Know Your Signers: Part 4 – Benjamin Rush to George Ross

founding+fathers+3

As I now approach the midpoint of this series, you might’ve noticed how many of these signers tend to hold more than one political office at the same time. All I have to say is that this practice wasn’t uncommon at the time for many reasons. For one, politics in the 1700s was more a civic duty for the landed upper and middle classes which didn’t consist of a high number. Not to mention, we should understand that suffrage and electoral eligibility was restricted to mostly white male property owners in the colonies who were over 21. In some cases, the eligibility guidelines went even further such as religious tests disqualifying Catholics, Jews, and Quakers and even property owners can be ineligible if they didn’t make the colony’s property requirements. And we’ll meet at least one Declaration of Independence signer who was unable to participate in colonial politics prior to the Revolution simply due to provincial voting restrictions. Still, such small franchises would leave relatively few eligible voters to participate in elections so it’s not unusual that you might have guys holding more than one political office since most of them would’ve been fairly well off. Not to mention, many highborn colonists considered political office as more of a civic duty than a career. Also, many of the colonial public offices weren’t technically full time jobs either and legislatures usually met a few times each year. Then there’s the fact that most of the elected higher offices usually came from the legislature as well. In this section, we’ll cover the rest of the Pennsylvania delegation since 9 of its signers came from there. Unfortunately for me, none of them came from where I live since Western Pennsylvania very much frontier country at the time with small towns and farmland. Pittsburgh might’ve been a city but it wasn’t much of one by any stretch of the imagination (it will have its own university in the 1780s though). So in 1776 Pennsylvania, almost everything revolves around Philadelphia, which was the bustling colonial American metropolis and a halfway point between the 13 colonies. This is why the Continental Congress typically met there and Pennsylvania is called “the Keystone State.” I mean you couldn’t have an American Revolution without it. But all the Pennsylvania signers usually resided in either Philadelphia or somewhere in the eastern part of the state. First, you have noted physician Benjamin Rush who was a noted Enlightenment thinker you probably haven’t heard of. But despite that he had some great ideas, you wouldn’t really want him as your doctor. Second, there’s Benjamin Franklin a man so famous in American history that he needs no introduction. Third, you have John Morton whose family came to the colonies from Finland and is the first signer to die. After that is George Clymer, perhaps the only guy in this bunch who actually had any connection to my local region. Next is James Smith who doesn’t have much significance among this lot followed by George Taylor, a former indentured servant turned businessman who almost gets screwed over. Then there’s James Wilson, a Founding Father who later became a Supreme Court Justice but doesn’t get the recognition he deserves in the history books. Finally, there’s George Ross who presided over a case that would spark a states’ rights controversy. So for your American history reading pleasure, I bring you the rest of the Pennsylvania delegation among the Declaration of Independence signers, sans Robert Morris of course.

25. Benjamin Rush

Dr. Benjamin Rush was a leading physician in early America whose ideas had a major impact on the medical profession and prepare the way for later medical research. Unfortunately, he was a firm proponent of certain medical practices like bloodletting and purging, seen as outdated even in his own day. Then again, even the best medicine in the 18th century wasn't anything to write home about. And let's just leave it at that.

Dr. Benjamin Rush was a leading physician in early America whose ideas had a major impact on the medical profession and prepare the way for later medical research. Unfortunately, he was a firm proponent of certain medical practices like bloodletting and purging, seen as outdated even in his own day. Then again, even the best medicine in the 18th century wasn’t anything to write home about. And let’s just leave it at that.

Lived: (1746-1813) He was 30 at the signing and 67 at his death.

Family: Son of John Rush and Susanna Hall. Fourth of 7 children. Lost his dad when he was six. Mother ran a country store. Was a remote relative of William Penn. Married Julia Stockton in 1776 and had 13 children. Son John suffered from depression after serving a tour of duty in the US Navy and was placed in a mental ward for 30 years. Son Richard served the cabinets of James Madison and James Monroe.

State: Pennsylvania

Occupation: Physician, social reformer, educator, professor, scientist, writer, and humanitarian

Early Life: Born just outside Philadelphia on his family’s plantation. Was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Philadelphia at 8, to receive a more proper education. Attended the Reverend Samuel Findley’s academy in Maryland. Graduated from what is now Princeton in 1760. Apprenticed under Dr. John Redman in Philadelphia before furthering his studies at the University of Edinburgh where he earned his M.D. in 1768. A year later, he returned to colonies and set up his practice in Philadelphia as well as became professor of chemistry in what is now the University of Pennsylvania. Was active in the Sons of Liberty as well as sent to the Continental Congress.

