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Document admitting Francis Nichols as member of the Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland signed by Thomas McKean and Mathew Carey

Identifier: MSS 0098-F0181

Content Description

This folder includes one original certificate of membership from the Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland (Philadelphia, Pa.) certifying the membership of Francis Nichols, Esq. into the society. The document, which is dated November 1, 1796, is signed by Thomas McKean (president) and Mathew Carey (secretary).

The top three-quarters of the large document (approximately 48 x 36 cm.) contains a print of an engraving by H.H. Houston from an original design by Irish-American artist John James Barralet. The names of both Barralet and Houston are printed below the engraving, which shows four women in Greek attire looking on as a boat of immigrants rows to shore from a ship sailing an Irish harp flag. This central image appears below a bald eagle holding an American stars and stripes crest in its beak, surrounded by a waving banner reading, "E Pluribus Unum." Other notable symbols in the engraving are a spinning wheel, harp, cornucopia, American flag, a sheaf of wheat, and a caduceus (winged staff entwined with serpents).

The text of the certificate, which is printed beneath the engraving, reads as follows: "These are to Certify that Francis Nichols, Esqr. has been admitted a Member of the Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland established in the City of Philadelphia, and incorporated agreeable to Law; and he having paid the sums required by the Rules and Regulations of the Said Society is entitled to Membership during Life. Witness the Hand of the President, the first Day of November 1796." Beneath the text appears the signature of the president, Tho. McKean, attested to by the secretary, Mathew Carey.


  • Creation: 1796 November 1


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Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland

The Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland was founded on March 3, 1790, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

At its founding, the Society counted twelve members, including the Society's first secretary, Irish-born publisher Mathew Carey. In 1898, the Hibernian Society changed its name to the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland. Well over two centuries since the founding of the Hibernian Society, the Friendly Sons boasts more than 1200 male members dedicated to promoting Irish culture and education and providing aid, "in the form of scholarships and benevolence as well as through events and activities."

Campbell, John H. History of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and of the Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland: March 17, 1771-March 17, 1892. Philadelphia: Hibernian Society, 1892. Ms 1152, Society of the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick Papers, 1771-1982. Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. (accessed December 1, 2009).Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. "A History of Concern since 1771." Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. (accessed December 1, 2009).

Mathew Carey

Irish-born publisher and economist Mathew Carey was born on January 28, 1760, in Dublin.

Carey, who began to pursue the printing and bookselling trade at the age of 15, was twice exiled from his native Ireland for his political writings. Carey first caught the attention of the British government after publishing a pamphlet entitled "The Urgent Necessity of an Immediate Repeal of the whole Penal Code against the Roman Catholics, Candidly Considered…," in 1779. Fearing prosecution, Carey fled to Paris, where he was introduced to Benjamin Franklin by a Catholic priest. In France, Carey first worked at the small printing office run by Franklin, and then with the publisher Didot. While working for Franklin, Carey also was introduced to the Marquis de Lafayette.

Carey returned to Dublin about twelve months after his initial exile to Paris. Back in Ireland, he first edited the newspaper the Freeman's Journal, and then established his own newspaper, the Volunteer's Journal. By 1784 Carey had again attracted the ire of the British government by publishing several pieces critical of Parliament and the Lord Lieutenant in his Volunteer's Journal. After spending about a month in Newgate jail, Dublin, Carey decided to leave Ireland permanently, and, on September 7, 1784, he sailed for Philadelphia, where he hoped news of his trouble with the Irish government would win him friends.

In Philadelphia, Carey was reintroduced by chance to the Marquis de Lafayette, who gave him $400 to start a publishing enterprise in Philadelphia. Some of Carey's publications in America included, The Pennsylvania Herald, the Columbian Magazine, and the American Museum. Though none of these ventures were financially profitable, they cemented Carey's place and political connections in the new American nation. Beginning in 1819, much of Carey's work was focused on the political economy of the new American nation, and the need for protecting American industry from foreign competition.

