Know Your Signers: Part 6 – Richard Henry Lee to Joseph Hewes

Writing_the_Declaration_of_Independence_1776_cph.3g09904

Other than the number slaves, as you go further along the list of Declaration of Independence signers, you start to notice how they keep getting younger. Most the northern delegates seem to be middle aged or elderly while many of the southern delegates tend to be either in their 30s or younger. Of course, this isn’t hard to explain why. After all, a significant majority of signatories south of the Mason-Dixon Line grew up plantations owned by notable and wealthy families. Many of them tend to be sent to best schools, sometimes abroad and have been groomed for political office and southern aristocracy from day one. Besides, the southern delegates have all the slaves on their plantation to do all the fieldwork and other manual labor for them. On the other hand, the delegates from New England had to work for a living to actually get anywhere or wait until the old man dies to inherit their property (possibly a combination of the two). Many of them also seemed to have longer political careers. Add to the fact that the New England colonies had been settled longer than say, places like North Carolina and Georgia. Then again, it could also be due to the fact that the older southern politicians simply didn’t feel like making the journey to Philadelphia while the northern politicians wanted to send their most notable guys in the legislatures. In this section, it’s on to the other 6 delegates of Virginia as well as two of the delegates from North Carolina. First, of the gentlemen from Virginia sans George Wythe, there’s Richard Henry Lee who was an early advocate for independence as who put forth the motion to declare independence from Great Britain. Second, you have Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence as well as became a US president. Following him is Benjamin Harrison V who’s better known for being an ancestor of 2 US Presidents, one of them being his son William Henry who caught pneumonia at his inauguration and was dead within a month. After him is Thomas Nelson Jr. who personally led the Virginia Militia at the Battle of Yorktown as well as Francis Lightfoot Lee who was Richard Henry Lee’s brother. Rounding up the Virginia delegation is Carter Braxton a planter and merchant who also invested heavily in the Revolutionary War effort. Finally, from the North Carolina delegation, you have William Hooper and Joseph Hewes. So for your Founders nostalgia pleasure, here are some more Declaration of Independence signers to get acquainted with.

41. Richard Henry Lee

Richard Henry Lee is best known for his motion during the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' to declare their independence from Great Britain. His famous Lee Resolution helped moved the 13 colonies toward independence.  He also led the movement to oppose the US Constitution, however.

Richard Henry Lee is best known for his motion during the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies’ to declare their independence from Great Britain. His famous Lee Resolution helped moved the 13 colonies toward independence. He also led the movement to oppose the US Constitution, however.

Lived: (1732-1794) He was 44 at the signing and 62 at his death.

Family: Son of Thomas Lee and Hannah Harrison Ludwell. Came from a line of military officers, diplomats, and legislators. Father was Governor of Virginia before his death in 1750. Married Anne Aylett and Anne Gaskins Pinckard and had 13 children. Daughter married a nephew of George Washington.

State: Virginia

Occupation: Planter, lawyer, soldier, and landowner

Early Life: Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia and spent most of his childhood at his parents’ Stratford Hall. Was groomed for a political career by his dad from day one who sent him to neighboring planters to associate him with neighboring men of prominence (a very common practice at the time). In 1748, he attended the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in England but had to return in 1753 to settle his family estate because his parents died 3 years earlier. Formed and led a militia in the French and Indian War and marched them to Alexandria to join General Edward Braddock but were rebuffed. Was appointed justice of the peace in 1757 and elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses the next year. Was an early advocate of independence and helped create one of the early Committees of Correspondence among many independence-minded Americans in various colonies. Is credited with authoring the Westmoreland Resolution which was publicly signed by prominent landowners including four brothers of George Washington as well as threatened “danger and disgrace” to those who paid the stamp tax. Was chosen as a delegate for the Continental Congress in 1774.

Significant Roles: Was an early advocate for independence and it was he put forth the motion to declare independence from Great Britain. Didn’t vote during the adoption of the Declaration of Independence but signed it anyway when he returned from Virginia.