Significant Roles: Represented Philadelphia during Pennsylvania’s own Constitutional Convention in 1776 and got into trouble when he criticized the final product. Besides serving on the medical committee, he accompanied the Philadelphia militia during the British occupations of Philadelphia and New Jersey, specifically the Battle of Princeton. Soon became the Continental Army Surgeon General until 1778 over reporting some other doctor’s misappropriation of food and wine supplies. Also known for bashing George Washington.

Ultimate Fate: After the war, he was appointed to the staff of Pennsylvania Hospital in 1783 where he remained until his death. Was a delegate for the Pennsylvania delegation that adopted the US Constitution. Elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1788. Appointed treasurer of the US Mint 1797-1813. Later became professor of medical practice and clinical theory at the University of Pennsylvania in 1791, though the quality of his medicine was quite primitive, even for the time. Supplied the Corps of Discovery with medicine during the Lewis and Clark Expedition (of course, they had these mercury containing laxatives known as “Rush’s Thunderbolts” but they didn’t kill anybody during the trip and provided an excellent tracer for archaeologists. As for fatalities, Lewis and Clark only lost one guy to Peritonitis was couldn’t be treated with even the most advanced medicine at the time). Died of typhus and is buried in the Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia.

Trivia: Son-in-law to Richard Stockton. Founded Dickinson College. Thought all youth should be instructed in the Christian religion. Christian Universalists deem him their religion’s founder (though Rush was a very religious man, he was Presbyterian). Opposed slavery and was friends with the Reverend Richard Allen and helped him found the African Methodist Episcopal Church (though he was pretty racist and though that blackness was a skin disease and discouraged interracial marriage. Oh, and he owned a slave even when he joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in 1784). Helped reconcile the friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1812. Formulated the idea of Republican motherhood and thought that women should be educated in singing, dances, sciences, bookkeeping, history, and moral philosophy (but not metaphysics, mathematics, logic, or advanced science). But he was instrumental in founding the Young Ladies’ Academy of Philadelphia which was the city’s first women’s college (but he opposed to coeducational classrooms). Opposed capital punishment except in first-degree murder and wasn’t a fan of public punishments either. Educated over 3000 medical students. Has a medical school in Chicago named after him. Called, “The Father of American Psychiatry” for his advocacy that the mentally ill should be treated like human beings. Established a public dispensary for low income patients as well as a public works associating with draining and rerouting Dock Creek, which kept the mosquitoes out of Philadelphia. While he actively sought new explanations and new approaches to treatment, he was very much a doctor of his time who advocated bloodletting and purges as well as was accused of killing more patients than he had saved. Fluent in French, Italian, and Spanish. Published the first American chemistry textbook as well as wrote several volumes on medical education and influential patriotic essays. Thomas Paine consulted him when writing Common Sense. Elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1794. Was a founding member for what is now the

26. Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin is one of the most famous and influential Founding Fathers to date as well as the closest thing America has to a Renaissance man. Even before the American Revolution, he was considered an international celebrity as well as prolific self-made man. Nevertheless, his own set of accomplishments didn't stop John Adams from resenting him.

Benjamin Franklin is one of the most famous and influential Founding Fathers to date as well as the closest thing America has to a Renaissance man. Even before the American Revolution, he was considered an international celebrity as well as prolific self-made man. Nevertheless, his own set of accomplishments didn’t stop John Adams from resenting him for his dissolute ways, even in France.

Lived: (1706-1790) Was 70 at the signing and 84 at his death.

Family: Son of Josiah Franklin and his second wife Abiah Folger. Father was a candle maker and businessman. Came from a family of 17 children and was the youngest son. Brother James founded The New England Courant which was the first truly independent newspaper in the colonies. Had a common law marriage with Deborah Read and had 3 children. Son William was a prominent Loyalist and the last governor of New Jersey (whom Franklin raised his illegitimate son).

