Joseph Reed, 1741–85, American Revolutionary political leader and army officer, b. Trenton, N.J. He studied law, was admitted (1763) to the bar, and then went to London to study at the Middle Temple. After returning (1765) to practice law in Trenton, he took an active part in pre-Revolutionary affairs. After settling (1770) in Philadelphia Reed became a member of the committee of correspondence (1774) and president of the Pennsylvania provincial congress (1775). In the war he served as military secretary to George Washington and as adjutant general and took part in a number of battles. He served in the Continental Congress (1777–78). As president (1778–81) of the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania he abolished slavery in Pennsylvania and caused (1778) Benedict Arnold to be prosecuted on charges of corrupt practices. He was a trustee and founder of the Univ. of the State of Pennsylvania (later the Univ. of Pennsylvania).
See biography by J. F. Roche (1957, repr. 1968).