Ultimate Fate: In 1784, he was elected President of the Congress under the Articles of Confederation. In 1785, he was very active in passing numerous legislation such as the establishment of the US Dollar for the national currency but wasn’t a fan of federal taxes and supported the Ordinances of 1784 and 1785 so the US government can have revenue from land sales. Opposed the Constitution and was a proponent on states’ rights. In 1789, he was elected a US Senator and served as President pro tempore in 1792. Was one of the strongest advocates for the Bill of Rights. Died at his Chantilly Plantation. Buried at Burnt House Fields.

Trivia: Brother of Francis Lightfoot Lee which makes them the only pair of brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence. Home Chantilly is now a National Historic Site and an archaeological dig. Was known for his great oratory skills as well as his fiery, rebellious spirit, which brought him many enemies.

42. Thomas Jefferson

It's always been Thomas Jefferson's words that appear on the Declaration of Independence. And while he's certainly a major American icon of republicanism,  liberty, and democracy, he's not a man without controversy. Sure he's a highly rated president but his term wasn't all bed and roses. And then there's him owning hundreds of slaves and fathering children with one of them.

It’s always been Thomas Jefferson’s words that appear on the Declaration of Independence. And while he’s certainly a major American icon of republicanism, liberty, and democracy, he’s not a man without controversy. Sure he’s a highly rated president but his term wasn’t all bed and roses. And then there’s him owning hundreds of slaves and fathering children with one of them.

Lived: (1743-1826) Was 33 at the signing and 83 at his death.

Family: Son of Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph. Father was a planter, estate manager, and surveyor who died when he was 14. Was the 3rd of 10 children. Married Martha Wayles Skelton (his third cousin as well as in a lavish ceremony that lasted for several days at her family home) in 1772 and had 6 children with only 2 daughters surviving to adulthood. Was so distraught over his wife’s death that he shut himself in his room for 3 weeks pacing back and forth nearly exhausted. He would never remarry. Had at least one child with his slave Sally Hemings (which was confirmed by DNA evidence).

State: Virginia

Occupation: Planter, landowner, inventor, farmer, philosopher, diplomat, author, lawyer, architect, musician, political theorist, and polymath

Early Life: Born in Shadwell near Charlottesville and the Virginia Wilderness. Grew up in Tuckahoe Plantation with his maternal relatives. Inherited Monticello at 21, 7 years after his father’s death, which consisted of 5,000 acres and 150 slaves (he’d later inherit 11,000 acres from his father-in-law as well as 135 slaves and considerable debts, which would contribute to his financial problems {along with a lack of interest in economics}). Entered the College of William and Mary at 16 and studied under law professor George Wythe as well as graduated in 1762. Studied law and worked as a law clerk for Wythe before being admitted to the Virginia bar in 1767 as well as practicing law as a circuit lawyer (for many of Virginia’s elite families). Began construction of Monticello in 1768 (which he will never finish). Elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769. Elected to the Continental Congress in 1775.

Significant Roles: In 1776, he was appointed to the Committee of Five along with John Adams, Robert R. Livingston, Roger Sherman, and Benjamin Franklin. Wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence in 17 days drawing from his own proposed draft of the Virginia Constitution and George Mason’s draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights as well as other sources. Final draft was presented in June 28, 1776. It would be considered one of his major achievements. After the colonies declared their independence, he returned to Virginia where he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, often helping to write laws for the new state. He was especially proud of the Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. In 1779, he was elected Governor of Virginia in which he transferred the state capital from Williamsburg to Richmond. In 1780, he prepared Richmond for attack by moving all military supplies to a foundry located 5 miles out of town, which was captured by Benedict Arnold in 1781. He was then forced to evacuate the city as the British burned the new fledgling capital. That June, General Cornwallis sent Banastre Tarleton to capture him at Monticello but he escaped to Poplar Forest after being warned. The General Assembly considered an inquiry of his actions, thinking he had failed as governor and thus, wasn’t reelected. Started writing Notes on the State of Virginia in 1780 (which would be first published in 1785).