State: Pennsylvania

Occupation: Author, candle maker, printer, composer, political theorist, editor, journalist, bookseller, postmaster, publisher, accountant, businessman, scientist, inventor, civic activist, diplomat, newspaperman, satirist, and pundit

Early Life: Born in Boston. Father wanted him to be a clergyman but could only send him to the Boston Latin School for 2 years and his schooling ended at 10. But he was a voracious reader who continued his education. At 12 after spending 2 years working with his father before being apprenticed to his older brother James, a printer. When denied a chance to write a letter to his brother’s paper for publication, he wrote a series of letters under the name “Silence Dogood” which became a subject of conversation around town with his brother and the paper unaware of the ruse (for a time). Ran the Courant when his brother was in jail for 3 weeks in 1722 for publishing unflattering material about the governor. Became a fugitive by leaving James’s apprenticeship without permission and ran away to Philadelphia at 17. After working at various printer shops in Philadelphia and London, he worked for a merchant as a shopkeeper, clerk, and bookkeeper. When his boss died, he returned to his former trade and founded a newspaper called The Pennsylvania Gazette, which was a very unique newspaper of its time which contributed to a broader culture in Pennsylvania. Saw the press as a public service duty, but he was already writing for papers long before setting up his own and continued to contribute to other publications. In 1733-1758, he published Poor Richard’s Almanack which sold about 10,000 copies per year. Began his autobiography in 1771. Wrote The Way to Wealth in 1758. Retired from printing in 1747 and created a partnership with his foreman. In 1751, he was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly and was later appointed postmaster-general (his most notable reform in domestic politics with mail sent out every week). Headed the Pennsylvania delegation to the Albany Congress in 1754 and proposed a Plan of Union for the colonies (which wasn’t adopted). In 1756, he organized the Pennsylvania Militia where he was elected “Colonel” but declined the honor. Became a member of the Royal Society of the Arts the same year (which instituted the Benjamin Franklin Medal in 1956). In 1757, he was sent to Great Britain for 5 years by the Pennsylvania Assembly as a colonial agent to protest the influence of the Penn family where he became involved in radical politics. When he returned, he was made Pennsylvania Assembly Speaker but soon lost his seat. He spent most of the 1760s and early 1770s traveling around Europe and engaging resisting British policies, often acting as a spokesman of American interests in England and writing popular essays on behalf of the colonies as well as hobnobbed with various great minds and celebrities of the day like Joseph Priestly, David Hume, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgewood, James Watt, and more. In 1773, he obtained letters between Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson and tax collector Andrew Oliver which led to the British regarding him as a fomenter of serious trouble. In 1774, his sympathies for the rebel cause led to his dismissal as a colonial postmaster general.

Significant Roles: Well, he provided an early response to British surveillance through his own network of counter-surveillance and manipulation. After returning to Philadelphia in 1775, he was chosen unanimously as a Pennsylvania delegate to the Second Continental Congress. He was also chosen as the Unite States Postmaster General in the newly formed United States Postal Office. In June 1776, he was appointed as a member to the Committee of Five with John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman. Though he didn’t attend most of the meetings due to gout, he’s said to make several small but important changes to the Declaration of Independence, of which he was the oldest delegate to sign. In December that year, he was dispatched to France as a commissioner for the United States where he helped secure an alliance with the French, led to King Louis XVI to sign an edict for religious tolerance, and helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

Ultimate Fate: Was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1781. When he returned home, he occupied a position as the champion of American independence second to only George Washington. From 1785-1788, he was governor of Pennsylvania. In 1787, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention where he mostly held an honorable position. Plagued with gout and obesity since middle age, his health worsened. And after signing the US Constitution in 1787, he was rarely appeared in public until his death. Died of pleurisy attack at his Philadelphia home. Approximately 20,000 people attended his funeral. Buried at Christ Church burial ground. Will specifically lists no less than nine houses, over ten thousand pounds of specific distributions of cash and cash-denominated assets (worth in excess of a million pounds in today’s money, taking inflation into account), three thousand acres of land he was granted in Georgia, additional land holdings near the Ohio river and in Philadelphia, and two different businesses (both a printshop adjacent to his home and a type foundry elsewhere). A giant statue of him was erected in Philadelphia in 1976. Still, his lasting fame is inconsequential and is perhaps the first international celebrity from America.

