As we discuss the 56 signers of The Declaration of Independence, we left off with John Adams last time. This week let’s start with Sam Adams, whom most will know as brewery today. Sam was a prankster and terrible thorn in the side of the British. He organized both the “Sons of Liberty” and “The Boston Tea Party.” His family brewery gave him the moniker “Sammy the Maltster” but it went under soon after he took charge of it after his father’s death.
It was Sam Adams who was almost captured along with his wealthy friend John Hancock one night as they stayed outside Boston. It was the night of Paul Revere’s famous ride and at that point war broke out and patriots either went underground or to war. It was Sam Adams who looked so bad in his day-to-day clothes, his friends chose to buy him new clothes to wear to Congress.
When we spoke of John Hancock in an earlier writing we said that we associate him with the large eloquent signature at the top of the list of signers. He was not only President of Congress but also the 30 year old heir of a shipping business that made him an overnight millionaire. He was known locally as a man who shared and cared for community.
What isn’t so obvious in John’s dark side is his vanity. He was quite powerful with his recent success and two things make you wonder if he could escape his own vanity. First, why did he sign the way he did? As President of Congress he should have signed first but did he have to sign so largely?
The second issue is much bigger and could have changed history. It seems that with his power status, Hancock thought that when we were looking for a leader of The Continental Army it should have been him. Since his only military service had been parading around town with his buddies dressed as the “Royal Honor Guard” in the spiffy uniforms (which Hancock had bought) Congress went with a guy named George who had been fighting the French and Indians in a place called OH-IO (in case you missed it, it goes like this – OH -IO, OH-IO, OH-IO all the way around the stadium).
When England put Hancock on their hit list and offered a 500 pound reward, he dared England to double it. The truth is, with all his rum-running wealth, he had more to lose than anyone else by signing The Declaration of Independence if we lost. If we won; however, he had more to win. The Patriots weren’t stupid. They were always tired of oppression and looking for self-improvement and freedom of choice.
Then there was John Whipple, born in Maine, and represented New Hampshire. He was so able-bodied that he went to sea as a lad and was a captain at 21. His slave trading ships took him to Africa and the West Indies so he had a few slaves too. One of these slaves, “Prince,” went to war with him against the British. It would make you wonder who’s freedom “Prince” thought he was fighting for.
Samuel Huntington is an interesting signer because he is considered by some logic to be the first president of this great country. He was a true Yankee – dignified, reserved, religious and formal. He was a self-made man, born the oldest of ten, and went from farm to barrel-making to lawyer. He represented Connecticut in The Continental Congress and became the “President of the United States in Congress Assembled.” Nine others held that title prior to G.W serving his presidency. You have to decide this as to when was America Colonies and when was she a country with states or you go by The Articles of Confederation. If you go with the former, you say that America was a colony wanting to be a country until she won it but if you look at the latter, The Articles will clearly show that those early presidents of the Continental Congress had the same duties a G.W., both domestic and foreign.
Roger Sherman presented Connecticut in Congress and signed everything. He signed The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Association, The Articles of Confederation, and The Constitution. He is the only person to have signed all 4 documents. He was one of 5 on the committee delegated to draft The Declaration of Independence, along with Ben, Tom, John, and Robert Livingston. Sherman was 55 as he signed The Declaration. He was also the only minister and the only cobbler to sign. This cobbler became a lawyer, married and had seven kids with Elizabeth. She died and left him with 7 kids and being one of two bachelors to sign. I believe that it’s the little things in the lives of the signers that make them the human interest story they are.
Dudley Wooten is the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery and can be contacted at 740-820-8210.