Ultimate Fate: In 1783, he was selected as a delegate to the Confederation Congress where he recommended that American currency should be based on the decimal system. He also played a central role and advancing policy for the settlement of western territories as well as the principal author of the Land Ordinance of 1784. Later that year he was sent as a minister of France to join Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. He’d also become a companion to the Marquis de Layfayette and allowed him to use his residence as a meeting place with other republicans. Was in France at the start of the French Revolution, including the storming of the Bastille, but got the hell out in the nick of time. When he returned to the US, he was appointed Secretary of State by George Washington where he repeatedly with Alexander Hamilton, which led to the political two party system. His political actions to form a party and efforts to undermine Hamilton led Washington to dismiss him but he resigned voluntarily in 1793. Washington never forgave him for his actions and never spoke to him again. However, the two did compromise when it came to designating a capital in Washington D.C. In 1796, he was elected vice-president to John Adams. He had a more hands-off approach but he wrote a manual called his Parliamentary Pocket Book. During this time, he advocated nullification and drafted a threat for Kentucky to secede. It’s said that had his actions been known, he might’ve been impeached for treason. But these actions made Washington appalled, but influenced the idea of states’ rights up to the Civil War and beyond. He also attacked Adams in private, predicted he’d only serve one term, and encouraged France to invade England. Was elected president in 1800 after being chosen by the House of Representatives when he and Aaron Burr were in a tie (thankfully Hamilton hated Burr more than him). His administration saw the First Barbary War, the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark Expedition (which was a huge success with only one unpreventable fatality), and the establishment of West Point. However, his Indian policy consisted forcibly moving Cherokee and Shawnee tribes to lands west of the Mississippi which violated a treaty between the US Government and the Cherokee Nation. He refused to recognize Haiti, calling it a “slave republic.” Tried to get Secretary of State James Madison to remove John Adams’ “midnight judges” which resulted in the case Marbury vs. Madison. Also tried to annex Florida. During his second term, there was the embargo against Britain. Oh, and he segregated the US postal system which didn’t allow blacks to carry mail. Retired from the presidency in 1809 and founded the University of Virginia in 1819, which was the first public college in America (if not, the world). Was visited by Lafayette in 1824. Final years and days were plagued by health problems and financial difficulties and died thousands of dollars in debt (explaining why he never freed many of his slaves). Had a quiet funeral as he wanted and is buried at Monticello.

Trivia: As a lifelong bibliophile, his library would soon extend to over 6,500 books by 1815 which he offered to sell 6,000 for $23,950 to the government after the British burned the Library of Congress in 1814 (he’d buy more books though). Had an on-again, off-again friendship with John Adams that would last for the rest of their lives. Was a very close friend and mentor of James Madison. Was accomplished on the violin and cello. Was a member of the American Philosophical Society for 35 years and served as its president in 1797. Was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1787 and the American Antiquarian Society in 1814. Died on the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on the same day as John Adams. Invented the dumbwaiter, revolving book stand, cipher wheel, “Great Clock,” and swivel chair. Believed in universal white male suffrage as well as public education but hated central banks (until the Louisiana Purchase). Was a strong supporter of the French Revolution (except its bloodier and violent aspects). Was a Christian Deist and cut and pasted his Bible (though he was also a practicing Episcopalian). Was a big time slave owner and slavery apologist (owned over 300 slaves in his lifetime. But to be fair, he also handled a number of freedom suits for slaves as well. No wonder this guy was conflicted). As president, he’s said to greet dignitaries at the White House in his bathrobe and slippers (then again, he had a tendency to greet visitors while still in his pajamas). Spoke numerous languages. Is commended on Mount Rushmore and the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. Received an honorary doctorate in law from Harvard University. Initiated a program at the Federal Armories to develop interchangeable parts for firearms. Wrote the Declaration of Independence on the first swivel chair. Had his whole family inoculated with smallpox and publicly ate a tomato to prove it wasn’t poisonous. Had a slave trained as a French chef. Believed that Indians should give up their own cultures, religions, and lifestyles to assimilate into Western European-style agriculture. Designed the buildings for the University of Virginia as well as planned its curriculum and served as its first rector. Said to write over 18,000 letters during his life. Despite his volume of writings, he was said to be socially awkward and a poor public speaker who had difficulty maintaining close personal relationships (which is probably why he got along so well with John Adams and James Madison as well as said to be on the autism spectrum). Had a reputation for wearing wacky, mismatched outfits. Said not to like being president. Had red hair.

