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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,121


This is the grave of Jacob Broom.

Born in 1752 in Wilmington, Delaware, Broom grew up in an upwardly mobile family, as his father was a successful blacksmith and farmer. Broom himself would go into business and have a lot of shipping interests. The American Revolution happened and Broom didn’t have that much to do with it. His only involvement was preparing maps for George Washington before the Battle of Brandywine. Otherwise, he supported the Patriot cause but stuck to his business interests. Then he became assistant burgess of Wilmington, a pretty minor political role. And that’s basically where Broom’s interests stayed. He did that job as well as head burgess a number of times over the decades. He was also Justice of the Peace for New Castle County.

In 1784, Broom was elected to the state legislature. He served a few terms. In the middle of his legislative career was the Constitutional Convention. So, despite being a complete unknown on the national scene and not even that big of a deal in Delaware, he was chosen as one of that state’s representatives in Philadelphia. He was a big supporter of the document. But he seems to have known he was among people greater than he (I’m just glad to be here!). So he stayed in the background. This was no James Madison or Robert Morris. He was just a guy. But you know what, you have to have those people. Backbenchers are important when they don’t cause trouble! The Republican Party today has totally forgotten this and allow the craziest of their backbenchers to set the entire agenda. Anyway, that’s Broom.

The Constitutional Convention happened, Broom came back and said how much he supported it, and Delaware became the first state. Until the election of Joe Biden, this is literally the most exciting thing in Delaware history. Broom was about as exciting as Delaware.

Broom spent the rest of his life on his investments and business interests and local public service. He became postmaster of Wilmington in 1790. He chaired the Board of Directors at the Delaware Bank. He ran a cotton mill that he eventually sold to the DuPont family and which became the original base of what became one of the nation’s most long-lasting and evil capitalist family empires. He worked on internal improvement issues, that necessary if not that exciting issue of the Early Republic. Basically, he was just a guy.

Broom himself then is not necessarily that important. But I think it’s worth noting here how you had to have people like this in order to make the new nation work. Not everyone needed to be Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Jefferson. In fact, it’s good that they weren’t. You needed strong local leadership who were respected in their community. You needed men who didn’t necessarily want to be seen as equal to Voltaire or Rousseau, with all the intellectual pretension that caused. The entire term Founding Fathers, and damn Warren Harding for inventing it, really warps our discussion of this period because it drives our focus on to about 10, admittedly very important, individuals. At least as important were the people such as Broom, if not individually, then collectively. If you look at the list of people who signed the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, you will see a lot of names who you do not know.

Broom died on a business trip in Philadelphia in 1810. He was 57 years old.

Jacob Broom is buried at Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is possible that this is not exact spot; the marker was erected in 1987 as part of the 200th anniversary of the Constitutional Convention. But the records do show that Broom is buried here.

If you would like this series to visit other delegates to the Constitutional Convention, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Daniel Carroll is in Forest Glen, Maryland and George Wythe is in Richmond, Virginia. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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