July 4, 1776 ~ South Carolina’s Signers of the Declaration
Today we celebrate the birthday of the United States of America as an independent nation.
On July 2, 1776 the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia voted in favor of independence from Great Britain. For 2-days, the assembled representatives debated the final text of a document that laid out the arguments for the divorce. Finally on July 4th after 86 mostly innocuous revisions had been made to the draft, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.
56 of the 58 delegates representing the 13 former colonies of British America would sign the final document beginning with John Hancock on August 2nd.
Four South Carolinian’s would lend their signature to the document on behalf of the Palmetto State, including the youngest signer of the Declaration.
So who were these signers?
Arthur Middleton (1742-1787)— was chosen to replace his more conservative father in the Continental Congress in 1776, but failed to attend most of the sessions. He was captured by the British after the Fall of Charleston in 1781 and was held captive for over a year in St. Augustine, Florida.
During the time of his incarceration, the British destroyed most of his property. After his release in 1780, Middleton returned to politics and served in the Virginia state legislature and was a trustee of the College of Charleston.
Edward Rutledge (1749-1800) — was the youngest of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was elected to the Continental Congress from 1774-76 and 1779; served as a captain in the Charleston Battalion of Artillery, a state legislator, Elector in several presidential elections, and Governor for South Carolina in 1798.
During the Revolutionary War, Rutledge was a militia captain involved in the campaigns at Port Royal Island and Charleston, South Carolina.
He was captured by the British in 1780 and held as a prisoner until 1781.
Thomas Lynch, Jr. (1749-1779)— was an aristocratic planter who was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence to die at the age of thirty.
He was as a lawyer and graduated from Cambridge University in England, and was elected to the Second Continental Congress to carry on the duties of his ill father.
Thomas Lynch Sr. and Thomas Lynch Jr. were the only father and son team to serve concurrently in the Continental Congress. Thomas Lynch, Jr. and his wife were enroute to France in 1779 when their ship was lost at sea.
Thomas Heyward, Jr. (1746-1809)—was a planter and lawyer and was one of three signers from South Carolina captured and imprisoned by the British.
He signed the Articles of Confederation while a member of the Continental Congress. He returned to South Carolina and became a judge and a member of the state legislature.
The British destroyed Heyward’s home at White Hall during the war and he was held prisoner until 1781.
After the war, he served two terms in the state legislature from 1782-1784. Thomas Heyward became the first President of the Agricultural Society of South Carolina.
We must never forget the courage and sacrifice made by these brave men of the Palmetto State men who literally put their names on the line to forage a new nation conceived in liberty.
Happy 4th of the July.