43. Benjamin Harrison V

Benjamin Harrison V was a Chairman of the Committee of the Whole during the independence debates of 1776. He'd also have a son and a great-grandson who'd later become US Presidents.

Benjamin Harrison V was a Chairman of the Committee of the Whole during the independence debates of 1776. He’d also have a son and a great-grandson who’d later become US Presidents. This miniature is the only surviving life portrait of him that exists.

Lived: (1726-1791) He was 50 at the signing and 65 at his death.

Family: Son of Benjamin Harrison IV and Ann Carter. First Benjamin might have arrived to Virginia in 1630. One of 10 children (well, white children as far as we know since there were a number of mixed race slaves on the plantation by the time Benny V inherited the estate). Youngest brother Charles was a Brigadier General in the Continental Army. Father and 2 of his sisters were killed in 1745 after being struck by lightning while trying to shut a window. Married Elizabeth Bassett in 1748 and had 8 children including US President William Henry Harrison.

State: Virginia

Occupation: Planter, landowner, and merchant

Early Life: Born on Berkeley Plantation and inherited the bulk of the estate at his father’s death in 1745. Was a graduate of William and Mary. Was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1756 as well as served as a county justice. Participated in a boycott with other colony lawmakers in 1770 over the British tax on tea. Also co-sponsored a bill that declared certain laws passed by Parliament affecting Virginia to be illegal without the consent of colonists in Virginia. Selected for the Continental Congress in 1774.

Significant Roles: Served as Chairman of the Committee of the Whole which presided over the final debates on the independence resolution presented by Richard Henry Lee as well as amended and adopted the final form of the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776. He also delivered the final reading of the Declaration to the Continental Congress. Later in 1776, he joined some delegates to meet with George Washington in Cambridge Massachusetts to plan the continuing, supporting, and regulating the Continental Army. Returned to Virginia in 1777 and was Speaker of the House of Burgesses until 1780. In 1781, he relocated his family from Berkeley Plantation before heading to Philadelphia to rally for military support due to the threat of Benedict Arnold’s position at the James River with 1,600 men. He succeeded in getting increased gunpowder, supplies, and troops but only on a delayed basis. Though he and his family avoided capture in Arnold’s January 1781 raid, most of his house and possessions were destroyed. Still, he managed to rebuild his home, correspond with Washington, and continued rallying for support for the war effort on behalf of the southern states. Was elected Governor of Virginia around the time of Yorktown.

Ultimate Fate: Since Virginia’s financial resources were drained when he assumed governorship, he opposed any offensive action toward Native Americans and tried to retain diplomatic relations with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and the Creek tribes. He also had to deal with Continental Army mutinies as well as the release of British POWs. But he was never able to relieve the state debts. In 1788, he was a member of the Virginia Ratifying Convention for the US Constitution which he opposed on the absence of a Bill of Rights. Remained in the Virginia legislature until his death after a dinner party celebrating his final electoral success. Buried at Berkeley Plantation.

Trivia: Father William Henry Harrison and great-grandfather (and namesake) of Benjamin Harrison. Was defeated in an electoral race by a man named John Tyler Sr. (father of his son’s running mate who’d declare himself president after his boss died of pneumonia after 30 days in office). Was a well-known enemy of John Adams (which was mostly due to their lifestyles and personalities. Adams called him, “another Sir John Falstaff”). Known for his sense of humor as well as rotund that he told Elbridge Gerry after the signing: “I shall have a great advantage over you, Mr. Gerry, when we are all hung for what we are now doing. From the size and weight of my body I shall die in a few minutes and be with the angels, but from the lightness of your body you will dance in the air an hour or two before you are dead.” Was 6ft 4in and weighed 240 lbs. Wife was a niece of Martha Washington.

44. Thomas Nelson Jr.

Aside from signing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Nelson Jr. was an active revolutionary in Yorktown where he staged a

Aside from signing the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Nelson Jr. was an active revolutionary in Yorktown where he staged a “tea party” and led the Virginia Militia during the siege and battle. It’s said he ordered artillery to fire at the house occupied by Charles Cornwallis. Yet, there are 3 cannonballs lodged inside the house’s outer walls.

