvanians who supported assumption owned state securities and they had vested interests in the matter. Wynkoop was the exception. He supported assumption but held no bonds. Gradually, assumption became more important than building the capital in Pennsylvania, and Wynkoop agreed to a southern demand for a capital on the Potomac in exchange for southern votes for assumption. Maclay, who opposed assumption, muttered that it was as fruitful to discuss the topic with Wynkoop as with a "mute camel, or . . . a dead horse." Maclay notwithstanding, the "Compromise of 1790" passed with Wynkoop's support.
    In 1791 the Federalists in Pennsylvania failed to organize themselves. As a result, Wynkoop and his old ally Muhlenberg contested the same seat in the House; Wynkoop lost that race and another one in 1792. After the first defeat he was appointed by the governor of Pennsylvania to be an associate judge of Bucks County. And as a farmer he assisted his friend Hamilton in trying to estimate the total value of cultivated land in the United States in 1791.
    In 1813 Wynkoop's third wife died and in the same year the county court was transferred to Doylestown. The old judge retired to spend his last years concentrating on his orchards and cider press. He died on March 26, 1816, and was buried in Richboro. His estate, which in 1779 had totaled more than 600 acres and a gristmill and had since

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been increased, went to his only surviving son. His slaves, of whom there were nine in 1790, were set free when he died but chose to remain with the family.

Sources: Bucks County Historical Society, Papers, 3 (1909), 158-59, 197-217; J. M. Beatty, Jr., ed., "The Letters of Judge Henry Wynkoop," PMHB, 38 (1914), 39-64, 183-205; PMHB, 54 (1930), 157: PMHB, 11 (1887), 273-74; provincial assembly: Pa. Arch. (8 ser.), vi, 5366; activities in 1774-75: Pa. Arch. (2 ser.), 1, 551; PMHB, 15 (1891), 257-65, 275-79: state Committee of Safety: Force, Am. Arch. (5 ser.), 11, 9; Monroe's recuperation: S. C. Brown, ed., Autobiography of James Monroe (1959), 26; congressional supply study: LMCC, 111, 490n; resignation as county treasurer: PMHB, 3 (1879), 439; Continental Congress: LMCC, iv, lxii, 395, vi, 1; Silas Deane controversy and Arthur Lee: H. J. Henderson, "Congressional Factionalism and the Attempt to Recall Benjamin Franklin," WMQ, 27 (1970), 253-54; LMCC, v, 439n; WMQ, 24 (1967), 33n; plan to attack Bermuda: LMCC, vi, 422-24; concern about state credit: Pa. Arch. (1 ser.), viii, 557; high court of appeals and errors: B. A. Konkle, George Bryan and the Constitution of Pennsylvania (1922), 254; Pennsylvania Convention of 1787: J. B. McMaster and F. D. Stone, eds., Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution (1888), 299; H. M. Tinkcom, Republicans and Federalists in Pennsylvania (1950), 24; election to Congress: Tinkcom, above; Jefferson Papers, xiv, 395, 473; question of titles: E. S. Maclay, ed., Journal of William Maclay (1890), 33; Compromise of 1790: WMQ, 28 (1971), 637-38; Maclay, above, 168, 174, 190, 228, 245-56; Jefferson Papers, xvii, 169; Tinkcom, above, 28; defeats for Congress: Tinkcom, above, 47, 65-66; Hamilton's land survey in 1791: Hamilton Papers, ix, 35-37, 123-27; slaves: U.S. Census of 1790, Pennsylvania, 47.

Mss: Bucks County Historical Society



McLachlan, James, Princetonians, 1748-1768: A Biographical Dictionary, Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1976, pp. 334-338.


    I'd like to thank Drennan Lindsay, (Quasnemah@aol.com), of Bellevue, Washington, for sending me a copy of this article, way back in 1999.

    Unfortunately it fell through the cracks while I concentrated on Richard Wynkoop's Genealogies, and I only just rediscovered it while going through my files for more material to publish here.

    Drennan, I used to be so organized, but lately everything's been thrown into a cocked hat! My filing system looks more like the inside of a cement mixer nowadays. It's a wonder I can find anything. At any rate, I wanted to offer my apologies and my deepest thanks. I really do appreciate all of your help and patience. It's meant a lot to me.

    All my best,


Created February 23, 2002; Revised September 6, 2002
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