Carey married Bridget Flahaven, with whom he had nine children, six of whom survived into adulthood. In addition to being a founding member and the first secretary of the Hibernian Society, Carey was also a founding member of the American Sunday-School Society.

After retiring from publishing in 1825, Mathew Carey died in Philadelphia on September 16, 1839, at the age of 79.

Thomas McKean

Lawyer, politician, and signer of the Declaration of Independence Thomas McKean was born on March 19, 1734, in New London, Chester County, Pennsylvania, to Irish-born parents William and Laetitia Finney McKean.

Throughout his long and productive career, McKean occupied a variety of legal and political offices in both Pennsylvania and Delaware. After studying law in the office of his relative David Finney in New Castle, Delaware, McKean was appointed Clerk to the Prothonotary and, later, Deputy Prothonotary of the Court of Common Pleas of New Castle County. After a series of other legal and political positions, he was named a member of the Stamp-Act Congress of 1765 for Delaware.

In 1774 McKean was selected to represent Delaware in the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He continued to serve in the subsequent Continental Congresses throughout the Revolution, absenting himself for only one year (1777), at which time he was serving as Speaker of the Delaware Legislature, Acting President of the state of Delaware, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (a seat which he would occupy without interruption for 22 years). While serving with the Continental Congress, McKean was particularly valuable as a member of the secret committee charged with obtaining arms and ammunition from abroad for the war effort. McKean was an ardent supporter of the Declaration of Independence, and, along with Caesar Rodney and George Read, was one of the three signers of that document from the state of Delaware.

After the close of the final Continental Congress in 1781, McKean became a delegate to, and briefly (July 10–November 1, 1781), president of the Confederation Congresses of 1781 to 1783 (the main governing body under the Articles of Confederation). McKean became Governor of the state of Pennsylvania in 1799. After completing his final of three terms as Governor in 1808, McKean retired from public service.

Though he represented Delaware in numerous political bodies throughout the 1780s and 1790s and authored the state's 1776 constitution, McKean lived much of his life after 1774 in Philadelphia. While serving as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, McKean was elected the first president of the Hibernian Society in 1790. He married twice, first to Mary Borden of Bordentown, New Jersey, with whom he had four daughters and two sons, and then to Sarah Armitage of New Castle, Delaware, with whom he had five additional children. Thomas McKean died at the age of 83 on June 24, 1817, and was buried in Philadelphia.

Francis Nichols

Revolutionary war soldier and Hibernian Society member Francis Nichols was born at Crien Hill, Parish of Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Ireland, in 1737.

Nichols immigrated to Philadelphia in 1769 and served as Second Lieutenant in Colonel William Thompson's Rifle Battalion during the Revolutionary War. He was captured by the British in 1776 during the attack on Trois Rivières. After being exchanged and returned to his battalion on October 10, 1776, Nichols was twice promoted. He concluded the war at the rank of Major of the 9th Regiment Pennsylvania Line.

Following the war Nichols became a merchant and was an active member of Philadelphia society. In addition to his membership in the Hibernian Society, Nichols also was a member of the First City Troop and the Pennsylvania Society of the Cincinnati.

Francis Nichols died on February 13, 1812, in Pottstown, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.


1 item (1 page) ; 48 x 36 cm

Language of Materials



This folder includes one original certificate of membership from the Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland (Philadelphia, Pa.) certifying the membership of Francis Nichols, Esq. into the society. The document, which is dated November 1, 1796, is signed by Thomas McKean (president) and Mathew Carey (secretary).

Related Materials

This item forms part of MSS 0098 Delaware Miscellaneous Literary and Historical Manuscripts.

Shelving Summary

Box 7, F0181: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0098 manuscript boxes

Processing Information

Processed and encoded by Lora J. Davis, November 2009. Further encoded by George Apodaca, March 2015.

Finding aid for Document admitting Francis Nichols as member of the Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland signed by Thomas McKean and Mathew Carey
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2015 February 10
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