REED, JOSEPH (1741-1785), American politician, was born in Trenton, New Jersey, on the 27th of August 1741. He graduated at Princeton in 1757, studied law under Richard Stockton and, in 1763-65, at the Middle Temple, London, and practised in Trenton from 1765 until his removal to Philadelphia in 1770. He was president of the second Provincial Congress of Pennsylvania in 1775, was aide-de-camp and military secretary to General Washington in 1775-76, and was adjutant-general with the rank of colonel in 1776-77. He resigned his commission in the autumn of 1777, and in 1 777-78 was a delegate to the Continental Congress. From December 1778 to October 1781 he was president of the state Executive Council. During his administration the proprietary rights of the Penn family were abrogated (1779), and provision was made for the gradual abolition of slavery (1780). During this time Reed led the attack on Benedict Arnold (q.v.) for the latter's administration of Philadelphia. Reed was elected to Congress in 1784, but died in Philadelphia on the 5th of March 1785.
The Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed (2 vols., Philadelphia, 1874), by his grandson, William B. Reed, is based upon the family papers. It pictures Reed as an heroic patriot and statesman; George Bancroft, on the other hand, in the ninth volume (p. 229) of his History (1866) and in Joseph Reed: an Historical Essay (1867), pictures him as a trimmer of the most pronounced type. Bancroft's principal charge against Reed was based on a passage in Count Donop's diary referring to a Col. Reed protected by the British in 1776. In 1876, however, Mr W. S. Stryker discovered that the reference in the diary was really to Col. Charles Read (1715- c. 1780). Bancroft withdrew this definite charge in the 1876 edition of his History, in which, however, his tone towards Joseph Reed was unchanged.
Joseph Reed's son, JOSEPH REED (1772-1846), published the Laws of Pennsylvania (5 vols., 1822-24), continuing the work of .Charles Smith, published in 1810-12, which began with the laws of 1700. His grandson, WILLIAM BRADFORD REED (1806-1876), graduated at the university of Pennsylvania in 1822, was a representative in the Pennsylvania legislature in 1834-35, attorney-general of the state in 1838, and a state senator in 1841. He was professor of American history in the university of Pennsylvania in 1850-56, United States minister to China in 1857-58, and in 1858 negotiated a treaty with China, proclaimed in 1860. Besides the biography of his grandfather mentioned above, he published one of Joseph Reed's wife, Life of Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed (1853).
W. B. Reed's brother, HENRY [HOPE] REED (1808-1854), graduated at the university of Pennsylvania in 1825, practised law in Philadelphia, and was assistant-professor of moral philosophy in the university of Pennsylvania in 1831-34 and professor of English literature and rhetoric there in J835-54- He assisted Wordsworth in the preparation of an American edition of his poems in 1837, edited in America Christopher Wordsworth's Memoirs of William Wordsworth (1851) and published Lectures on English Literature from Chaucer to Tennyson (1855).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)