James Sharples, Miers Fisher (pastel on paper). Courtesy of the Friends Historical Library.
James Sharples, Sarah Redwood Fisher (pastel on paper). Courtesy of the Friends Historical Library.
Miers Fisher, b. June 21, 1748; d. Mar. 12, 1819; m. Feb. 17, 1774, Sarah Redwood, b. Dec. 18, 1755; d. Aug. 14, 1847; daughter of William Redwood and Hannah Holmes, his wife.
Miers Fisher read Horace and the Greek Testament at School at ten years of age. Before beginning the study of law he was with Gilpin & Fisher, who were the only flour factors on the eastern shore of Maryland, until 1766. The business was principally under his direction. In 1764 and '65 all the wheat from the counties south of Philadelphia came thither to market "fly-eaten," as it was then called. Experiments were made by him and directions for the destruction of the fly published and distributed in the neighborhood of the Chester River, Md., which proved very effective. He read law in the office of Benjamin Chew, Esq., then Attorney-General of the Province of Pennsylvania, and was admitted to the Philadelphia bar at the June term, 1769. At the February term, 1769, he had been admitted to the courts of New Castle, Kent, and Sussex counties, Delaware. Duponceau speaks of him as "a profound lawyer and a man of solid sense and much acquired knowledge." He also possessed an unusually inquiring mind. In 1777 he was one of the exiles to Virginia. He was a member of the Assembly in 1791-1792. He was first counsellor of a society for promoting the abolition of slavery, established in Philadelphia in 1793, in the service of which he spent many years. In 1795 he purchased his country-seat, "Ury," on the Pine Road near the village of Fox Chase, which was his permanent home for many years. He then retired from the active pursuit of his profession, though he complied with all the existing rules, appeared annually at the courts, and paid the requisite fees, that he might still remain a member of the Philadelphia bar. He took great interest in the cultivation and improvement of his property, and, with his wife, extended true, old-fashioned hospitality to a large circle of friends, including many well-known people of the time. In 1815 he moved back to the city for the winters, which he spent at No. 108 Mulberry Street (now Arch), between Fifth and Sixth, until his death there.
"As a student Mr. Fisher was very assiduous, and becoming much attracted to the legal profession, for which he was well qualified by a liberal classical education and an extraordinary retentive memory, he rose to distinguished eminence at the bar, being esteemed one of its most able and learned members. Mr. Fisher was a member of the City Council from 1789 to 1791. In the latter year he became a member of the House of Representatives of this State, and was also for many years [1792 to 1800] a director of the Bank of North America and of the Insurance Company of Pennsylvania.
"He took a deep interest in everything related to the jurisprudence of his native State, and several of the important laws connected with the well-ordering of the affairs of the city at the early period from 1789 to 1791, while Mr. Fisher was a member of the Common Council, originated with him, among which was that of numbering the houses, arranging all the odd and even numbers on opposite sides of the street for the more easy access to them; also, the ordinance requiring all sleighs to be furnished with bells on the harness, to prevent accident.
"In the fall of 1791, as a member of the House of Representatives of the State, he took a very active part, previously, however, he was prominently influential in procuring the passage of an Act for the gradual abolition of slavery, passed on the 1st March, 1780, and subsequently of an act for the better preventing of crime, abolishing the punishment of death in certain cases, passed the 22nd April, 1794.
"The journal of the House of Representatives for the year 1791-1792 shows the following acts reported by him as chairman of the several committees to whom they were referred, or read by him in his place on his individual responsibility, all of which became laws of this State:
"Dec. 27, 1791. Miers Fisher read in his place a bill to prevent the sale of lottery tickets. Approved Jan. 17, 1792.
"Feb. 18, 1792. Miers Fisher, chairman of the committee, reported a bill to make a Turnpike-Road to Lancaster. Approved April 9, 1792.
"Feb. 22, 1792. Miers Fisher, appointed to report a bill to build a house in the city of Philadelphia, to be offered as a residence for President Washington. Bill reported and approved in March.
"Mar. 1. Miers Fisher, chairman, reported a bill to unite the Philadelphia and Loganian Libraries. Approved in April.
"Mar. 13. Miers Fisher, chairman of committee, reported a bill to give to the Pennsylvania Hospital £15,000,--£5000 each year, for three years. Approved April.
"Mar. 16. Miers Fisher, read in his place a bill, entitled An Act for the Promotion of Agriculture and Manufactures. Approved in May.
"Mar. 20. Miers Fisher, chairman of committee, reported a bill to promote useful knowledge and for the education of youth. Approved in April.
"Mar. 26. Miers Fisher read in his place a bill to make promissory notes negotiable, placing them on the same fotting as bills of exchange.
"April 1. Miers Fisher read inhis place a bill to prevent stock-jobbing, making certain contracts illegal. Approved in April.
"Mr. Fisher revised all the forms of conveyancing, and published an entire new set, deprived of a vast amount of the Tautology of the English precedents, rendering the conveyance of real estate a much more simple process."
Anna Wharton Smith, The Genealogy of the Fisher Family, 1682-1869 (1869). All quotations from "Redwood Fisher" in Henry Simpson, The Lives of Eminent Philadelphians, now deceased (1859).