See W. H. Smith, ed., The St. Clair Papers (2 vol., 1882, repr. 1971); biography by F. E. Wilson (1944).
Arthur St. Clair (March 23, 1736 August 31, 1818) was the ninth President of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, the highest-ranking officer in the US Army (1791–1792), and the only territorial governor of the Northwest Territory.
In 1757, St. Clair purchased a commission in the British Army, Royal American Regiment, and came to America with Admiral Edward Boscawen's fleet for the French and Indian War. He served under General Jeffrey Amherst at the capture of Louisburg, Nova Scotia on July 26 1758.
On April 16 1762, he resigned his commission, and, in 1764, he settled in Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania, where he purchased land and erected mills. He was the largest landowner in Western Pennsylvania.
In 1770, St. Clair became a justice of the court, of quarter sessions and of common pleas, a member of the proprietary council, a justice, recorder, and clerk of the orphans' court, and prothonotary of Bedford and Westmoreland counties.
In 1774, the colony of Virginia took claim of the area around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and some residents of Western Pennsylvania took up arms to eject them. St. Clair issued an order for the arrest of the officer leading the Virginia troops. Lord Dunmore's War eventually settled the boundary dispute.
In April 1777, St. Clair was sent to defend Fort Ticonderoga. His small garrison could not resist British Gen. John Burgoyne's larger force in the Saratoga Campaign. St. Clair was forced to retreat at the Battle of Ticonderoga on July 5 1777. He withdrew his forces and played no further part in the campaign. In 1778 he was court-martialed for the loss of Ticonderoga. The court exonerated him and he returned to duty, although he was no longer given any battlefield commands. He still saw action, however, as an aide-de-camp to General Washington, who retained a high opinion of him. St. Clair was at Yorktown when Lord Cornwallis surrendered his army.
As Governor, he formulated Maxwell's Code (named after its printer, William Maxwell), the first written laws of the territory. He also sought to end Native American claims to Ohio land and clear the way for white settlement. In 1789, he succeeded in getting certain Indians to sign the Treaty of Fort Harmar, but many native leaders had not been invited to participate in the negotiations, or had refused to do so. Rather than settling the Indian's claims, the treaty provoked them to further resistance in what is sometimes known as the "Northwest Indian War" (or "Little Turtle's War"). Mutual hostilities led to a campaign by General Josiah Harmar, whose 1,500 militiamen were defeated by the Indians in October 1790.
In 1791, St. Clair succeeded Harmar as the senior general of the United States Army. He personally led a punitive expedition comprising of two Regular Army regiments and some militia. This force advanced to the location of Indian settlements on the Wabash River, but on November 4 they were routed in battle by a tribal confederation led by Miami Chief Little Turtle and Shawnee chief Blue Jacket. More than 600 soldiers and scores of women and children were killed in the battle, called St. Clair's Defeat, the "Columbia Massacre," or the "Battle of the Wabash." It was the greatest defeat of the American army by Native Americans in history with some 623 American soldiers killed in action as opposed to about 50 enemy dead. After this debacle, he resigned from the army at the request of President Washington, but continued to serve as Governor of the Northwest Territory.
A Federalist, St. Clair hoped to see two states made of the Ohio Territory in order to increase Federalist power in Congress. However, he was resented by Ohio Democratic-Republicans for what were perceived as his partisanship, high-handededness and arrogance in office. In 1802, his opposition to plans for Ohio statehood led President Thomas Jefferson to remove him from office as territorial governor. He thus played no part in the organizing of the state of Ohio in 1803. The first Ohio Constitution provided for a weak governor and a strong legislature, in part due to a reaction to St. Clair's method of governance.
Places named in honor of Arthur St. Clair include: