In keeping with the overall theme here at Balladeer’s Blog here is part two of my look at ALL the signers of the Declaration of Independence, not just the big names. Even when dealing with the big names I try to throw in lesser- known bits of information rather than go down the same old roads with them.
At any rate here’s hoping you have a happy independence day and that this makes some nice holiday reading material for all of you out there!
NEW YORK –
1. William Floyd – Prior to being sent to the 2nd Continental Congress in 1776 Floyd was a Militia General who, earlier in the year, had led New York troops in successfully driving off British forces in the Battle of Gardiner’s Bay on Long Island. ###
2. Francis Lewis – During the war his home was destroyed by the British who also dragged off his wife Elizabeth and imprisoned her. George Washington managed her release by having the wives of two wealthy Philadelphia Tories arrested, then exchanging them for Mrs Lewis. ###
3. Philip Livingston – The British occupied the wealthy Livingston’s many homes, burning some and using others as hospitals and barracks. He died of heart failure while attending the Continental Congress in May, 1778. ###
4. Lewis Morris – His plush estate, Morrisania Manor, was burned and looted by the British army and today is the neighborhood called “Morrisania”, a South Bronx ghetto.
NORTH CAROLINA –
1. Joseph Hewes – Broke with his Quaker faith when the Quakers disapproved of his political agitation against the British. Hewes also pulled strings to get his friend John Paul Jones his first independent naval command. ###
2. William Hooper – Accomplished the seemingly impossible by actually impressing John Adams, who praised him in letters to his wife Abigail. He also lost both his homes when the British invaded North Carolina and while fleeing to avoid capture contracted malaria, which would plague him until his death in 1790. ###
3. John Penn – Was the most Pro-Independence member of the North Carolina delegation. He later was challenged to a duel by Henry Laurens of South Carolina (the reason has not come down to us) but both men made up over a shared breakfast (don’t go there) the morning of the duel and mutually agreed to call it off.
1. George Clymer – His home was ransacked by the British who destroyed all his furniture and stole all his booze. After the war Clymer’s business acumen saved the University of Pennsylvania from bankruptcy. ###
2. Benjamin Franklin – Just about everything is known about him so I’ll throw in two forgotten episodes – in 1774 he ignited a scandal when he intentionally leaked anti-rebel letters written by the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, an adventure that cost Franklin his position as Postmaster General. Also, he was part of the delegation sent to Canada to try to talk them into joining America in breaking away from England. ###
3. Robert Morris – A once-wealthy man who blew a large portion of his fortune keeping the rebel cause afloat. He later wound up in debtor’s prison, and George Washington showed him some moral support by dining with him there. ###
4. John Morton – On April 15th, 1777 he became the first Declaration signer to die and one of his deathbed pronouncements was to friends who disagreed with his vote for independence, ” Tell them they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it to have been the most glorious service I ever rendered to my country.” ###
5. George Ross – His nephew John was married to Betsy Ross, the famous seamstress of many of the first American flags. ###
6. Benjamin Rush – This M.D. served as Surgeon General of the armies in 1777, became “the father of American psychiatry” and established the first free medical clinic in America, the Philadelphia Dispensary. ###
7. James Smith – While he was serving in the Continental Congress his successful business collapsed due to negligence by his partners. ###
8. George Taylor – His ironworks made grapeshot, cannons and cannonballs for the American war effort, but he was very poorly paid for them after the war. ###
9. James Wilson – Went on to sign the U.S. Constitution as well and while serving as a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court spent time in debtor’s prison over failed land investments.
RHODE ISLAND –
1. William Ellery – During their three-year occupation of Newport the British looted and burned Ellery’s home. He, not Stephen Hopkins, stood by to watch each man sign the Declaration. ###
2. Stephen “Old Grape and Guts” Hopkins – His brother Esek was the very first Admiral of the American navy. When signing, Hopkins supposedly said “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”
SOUTH CAROLINA –
1. Thomas Heyward, Jr – Heyward went on to serve as a Militia Captain in 1779, was wounded in action at Port Royal Island and was taken prisoner in May 1780 when the British attacked Charleston. He was freed in 1781 as part of a prisoner swap. ###
2. Thomas Lynch, Jr – Replaced his late father at the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration in his stead. ###
3. Arthur Middleton – He was also captured at Charleston while serving in the militia and was imprisoned at Fort Saint Marks. Like Heyward he was freed in the same prisoner exchange. ###
4. Edward Rutledge – Later served as an artillery captain and was captured at Charleston, then later released, like fellow prisoners Middleton and Heyward. After the war he helped ensure that Loyalists in South Carolina would be forgiven and not have their property confiscated.
1. Carter Braxton – His cargoes were seized by the British during the war ruining his business, his homes were destroyed by the Brits as well and the money he loaned the United States government was never paid back. ###
2. Benjamin Harrison – Supposedly forced John Hancock to accept election as President of the Continental Congress when Hancock was reluctant. He is also the ancestor of U.S. Presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison. ###
3. Thomas Jefferson – Never freed his slaves no matter how many times you hear that he did. ###
4. Francis Lightfoot Lee – Member of the famous Lee family who went on to be a big supporter of the Constitution against the family’s position. ###
5. Richard Henry Lee – Introduced Virginia’s Resolution on Independence on June 7th, 1776. He was the brother of General “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, the Revolutionary War cavalry hero buried at West Point. Light-Horse Harry Lee was the father (not grandfather) of Robert E Lee. ###
6. Thomas Nelson – Was part of the neglected Yorktown Tea Party of 1774, a similar tea dumping held in sympathy with the Boston event from the previous year. He also served in the Virginia Militia during the siege of Yorktown. ###
7. George Wythe – The law professor of future presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, future Chief Justice John Marshall and of future Speaker of the House Henry Clay. In 1806 Wythe was poisoned by a nephew hungry to inherit Wythe’s money.
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