This is the second in a series of articles concerning the signers of The Declaration of Independence. There were 56 signers. How many can we name? Most of us know an amazingly small portion of facts on this American gem.
The signers included statesmen, soldiers, slave holders, and scoundrels but they all were patrons who knew they were signing their life away, if captured by the British.
As to their identity, most of us would be correct in saying that Tom Jefferson signed his own masterpiece. Many would suppose that his supporting cast of John Adams and Ben Franklin in the writing committee signed it. The huge signature of John Hancock, the President of Congress, at the top of the list is hard to miss. It’s bold enough to make sure King George could read without his spectacles and it is of such eloquent handwriting that his name is usually synonymous with National Handwriting Week. That may conclude the vast majority of correct guessing for most of us.
How many of us would guess George Washington, Tom Paine, or Paul Revere? Those would be likely suspects, but wrong. There was another guy named Charles Thompson who was Secretary of Congress. He and Hancock were the only two signers of the original Declaration of Independence in August of 1776. Two hundred copies of this document were circulated around the colonies. Thompson witnessed the 56 signatures on the revised final draft of America’s birth certificate but his signature isn’t among them. He was instrumental in the patriot movement and is said to be the “57th signer.”
The actual list of signers would be:
- New Hampshire – Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
- Massachusetts – John Adams, Samuel Adams, Elbridge Gerry, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine
- Rhode Island – William Ellery, Stephen Hopkins
- Connecticut – Samuel Huntington, Roger Sherman, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
- New York – Phillip Livingston, William Floyd, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
- New Jersey – Abraham Clark, John Hart, Francis Hopkinson, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon
- Pennsylvania – John Morton, Ben Franklin, James Wilson, Robert Morris, George Clymer, George
- Ross, Benjamin Rush, George Taylor, James Smith
- Delaware – Ceasar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
- Maryland – Charles Carrol, Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone
- Virginia – Carter Braxton, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, Francis
- Lightfoot Lee
- North Carolina – Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, John Penn
- South Carolina – Thomas Lynch Jr., Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward Jr.
- Georgia – Lyman Hall, George Walton, Button Gwinne II
There’s your 56 autographs on the Declaration of Independence. They are both some you’ve heard of and otherwise. A very interesting fact in this matter is that with all the assumption that “treason” and “hanging” were in their future. It didn’t happen. There were plenty of hardships suffered but none were caught and hanged for signing. I think that this is an amazing fact.
It’s also fact that these 56 brave souls risked everything when they signed and that’s why they’re worth knowing more about. Next time we will go into their personal past and destinies.
Dudley Wooten is the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery and can be reached at 740-820-8210.