Trivia: Was an advocate of free speech since he was a teenager. Developed a phonetic alphabet that didn’t take. Employed one of the colonial era’s first woman printers. Discovered that lightning was electricity, was a pioneer in population studies, and studied Atlantic Ocean currents. Other disciplines include meteorology, thermodynamics, and oceanography. Invented bifocals, the Franklin stove, glass armonica, newspaper chain, catheter, volunteer fire department, anti-counterfeiting techniques on currency (which he printed for New Jersey), the monthly news magazine, and lightning rod. Help found the Library Company of Philadelphia and hired the first American librarian (it was also headquartered at Independence Hall and is now a major scholarly and research library with 500,000 rare books, pamphlets, and broadsides, 160,000 manuscripts, and 75,000 graphic items). Facilitated many civic organizations including Philadelphia’s fire department and played a major role in establishing the University of Pennsylvania as well as Pennsylvania Hospital. Help set up a new model for higher education during the 1750s such a college focusing on the professions with courses taught in English by professors as well as no religious test for admissions. Set up the first national communication network. Elected first president of the American Philosophical Society. Called, “The First American.” Defined the American ethos as a as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. Printed for the Moravians at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where he visited many times. Was a ladies’ man and prolific adulterer as well as wrote about everything from having sex with older women to farting. Freed his own slaves toward the end of his life and became a prominent abolitionist. Is on the $100 bill. Things named after him include warships, towns, counties, educational institutions, and corporations. Pen names include Silence Dogood and Richard Saunders. Said to play the harp and the violin as well as composed music. Was an avid chess player. Took “air baths” which makes him a nudist or perhaps exhibitionist. Awarded honorary degrees from Harvard and Yale in 1753, an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Saint Andrews in 1759, and an honorary doctorate in scientific accomplishments at Oxford University in 1762. Bequeathed $4,400 to Boston and Philadelphia in hopes to gather interest for 200 years (which resulted in $2,000,000 for Philadelphia and $5,000,000 for Boston). Witnessed the world’s first hydrogen balloon flight. Known to take naps during meetings and often came late to meetings. Had 50 different epithets for being drunk (so yes, he really loved to party which is no surprise). And when he went out drinking during the Revolution, he always had a platoon of soldiers to guard him because the other Founding Father’s were afraid that he’d leak out military secrets while on a binge. Had a wicked sense of humor. Never patented any of his inventions so people can use them for free. Was a Deist who doubted the divinity of Christ and wasn’t much of a fan of organized religion.

27. John Morton

It's popularly said that Pennsylvania wouldn't be the "Keystone State" if it wasn't for John Morton being the swing vote delegate for American Independence. Was also in charge of drafting the Articles of Confederation. But he would die from tuberculosis.

It’s popularly said that Pennsylvania wouldn’t be the “Keystone State” if it wasn’t for John Morton being the swing vote delegate for American Independence. Was also in charge of drafting the Articles of Confederation. But he would die from tuberculosis.

Lived: (1725-1777) He was 48-49 at the signing and 51-52 at his death.

Family: Son of John Morton Sr. and Mary Archer, both of Finnish descent. Great-grandfather immigrated to New Sweden in 1654. Father died before he was born and mother remarried a guy named Sketchley when he was 7. Married Ann Justis in 1748 and had 9 children. Son was a surgeon who died on a British ship as a prisoner of war.

State: Pennsylvania

Occupation: Farmer and surveyor

Early Life: Born in Ridley Township, Pennsylvania. Educated by his stepfather. Elected to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly in 1756 and was appointed justice of the peace the next year which he held until 1764.  Resigned from the Assembly in 1766 to become sheriff of Chester County but returned as Speaker in 1769. Appointed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1774. Elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774 and the Second Continental Congress in 1775.

Significant Roles: In 1776, he was the swing delegate that allowed Pennsylvania to vote in favor of the Declaration of Independence. But he opposed the radical Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 as well. Chaired the committee that wrote the Articles of Confederation but died (presumably of tuberculosis) before they were ratified. Buried in St. Paul’s Burial Ground in Chester, Pennsylvania. Was the first Declaration of Independence signer to die. His wife Anne had to flee Philadelphia to New Jersey during the Battle of Brandywine a year later which resulted in much of his papers being destroyed. So we don’t know much about him.

Ultimate Fate: Morton didn’t survive the Revolution.

Trivia: Original family name was Märtensson.

28. George Clymer

George Clymer was an early advocate for independence as well as was one of the few Continental Congress delegates to remain in Philadelphia in the interest of maintaining congressional business. Was also a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Became a noted philanthropist later in life who donated the land that would become Indiana  Pennsylvania.

