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Thomas Earle (April 21, 1796 – July 14, 1849) was an American journalist, lawyer, and politician. The son of Pliny Earle, he was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, the descendant of Ralph Earle, one of the original petitioners of King Charles I to found the state of Rhode Island. His son was Philadelphia lawyer George H. Earle, Sr.. His grandson, born after his death, was noted "financial diplomat" George H. Earle, Jr.. His great-grandson was George Howard Earle III, governor of Pennsylvania.
He was educated at Leicester academy. In 1817 he moved to Philadelphia, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits for a few years, but subsequently studied law and practiced his profession. He became distinguished also as a journalist, editing in succession the "Columbian Observer," "Standard," "Pennsylvanian," and "Mechanics' Free Press and Reform Advocate." In 1837 he took an active part in calling the Constitutional convention of Pennsylvania, of which he was a prominent member, and it is supposed that he made the original draft of the new constitution. He lost his popularity with the Democratic Party by advocating the extension of the right of suffrage to African Americans.
In 1837-1838 Earle was a delegate to the convention to revise Pennsylvania's constitution. There he was one of the strongest defenders of the black voting rights, along with Thaddeus Stevens. His defense of black voting rights was, however, unsuccessful. The new constitution included the word "white", formally disenfranchising blacks for the first time.
He died in 1849, aged 53.
Read Thomas Earle as a Reformer (1948) by Edwin B. Bronner.
- See "George H. Earle, Sr."
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