Joseph Galloway was born near West River, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and moved with his father to Pennsylvania in 1749, where he received a liberal schooling. He studied law, was admitted to the bar and began practice in Philadelphia. Galloway was a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly from 1756 to 1774 and served as Speaker of the House from 1766 to 1774.
Galloway was a member of the Continental Congress in 1774, where he proposed a compromise plan for Union with Great Britain which would provide the colonies with their own parliament subject to the Crown. He signed the nonimportation agreement, but was opposed to independence of the Thirteen colonies and remained loyal to the King. John Ferling (1977) argues that Galloway’s conduct was motivated partly by opportunism, and partly by genuine philosophical principles. A resident of cosmopolitan Philadelphia and an associate of Benjamin Franklin, Galloway was throughout his career a British-American nationalist, believing that the British Empire offered a citizen greater liberties than any nation on earth. Galloway urged reform of the imperial administration and was critical of the trade laws, the Stamp Act of 1765, and the Townshend Acts enacted in 1767; and as early as 1765 he had a conciliatory plan to end the disputes between London and the colonies. He basically believed that the British had the right to tax and govern the colonies, they should keep peace, and the British helps the colonies to survive and flourish. (although he did also believe the colonies’ words should be heard) He proposed a written constituted and joint legislature for the whole British Empire. When rejected, he declined election to the continental congress.
In December of 1776, Galloway joined the British General Howe and accompanied him on his capture of Philadelphia. During the British occupation, he was appointed Superintendent of Police, and headed the civil government. He had a reputation as a highly efficient administrator, but one who repeatedly interfered in military affairs. He aggressively organized the Loyalists in the city, but was dismayed when the British army decided to abandon the city. When the British army withdrew, he went with them, and, in 1778, he fled to England,and became the spokesman of American Loyalists there.He was influential in convincing the British that a vast reservoir of Loyalist support could be tapped by aggressive leadership, thus setting up the British invasion of the South.After the war he moved to England and he spent his remaining years in religious studies and writing in England.
He died in Watford, Hertfordshire, England on August 29, 1803.
Galloway Township, New Jersey, may have been named for him, although there is another possible source of the name.