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DeWitt Clinton was born in Little Britain, New York. He entered public life as secretary to his uncle, Governor George Clinton. An antifederalist, he was elected in 1797 to the New York State Assembly and the following year to the State Senate. In 1802 he was appointed to the U.S. Senate. He resigned a year later to become mayor of New York City, in which post he served for most of the next twelve years. While still mayor, he also served as a state senator from 1806 to 1811, and as lieutenant governor from 1811 to 1813. Unhappy with the policies of President James Madison, Clinton ran against him in 1812 as an independent, but was decisively defeated. He was not re-nominated for lieutenant governor and subsequently lost the mayoralty of New York as well. He then devoted himself to promoting the idea of a canal, which would connect the Hudson River with the Great Lakes. Elected governor in 1817, he used that office and his post as canal commissioner to gain support for this project. The Erie Canal was completed in 1825 and Clinton could claim most of the credit. He was also the foremost spokesman for public education in New York.
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