George Clymer was an early advocate for independence as well as was one of the few Continental Congress delegates to remain in Philadelphia in the interest of maintaining congressional business. Was also a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Became a noted philanthropist later in life who donated the land that would become Indiana Pennsylvania.

Lived: (1739-1813) He was 37 at the signing and 73 at his death.

Family: Was orphaned when he was only a year old so he was by his maternal aunt and uncle Hannah and William Coleman. Grandfather was one of the original settlers of the Penn colony. Married Elizabeth Meredith in 1765 and had 9 children with only 5 surviving infancy. Son John Meredith died in 1787 at 18.

State: Pennsylvania

Occupation: Merchant, businessman, diplomat, pundit, and philanthropist

Early Life: Born in Philadelphia. Was orphaned at only a year old and raised by his maternal aunt and uncle. Uncle apprenticed him as a merchant. Was a patriot and leader in the Philadelphia demonstrations resulting from the Stamp Act and Tea Act. Member of the Continental Congress in 1776-1780.

Significant Roles: Was one of the first patriots to advocate complete independence from Great Britain. Served as a treasurer in the Continental Congress. Was sent with Sampson Matthews to inspect the northern army on behalf of Congress in 1776. Stayed with Robert Morris and George Walton in Philadelphia during British occupation while the British vandalized his home (but his family managed to hide in the woods nearby). Was instrumental in chartering a bank to raise money for supplies for the Continental Army, which is said to save it from dissolution. In 1779-1780 he and son engaged in a lucrative trade deal with the island of St. Eustatius. In 1780, was elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Wrote many political letters and articles.

Ultimate Fate: In 1782, he was sent on the tour of the southern states in a vain attempt to get the legislatures to pay their subscriptions due to the central government. Represented his state in the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and elected to the first US Congress in 1789. Was first president of the Philadelphia Bank and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as well as vice-president of the Philadelphia Agricultural Society. Was in charge with enforcing the excise tax in Pennsylvania which gave rise to the Whiskey Rebellion. Was one of the commissioners to negotiate a treaty with the Creek Indian confederacy in Coleraine, Georgia. Buried in Trenton, New Jersey’s Friends Burying Ground. Summerseat, his Morrisville home still stands.

Trivia: Had at least one other child before his marriage that has previously gone unnoticed by previous historians (well, at least one that he knew about which he wrote in a letter to the rector of Christ Church, his pastor, but it also hints to the possibility of more). So Clymer wasn’t exactly the most wholesome Founding Father out there. Donated the property for Indiana, Pennsylvania county seat and is considered the borough’s benefactor. Has a ship named after him. Believed in rights for all people.

29. James Smith

Prior to signing the Declaration of Independence, James Smith raised the first volunteer revolutionary militia in 1774. Other than that, he doesn't really seem to lead an exciting life. Also, most of his papers were destroyed in an office fire so we don't know much about him.

Prior to signing the Declaration of Independence, James Smith raised the first volunteer revolutionary militia in 1774. Other than that, he doesn’t really seem to lead an exciting life. Also, most of his papers were destroyed in an office fire so we don’t know much about him.

Lived: (ca. 1720 – 1806) He was about 55-56 at the signing and about 85-86 at his death.

Family: Son of John Smith. Married Eleanor Armor and had 5 children. Has no living descendants.

State: Pennsylvania

Occupation: Lawyer, businessman, surveyor, and soldier

Early Life: Born in Ulster, Ireland. Immigrated to Chester County, Pennsylvania as a boy. Practiced law in Shippensburg and York, where he was a militia captain. Went into the ironmaking business in the 1760s but lost a small fortune. Raised the first revolutionary volunteer militia company in 1774, but deferred to the younger men. Appointed to the Provincial convention in Philadelphia and elected to the Continental Congress in 1776-1778.

Significant Roles: Actively supported the cause for American independence. Attended the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention in 1776.  Elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1780. Became a brigadier general in the state militia.

Ultimate Fate: Declined political office in 1785 due to advanced age and resumed practicing law until he was 80. In 1805, it’s said a fire occurred in his office which destroyed most of his papers so there’s little about him we know. Buried in York, Pennsylvania.

Trivia: Has a dorm named after him at the University of Delaware. Said to be quite a prankster and loved having people guess his exact age.

