A Christian Statesman.
Francis Rawn Shunk was born at the Trappe, Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, on August 7th, 1788. He became a teacher at the young age of fifteen, and in 1812 received an appointment as Clerk in the Surveyor General’s office, serving under General Andrew Porter. In 1814, he marched, as a private soldier, to the defence of Baltimore. This would have been not long after the burning of Washington, D.C. in what is commonly called the War of 1812, a war alternately called the second war of independence, and a war which did not end until 1815.
In September of 1816, Francis was admitted to the practice of law. He filled the position of Assistant, and then Principal Clerk of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for several years. He next became Secretary to the Board of Canal Commissioners, and in 1839, Pennsylvania’s Governor Porter appointed him Secretary of the Commonwealth. In 1842, Shunk removed to Pittsburgh, to engage in the practice of law, and presumably to prepare for his next career advancement. Then in 1844, he was elected Governor of Pennsylvania, winning reelection in 1847.
Governor Shunk was an honest public servant, and he filled the various offices to which he was called with marked ability and fidelity. On July 9th, 1848, as Executive of the State, he issued the following proclamation:
“To the People of Pennsylvania:
“It having pleased Divine Providence to deprive me of the strength necessary to the further discharge of the duties of your Chief Magistrate, and to lay me on a bed of sickness, from which I am admonished by my physicians and my own increasing debility, I may, in all human probability, never rise, I have resolved, upon mature reflection, under a conviction of duty, on this day to restore to you the trust with which your suffrages have clothed me, in order that you may avail yourselves of the provision of the Constitution to choose a successor at the next general election. I, therefore, hereby resign the office of Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and direct this my resignation to be filed in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
“In taking leave of you, under circumstances so solemn, accept my gratitude for the confidence you have reposed in me. My prayer is that peace, virtue, intelligence, and religion may pervade all your borders; that the free institutions you have inherited from your ancestors may remain unimpaired till the latest posterity; that the same kind Providence which has already so signally blessed you may conduct you to a still higher state of individual and social happiness, and when the world shall close upon you, as I feel it is soon about to close upon me, that you may enjoy the consolations of the Christian’s faith, and be gathered, without a wanderer lost, into the fold of the Great Shepherd above.”
Governor Shunk died on the 30th of July, 1848, and at the time of his decease was a member of the Presbyterian Church at Harrisburg, then under the care of his particular friend, the Rev. W. R. DeWitt, D.D.
Words to Live By:
Christians can, and should, seek and hold elected office at all levels of governement, local, state and national. But if that is God’s calling on your life, do all in your power to conduct yourself honorably and intelligently. Do your work as unto the Lord. Only then will you rise above being a mere politician and merit the honor of being called a statesman. May God give us honest, virtuous leaders.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:1-6, KJV)