Jacob Broom

Jacob Broom was a local politician whose interests remained focused throughout his career on the government of his city and state. Thrust onto the national stage, he realized the opportunities presented to the small states by a strong central government and supported the Constitution. Surrounded by wealthy planters, lawyers, and merchants at the Constitutional Convention, he quietly voiced the concerns of the downhome politician.

CAREER BEFORE THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. Broom was the son of a blacksmith turned prosperous farmer. After receiving his primary education at Wilmington's Old Academy, he became in turn a farmer, surveyor, and finally, a prosperous local businessman. Even as a young man Broom attracted considerable attention in Wilmington's thriving business community, a prominence that propelled him into a political career. He held a variety of local offices, including borough assesor, president of the city's "street regulators;" a group responsible for the care of the street, water, and sewage systems, and justice of the peace for New Castle County. He became assistant burgess (vice-mayor) of Wilmington in 1776, winning reelection to this post six times over the next few decades. He also served as chief burgess of the city four times. Although the strong pacifist influence of his Quaker friends and relatives kept him from fighting in the Revolution, Broom was nevertheless a Patriot who contributed to the cause of independence. For example, he put his abilities as a surveyor at the disposal of the Continental Army, preparing detailed maps of the region for General Washington shortly before the battle of Brandywine. Broom's political horizons expanded after the Revolution when his community sent him as their representative to the state legislature (1784-86 and 1788), which in turn chose him to represent the state at the Annapolis Convention. Like many other delegates, Broom was unable to attend the sessions of the short meeting, but he likely sympathized with the convention's call for political reforms.

CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. Despite his lack of involvement in national politics prior to the Constitutional Convention, Broom was a dedicated supporter of strong central government. When George Washington visited Wilmington in 1783, Broom urged him to "contribute your advice and influence to promote that harmony and union of our infant governments which are so essential to the permanent establishment of our freedom, happiness and prosperity."

Broom carried these opinions with him to Philadelphia, where he consistently voted for measures that would assure a powerful government responsive to the needs of the states. He favored a nine-year term for members of the Senate, where the states would be equally represented. He wanted the state legislatures to pay their representatives in Congress, which, in turn, would have the power to veto state laws. He also sought to vest state legislatures with the power to select presidential electors, and he wanted the President to hold office for life. Broom faithfully attended the sessions of the Convention in Philadelphia and spoke out several times on issues that he considered crucial, but he left most of the speechmaking to more influential and experienced delegates. Georgia delegate William Pierce described him as "a plain good Man, with some abilities, but nothing to render him conspicuous, silent in public, but chearful and conversible in private."

CAREER AFTER THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. Broom's exposure to the national political scene proved short-lived. His primary interest remained in local government, and after the Convention he returned to familar political surroundings. In addition to continuing his service in Wilmington's government, he became the city's first postmaster (1790-92). His long-standing affiliation with the Old Academy led him to become involved in its reorganization into the College of Wilmington, and to serve on the college's first Board of Trustees. Broom was also deeply involved in his community's religious affairs as a lay leader of the Old Swedes Church.

BIRTH: 1752 (exact date unknown), in Wilmington, Delaware
DEATH: 1810 (exact date unknown), in Philadelphia
INTERMENT: Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


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