30. George Taylor

Though he started out as a former indentured servant, George Taylor be greatly involved in the production of artillery ammunition for the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Unfortunately the ironworks was sitting on land owned by Loyalist Joseph Galloway. So let's just say that things didn't turn out well for him after Galloway fled Philadelphia.

Though he started out as a former indentured servant, George Taylor be greatly involved in the production of artillery ammunition for the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Unfortunately the ironworks was sitting on land owned by Loyalist Joseph Galloway. So let’s just say that things didn’t turn out well for him after Galloway fled Philadelphia.

Lived: (1716-1781) He was 59-60 at the signing and 64-65 at his death.

Family: Father was said to be a Protestant clergyman. Married Ann Taylor Savage in 1742 who was his master’s widow (a typical practice in those days) and had 2 children neither of whom survived him (but son did marry and have 5 children). Also had 5 kids with his housekeeper Naomi Smith.

State: Pennsylvania

Occupation: Indentured servant, laborer, ironmaster, bookkeeper, tavernkeeper, businessman, landowner, and soldier

Early Life: Born in Ireland and immigrated at 20 where he landed in Philadelphia. Was indentured to Samuel Savage, Jr. Ironmaster at Warwick furnace and started as a laborer. But Savage discovered he had some degree of education so he promoted him to bookkeeper. After Savage’s death, he married his widow and managed his two ironworks for the next 10 years until his stepson came of legal age in 1752. In 1755, he formed a partnership to lease the Durham Furnace in Upper Bucks County. Served as Bucks County justice of the peace in 1757-1763. Moved to Easton, Pennsylvania after the Durham lease expired and where he obtained Bachmann’s Tavern (now the Easton House in 1761. In 1764, he became the justice of the peace in Northampton County and was elected to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly. During this time he purchased 331 acres of land near Allentown’s Biery Port where he built an impression two-story stone Georgian mansion on a bluff overlooking the Lehigh River, which was completed in 1768 (now known as the George Taylor House and is now a National Historic Landmark). He leased half the property to farming and sold the estate in 1776, 2 years after moving back to Durham. There in 1774, he arranged to lease the Durham Iron Works which was acquired by Joseph Galloway who later resigned from the First Continental Congress when his plan to avert a break from England. In 1775, he was commissioned as colonel in the Third Battalion of the Pennsylvania militia.

Significant Roles: His Durham Iron Works was one of the first in Pennsylvania to supply cannon shot and shells the Continental Army. Was elected to the Second Continental Congress late in 1776, which was an appointment that lasted over 7 months. In 1777, he was appointed to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council but later retired due to ill health. During the war, he continued to oversee production of cannon shot and shells for the Continental Army and Navy. But when the Loyalist Joseph Galloway fled Philadelphia, the Durham mill was seized. Taylor filed an appeal but the Durham Furnace was sold to a new owner but was able to continue production (even though he sold some of his estates). He then leased the Greenwich Forge in what is today Warren County and moved back to Easton in 1780, where he died.

Ultimate Fate: Currently buried in the Easton Cemetery and the final house he lived in is considered the city’s oldest surviving house. Though he wanted his estate to be divided equally between his love children and grandchildren, this request was denied. He was engulfed in financial difficulties and legal entanglements over the Durham Furnace and Greenwich Forge which dragged out until 1799. But at that point, his estate was insolvent. Still, outside of Lehigh County who basically adore the man, he’s seldom known anywhere else.

Trivia: Only ironmaster and indentured servant to sign the Declaration of Independence.

31. James Wilson

Though a firm advocate for independence, James Wilson didn't cast his vote until he was given the go ahead by his constituents. Also had his home besieged by a drunken mob in 1779, an event known as the Fort Wilson Riot. He was also a prominent legal theorist who was quite active in the Constitutional Convention and later became a Supreme Court Justice. Unfortunately, he's barely remembered today.

Though a firm advocate for independence, James Wilson didn’t cast his vote until he was given the go ahead by his constituents. Also had his home besieged by a drunken mob in 1779, an event known as the Fort Wilson Riot. He was also a prominent legal theorist who was quite active in the Constitutional Convention and later became a Supreme Court Justice. Unfortunately, he’s barely remembered today.

Lived: (1742-1798) He was 33 at the signing and 55 at his death.

