Sidney George Fisher

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Sidney George Fisher
BornMarch 2, 1809
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
DiedJuly 25, 1871
Richfield Springs, New York, US
Resting placeThe Woodlands (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
EducationGermantown Academy, Dickinson College
Occupationlawyer, farmer, author, diarist, essayist, poet
Known forHis diary covering the years 1834–1871
Political partyWhig
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Ingersoll Fisher (1815–1872)
ChildrenSydney George Fisher (1856–1927)

Sidney George Fisher (March 2, 1809 – July 25, 1871) was a Philadelphia gentleman, lawyer, farmer, plantation owner, political essayist and occasional poet.


Early life and education[edit]

Sidney George Fisher was the eldest of three sons born to James Logan Fisher and Ann Eliza George. His father died when he was five and his mother when he was 12, leaving Sidney and his brothers a considerable inheritance. The three boys—Sidney, James, and Charles—went to live with their aunt Sarah Logan at the family's ancestral home, Wakefield, in Germantown. He was educated at Germantown Academy and Dickinson College.


Educated to be a lawyer, he practiced law only when it pleased him. Though he begrudged the practice of law, he had friends and relatives in the legal profession, whom he aided infrequently when his assistance was requested.

Fisher wrote several books and delivered numerous talks. Of most interest was his highly sought after diary, full of keen, witty and unabashed observations—and often criticisms—of individuals from society, national politics, and his own day-to-day activities. He was largely disconnected from the world of work, save for the exceptions when he reluctantly agreed to practice law. He did not need to make money (though he never felt his income sufficient), so his views of land speculation and the war against the Second Bank of the United States, the panics, and the commercial activities of those around him are particularly thought-provoking.

Fisher inherited a plantation, Mount Harmon,[1] on the Sassafras River in Cecil County, Maryland, from his maternal grandfather and namesake, Sidney George. He leased the land to farmers who lived there with their families and paid him rent. Although he was a gentleman farmer, Fisher advised his fellow farmers to diversify beyond grain by seeking out produce that would fill huge demand. During his ownership of Mount Harmon, Fisher wrote about the plantation in his diaries. The originals now reside with the Philadelphia Historical Society. They were published as Mount Harmon Diaries of Sidney George Fisher 1837-1850, edited by W. Emerson Wilson.

Marriage and children[edit]

Fisher married Elizabeth Ingersoll, granddaughter of Jared Ingersoll, on May 28, 1851. The couple had one son, historian Sydney George Fisher (1856–1927).

Death and afterward[edit]

Fisher suffered from an illness (probably rheumatism) that only the sulfur waters at Richfield Springs, New York seemed to alleviate. He died on July 25, 1871. After his death, his wife and son moved to Germantown, where she died in May 1872.

Philosophical and/or political views[edit]

As a rabid anti-Democrat, Fisher was a de facto Whig. He lent his support to candidates who opposed the Jacksonian Democrats in national elections and remained an ardent anti-Democrat his entire life.

Fisher was a slavery apologist. He agreed with abolitionists that slavery was evil, but argued that it was necessary and served as a form of welfare for a race that would otherwise be a burden on the federal government and the civic institutions of society.

Published works[edit]

  • Kanzas and the Constitution (Damrell & Moore, 1856) (under the pseudonym—Cecil)
  • Winter Studies in the Country (Parry and M'Millan, 1856)
  • Rustic Rhymes (Parry & McMillan, 1859)
  • The Law of the Territories (C. Sherman & Son, 1859)
  • The Laws of Race, as Connected with Slavery (W. P. Hazard, 1860)
  • The Trial of the Constitution (J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1862; reprints in 1969, 1972, 2003)
  • A National Currency (J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1864)


  • Nicholas B. Wainwright, ed., A Philadelphia Perspective: The Diary of Sidney George Fisher Covering the Years, 1834-1871 (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1967)
  • W. Emerson Wilson, ed., Mount Harmon Diaries of Sidney George Fisher 1837-1850 (Wilmington: The Historical Society of Delaware, 1976)
  • Jonathan W. White, ed., A Philadelphia Perspective: The Civil War Diary of Sidney George Fisher (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007)


  • The Annual Address delivered before the Belles-lettres and Union Philosophical Societies of Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa. July 18, 1838 (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Printed by George M. Philips, 1838)
  • Address delivered before the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture: at their annual exhibition held at the Rising Sun village, October 17, 1850 (Germantown, Pennsylvania: Printed at the office of the Telegraph, 1850) [this address is reprinted in Proceedings of the annual exhibition of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture: held at the Rising Sun Village, October 16–17, 1850 (Germantown, Pennsylvania: Printed at the Office of the Telegraph / Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, 1850)]
  • A Report on the Cultivation of Native Grapes for Fruit and for Wine: Read to the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, April 2, 1856 (Philadelphia: Inquirer Printing Office, 1856)
  • Address Delivered Before the Chester County Agricultural Society, at Their Annual Exhibition Held at West-Chester, September 26, 1857 (Philadelphia: Merrihew & Thompson, printers, 1857)
  • Address Delivered Before the Montgomery County Agricultural Society at Their Annual Exhibition Held at Springtown, October 7, 1859, By Sidney George Fisher, of Philadelphia. Published By Order of the Society (Philadelphia: James B. Chandler, Printer, 1859)
  • An Address delivered before the Agricultural Society of New Castle County, Delaware, at their annual exhibition held at the Society's farm near Wilmington, October 17, 1860 (Philadelphia: C. Sherman & Son, printers, 1860)


  • "A Philadelphia Perspective: The Diary of Sidney George Fisher, 1834-1871," in Nicholas Biddle Wainwright, ed., Sidney George Fisher, Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1967.
  • "A Philadelphia Perspective: The Civil War Diary of Sidney George Fisher," in Jonathan W. White, ed., Sidney George Fisher, New York: Fordham University Press, 2007.
  • Nathaniel Burt, The Perennial Philadelphians, The Anatomy of an American Aristocracy, Boston: Little Brown, 1963.
  • The William Logan Fisher Papers, 1749-1861, Philadelphia: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

External links[edit]