Lived: (1738-1789) He was 37 at the signing and 50 at his death.

Family: Son of William Nelson and Elizabeth Burwell. But was named after his grandfather Thomas “Scotch Tom” Nelson who was from England. Married Lucy Grymes in 1762 and had 11 children including a son Hugh who’d become a US Congressman.

State: Virginia

Occupation: Planter, landowner, and soldier

Early Life: Born in Yorktown and was educated in England, attending Newcome’s School, Eton, and graduating from Cambridge University in 1760. Was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1761. In 1774, he spent some of his personal fortune to send needed supplies to Boston after its port was closed, arranged a Yorktown tea party, and threw 2 half-chests into the York River. Was appointed Colonel of a Virginia infantry regiment in 1775 but he resigned to serve in the Second Continental Congress in 1776.

Significant Roles: Left the Continental Congress in 1777 after experiencing a severe bout with asthma. Was elected Governor of Virginia in 1781. In October of that year, he personally led the Virginia Militia in the siege and battle of Yorktown and was said to order his artillery to fire on a house occupied by General Cornwallis (as well as offering five guineas to the first man who hit the house). This house still has 3 cannonballs lodged in its outer walls.

Ultimate Fate: Ill health forced him to resign the governorship after Yorktown and his personal fortune was ruined. Despite raising a substantial amount of money for the French fleet on his own credit, he was never compensated, even his personal loan of $2 million. Had to move into his son’s home “Mont Air” in Hanover County due to living on the edge of poverty with asthma, where he died. Buried at Grace churchyard in Yorktown. However, he was given a beautiful eulogy at his funeral by his friend Colonel Innes. Still, when asked on whether he felt embittered about his treatment, he said, “I would do it all over again.” Though his home experienced damage during Yorktown, it still stands to this day.

Trivia: Has a county named after him in Virginia and Kentucky. Named after his uncle Thomas and wasn’t really a “Jr.” in the strictest sense.

45. Francis Lightfoot Lee

Like any plantation son, Francis Lightfoot Lee was groomed for politics. But unlike his brother, he saw public office as nothing more than a duty. But he was the Chairman of a Committee charged with supporting the Continental Army at Valley Forge.

Like any plantation son, Francis Lightfoot Lee was groomed for politics. But unlike his brother, he saw public office as nothing more than a duty. But he was the Chairman of a Committee charged with supporting the Continental Army at Valley Forge.

Lived: (1734-1797) He was 31 at the signing and 62 at his death.

Family: Son of Thomas Lee and Hannah Harrison Ludwell. Came from a line of military officers, diplomats, and legislators. Father was Governor of Virginia before his death in 1750. Parents died when he was 16. Married Rebecca Plater Tayloe in 1769 and had no children.

State: Virginia

Occupation: Activist, planter, and landowner

Early Life: Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia and spent most of his childhood at his parents’ Stratford Hall. Was mostly educated at home and spent a lot time studying in his parents’ library, unlike his brothers. Formal education ended at 16 when his parents died and his oldest brother Philip assumed guardianship. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758 but never saw politics as anything more than a duty. And basically preferred library discussions and back-room strategy to public debate. Was an active protestor of the Stamp Act. Wrote the Virginia Resolutions in 1766. Joined Virginia’s Committee of Correspondence in 1773. In 1775, he was elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress where he served until 1779.

Significant Roles: Served in the Virginia State Senate in 1778-1782. Signed the Articles of Confederation. Said to be chair on a special committee to support the Continental Army at Valley Forge.

Ultimate Fate: Retired to his Richmond County, Menokin estate to raise his infirm brother William’s daughters, which he willed to his nephew. He and wife died 10 days apart. Buried with his in-laws at Mount Airy Plantation. Not as well-known as his brother.

Trivia: Brother of Richard Henry Lee, which makes them the only pair of brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence. Was friends with Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.

46. Carter Braxton

As a Virginia planter and merchant, Carter Braxton  was one of the richest men in the colony said to own as many as 12,000 acres and 165 slaves by the 1760s. He's also said to father as many as 16 children and may be the signer with the most descendants with some of them being black.