Family: Son of William Wilson and Alison Landall. Father was a Scottish farmer. Married Rachel Bird and Hannah Gray (later Bartlett) and had 7 children.

State: Pennsylvania

Occupation: Professor, legal theorist, lawyer, businessman, investor, soldier, and college trustee

Early Life: Born in Scotland and studied at the Universities of St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and Glasgow but never obtained a degree, though he was influenced by the leading Scottish Enlightenment figures of the day. This led him to move to Philadelphia in 1766 where he began teaching and tutoring at what is now the University of Pennsylvania where he earned an honorary Master of Arts. Studied law under James Dickinson for 2 years before the bar. After that, he set up a successful practice in Reading as well as had a small farm in Carlisle. Published  “Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament” in 1774 (but wrote in 1768), which argued that Parliament had no authority to tax the colonies because they had no representation in Parliament. Also presented his views that power came from the people. Was commissioned Colonel of the 4th Cumberland County Battalion and would soon rise to the rank of Brigadier General in the Pennsylvania State Militia.

Significant Roles: As a member of the Continental Congress of 1776, he was a firm advocate for independence but refused to vote until he heard back to see if it was okay with his constituents. He was also one of the leaders in the formation of French policy. He also served on the Committee of Spies where he helped define treason. After defending 23 from property seizure and exile in 1779, he and 35 colleagues were forced to barricade their homes from a drunken angry mob before being rescued by soldiers. Called “the Fort Wilson Riot” this resulted in 6 killed as well as 17-19 wounded. Engaged in land speculation and investing.

Ultimate Fate: As a delegate at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, he was one of the most learned Framers of the Constitution. Was on the committee that produced the first draft of the US Constitution as well as proposed the 3/5ths Compromise as well as understood the implications of dual sovereignty. Addressed the convention 168 times. And at the ratification convention, he stumped hard which lead Pennsylvania to become the second state in the Union. His 1787 “speech in the statehouse yard” was second in influence to The Federalist Papers, which was printed and widely distributed. In 1789, he was appointed by George Washington as one of the 6 original members of the United States Supreme Court. Was first professor of law at what is now the University of Pennsylvania in 1790 and delivered a couple series of lectures some of which were later compiled by his son Bird for an edition in 1804.  Final years were marked by financial failures which resulted in a brief imprisonment at a debtor’s prison in New Jersey while his debt was paid off by his son.  He then escaped to North Carolina to escape other creditors but was again briefly imprisoned.  Died after suffering malaria and a stroke while visiting a friend in Edenton, North Carolina. Currently buried at Christ Churchyard in Philadelphia.

Trivia: Was a founding trustee of Dickinson College. Considered one of the most underrated Founding Fathers by American legal scholars. Supported the popular election of senators. Viewed legal study as a branch of general cultured education.

32. George Ross

Though George Ross spent 12 years as a Crown prosecutor, he would later side with the patriots and help draft Pennsylvania's constitution in 1776. Presided on a case that would cause a states' rights controversy just before his early death.

Though George Ross spent 12 years as a Crown prosecutor, he would later side with the patriots and help draft Pennsylvania’s constitution in 1776. Presided on a case that would cause a states’ rights controversy just before his early death.

Lived: (1730-1779) He was 46 at the signing and 49 at his death.

Family: Son of a Scottish Anglican clergyman. Had at least a half-brother John and a sister named Gertrude. Possibly oldest son of his dad’s second wife. Married Anne Lawler in 1751 and had 2 sons and a daughter.

State: Pennsylvania

Occupation: Lawyer and soldier

Early Life: Born in New Castle, Delaware and educated at home. Studied law at his half-brother John’s office and was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in Philadelphia in 1750. In addition to being a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly in 1768, he was also a Tory Crown Prosecutor for 12 years. But he later changed his mind and became a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1774-1777.  Was Colonel in the Pennsylvania militia in 1775-1776.

Significant Roles: Was the last of the Pennsylvania delegation to sign the Declaration of Independence. Though reelected to the Continental Congress in 1777, he resigned due to poor health. Was vice president at the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention in 1776 and appointed Judge of the Admiralty Court in Pennsylvania in shortly after. One of his cases during this time sparked the states’ rights controversy which wouldn’t be resolved until 1809. Died in office. Buried in Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia.

Ultimate Fate: Ross didn’t survive the American Revolution.

Trivia: Brother-in-law to George Read.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s