Thomas Burke (ca. 1747 – 1783)

BURKE, Thomas, a Delegate from North Carolina; born in Galway, Ireland, about 1747; studied medicine; immigrated to America in 1764, settled in Accomac County, Va., and practiced; studied law; was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Norfolk, Va.; moved to Hillsboro, N.C., in 1771; delegate to the State convention at New Bern and Hillsboro in 1775 and at Halifax in 1776; member of the State house of commons in 1777; Member of the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1781, when he became the third Governor of North Carolina under its State constitution; kidnaped by the Tories September 13, 1781, and carried to Charleston, S.C., where he was held as a hostage; succeeded in escaping; resumed his duties as Governor February 1, 1782, and served until April 22, 1782; died at “Tyaquin,” near Hillsboro, Orange County, N.C., December 2, 1783; interment in Mars Hill Churchyard, near Hillsboro, N.C.

Source:  Biographical Directory of the United States Congress;  Bibliography.Watterson, John S. Thomas Burke, Restless Revolutionary. Washington, D. C.: University Press of America, 1980; copied from

Image:  See


Historian David Morgan prepared an excellent article that is summarized on this Web site as “Harnett’s Contribution as Founding Father of U. S.” 1  In the article, he refers to the talented Thomas Burke and a difference that the two had while they served in the Continental Congress.  Morgan, referring to Harnett and Burke, states:

As a North Carolina delegate to the Continental Congress for nearly three years he [Harnett] exerted a salutary influence on his fellow delegates from North Carolina and did signal service for both his state and the thirteen American states.  Lacking the oratorical talent and flamboyance of Thomas Burke, his outspoken and extremely provincial colleague in the North Carolina delegation, Harnett remained in the background.  But he had good judgment, something that Burke sometimes failed to display.  Although Burke successfully insisted upon the inclusion of Article II — the state sovereignty provision — in the Articles of Confederation, he was slow in becoming completely reconciled to the idea of any union — even the weak confederation — which bound an individual state in any respect.  Thus, when the crucial question of a union for the American states was decided, Harnett made a significant contribution to the American cause by offsetting Burke’s opposition to the confederation with a firm stand for union.  Harnett’s meritorious service in Congress provided a fitting climax to a long and distinguished public career.  (Morgan)

1.  Morgan, David T. “Cornelius Harnett: Revolutionary Leader and Delegate to the Continental Congress.” The North Carolina Historical Review LXIX.3 (1972): 229-241. Print.  (hereafter Morgan).  For digital version, select: Morgan-NCHR-July72

  1. 1 []

Comments are closed.