As a Virginia planter and merchant, Carter Braxton was one of the richest men in the colony said to own as many as 12,000 acres and 165 slaves by the 1760s. He’s also said to father as many as 16 children and may be the signer with the most descendants with some of them being black.

Lived: (1736-1797) He was 39 at the signing and 61 at his death.

Family: Son of George Braxton Jr. and Mary Carter. Grandfather Robert “King” Carter was one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners and slave owners in Virginia. Father died when he was 17. Married Judith Robinson and Elizabeth Corbin (both heiresses) and may have had as many as 18 children. May have had children with slaves since most people with the name of Carter Braxton since the Civil War have been African American.

State: Virginia

Occupation: Merchant, planter, soldier, and landowner

Early Life: Born on Newington Plantation in King and Queen County, Virginia. Attended the College of William and Mary. After his second marriage, he bought a boat and turned his energies to trade in the West Indies and American colonies establishing relations with various firms including Willing & Morris of Philadelphia. Was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1761. Also served as sheriff of King and Queen County, colonel of its militia, and vestryman at his church. Though a more right of center guy, he signed the First Virginia Association to protest the Townshend duties as well as the fourth one which authorized local committees of safety as well as a volunteer militia. In 1774, when the colony’s gunpowder and flintlocks were seized, he negotiated a compromise between Patrick Henry and his own father-in-law and averted a crisis. Was elected to the Continental Congress in 1775 after the death of Peyton Randolph.

Significant Roles: Though he initially opposed the Declaration of Independence as premature, but eventually signed it. Attracted criticism from the revolutionaries with his pamphlet, Address to the Convention, which was a reply to John Adams’s Thoughts on Government. His Chericoke House would burn down in 1776 shortly before Christmas and would move to the Grove House of West Point, Virginia. Invested a great deal of his wealth in the American Revolution such as loaning money as well as funding shipping and privateering (losing about half of his 14 ships). Was censured in 1777 for the Phoenix Affair in which one of his ships seized a neutral Portuguese vessel from Brazil. Sold corned meat and tobacco for weapons, ammunition, salt, wheat, cloth, and other trade goods. Had some of his plantations destroyed by the British during the war. In addition to the debts of his brother and father as well as through his poor agricultural business practices, he also accumulated war debts from the Continental Congress as well as Robert Morris.

Ultimate Fate: In 1786, he sold his plantation and settled in a smaller house in Richmond. Sued Robert Morris for 28,257 pounds in 1787 (which he won, but wouldn’t get the payout as we know about the land speculating Robert Morris). In 1791, he purchased Strawberry Hill for his wife which he conveyed to his sons. Served 2 terms in Virginia’s Council of State in 1785 and 1793. Died at his Richmond Home. May have been buried in Chericoke.

Trivia: Owned at least 12,000 acres and 165 slaves by the 1760s. Has a county in West Virginia named after him. May be the signer with the most descendants. Great-grandson was a Governor of Kentucky, US Senator, and president of the American Bar Association.

47. William Hooper

As a Declaration of Independence signer, William Hooper had the makings of an unlikely patriot since he once worked as an attorney for the colonial government and was dragged in the streets by an angry mob. But as a patriot, he went through a lot since the British burned his homes in Wilmington and Finian which led him to depend on friends for food, shelter, and medical care, especially after contracting malaria.

As a Declaration of Independence signer, William Hooper had the makings of an unlikely patriot since he once worked as an attorney for the colonial government and was dragged in the streets by an angry mob. But as a patriot, he went through a lot since the British burned his homes in Wilmington and Finian which led him to depend on friends for food, shelter, and medical care, especially after contracting malaria.

Lived: (1742-1790) He was 34 at the signing and 48 at his death.

Family: Son of the Reverend William Hooper and Mary Dennie. Father was a Scottish minister. Married Anne Clark in 1767 and had 3 children.

State: North Carolina

Occupation: Lawyer, planter, and landowner

Early Life: Born in Boston. Educated in the Boston Latin School and Harvard University where he graduated with honors in 1760. Studied law under James Otis and was admitted to the bar in 1764. Decided to move to Wilmington, North Carolina because Massachusetts had too many lawyers. Once he was there, he worked as a circuit lawyer for Cape Fear and built a highly respected reputation among the wealthy farmers and fellow lawyers in the area. Represented the colonial government in several cases. In 1770, he was appointed the Deputy Attorney General of North Carolina. Initially supported the British colonial government as well as worked with the colonial governor to suppress a rebellious group known as the Regulators. It was reported that these guys dragged him through the streets of Hillsborough during a riot in 1770. He then advised to send as much force as necessary to stamp out the rebels and eve accompanied the troops at the Battle of Alamance in 1771. But soon his support for the colonial government began to erode even though the Patriots found him harder to accept and even called him a Loyalist. In 1773, he was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly where he became an opponent to colonial attempts to pass laws regulating the provincial courts. In 1774, he was appointed to North Carolina’s Committee of Correspondence. That same year, he was appointed delegate to the Continental Congress.

Significant Roles: Though he missed the vote for independence divvying his time between Philadelphia and setting up a new government in North Carolina, he signed the Declaration of Independence anyway. While the British attempted to capture him during the Revolution, he and his family moved to Wilmington since his estate at Finian was vulnerable to attacks. However, in 1781, the British captured Wilmington where General Cornwallis and his troops fell back after the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Hooper found himself separated from his family. In addition, the British burned down both of his estates and he was forced to rely on friends for food and shelter as well as being nursed back to health after contracting malaria. When reunited, he settled with his family in Hillsborough.

Ultimate Fate: After the Revolution, he returned to his law practice but lost favor in politics due to his Federalist stance due to his influential connections, his mistrust of the lower class, and his widely criticized soft dealings with Loyalists. Appointed federal judge in 1786 to mediate a border dispute between New York and Massachusetts. In 1787-1788, he campaigned heavily for North Carolina to ratify the US Constitution but he became quite ill. Currently interred at Guilford Courthouse National Military Ground. Hillsborough home still stands as a National Historic Site.

Trivia: Has an impressive 19 ft monument with his own statue at his final resting place.

48. Joseph Hewes

A Quaker merchant who didn't mind war and owned slaves, Joseph Hewes also contributed significantly to the Continental Navy where he lent his fleet of ships that he outfitted as well as recruited the captains. John Paul Jones was one of his picks.

A Quaker merchant who didn’t mind war and owned slaves, Joseph Hewes also contributed significantly to the Continental Navy where he lent his fleet of ships that he outfitted as well as recruited the captains. John Paul Jones was one of his picks.

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

Family: Son of Aaron Hewes and Providence Worth Hewes. Parents were Quakers who immigrated to New Jersey. Never married or had any children because his fiancée died days before their wedding and wrote that he was a sad and lonely man who never wanted to remain a bachelor.

State: North Carolina

Occupation: Merchant

Early Life: Born in Princeton, New Jersey. Though he attended what is now Princeton there is no evidence he graduated. But he did apprentice under a merchant as well as became a successful one with a good name and strong reputation. Moved to Edenton, North Carolina at 30 and quickly won over the populace with his charm and honorable businesslike character. Elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in 1763. Was elected to the Continental Congress in 1774 because of his activism for the cause of American independence, which he had to be talked into by his constituents. Consequently, his state was among the early independence supporters.

Significant Roles: Though he knew that the majority of North Carolina wanted independence, he found it hard to convey his opinion in Congress without being laughed or scolded at. He was also constantly interrupted by those who disagreed with him, especially in the days leading up to the American Revolution. In 1776, he was appointed Secretary of the Naval Affairs Committee where John Adams said he, “laid the foundation, the cornerstone of the American Navy.” He also provided his extensive fleet of ships, outfitted them, and chose the most capable captains with John Paul Jones being one of them. In 1779, he retreated to New Jersey due to ailing health. Everyone in the Continental Congress attended his funeral and is buried in Philadelphia’s Christ Church Burial Ground.

Ultimate Fate: Hewes didn’t survive the Revolution.

Trivia: Kept a diary the last few years of his life. Despite not quite conforming to his Quaker beliefs (like advocating war and owning slaves), he still maintained a relationship with his family. In fact, he left sizable requests to his folks as well as to several Quaker institutions.

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