Matthew Tilghman, president of the Annapolis Convention

February 17, 2015



Matthew Tilghman was an American planter and Revolutionary leader from Maryland, who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1776.


Matthew was born on the family plantation, The Hermitage, near Centreville in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, on February 17, 1718. He was educated through private tutoring before moving to Talbot County on the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay. Tilghman married Anne Lloyd (1723–1794) on April 6, 1741. The couple took up residence on his plantation, known as Rich Neck.

Tilghman’s first public service was as a Justice of the Peace for Talbot County. In 1751 he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. He would serve there through the remainder of its service to the Colony, although in 1760 and 1761 he represented Queen Anne’s County. Maryland, like several other colonies, permitted a representative to be elected by any district in which he owned property. He was elected the Speaker of the House from 1773 to its end in 1775.

In the early days of the American Revolution, Tilghman was in the forefront of the political revolution in Maryland. He was an early member of the colony’s committee of correspondence. For three years (1774–1776) he effectively headed the revolution in Maryland. He was the chairman of the Committee of Safety, president of the revolutionary assembly known as the Annapolis Convention, and the head of the Maryland delegation to the Continental Congress.

While in the Congress, Tilghman debated and supported the Declaration of Independence. He voted for its final approval, but was replaced in the Congress by Charles Carroll of Carrollton before a copy was signed. Matthew had to return home to preside over a longer session of the Annapolis Convention that established a new government for Maryland. Besides being President of the Convention he headed the Committee that drafted the Charter of Rights and Plan of Government that was Maryland’s first constitution.

When the new state government went into effect later in 1776, Tilghman was elected to the state Senate. He would serve there until 1783, and from 1780 to 1783 he was President of the Senate.

In 1783 he retired from public life, and attended to his properties. Matthew died at his home Rich Neck, near Claiborne, Maryland on May 4, 1790 and was buried in a family cemetery there. His home, now known as Rich Neck Manor still stands on Rich Neck Road north of Claiborne. The home, listed as Sherwood Manor, was added on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.[1][2] It is private property.

Matthew Tilghman was the grandson of one of the early settlers in Maryland. His grandfather, Richard Tilghman (1626–1675) had been a surgeon in the British navy and established the family plantation at the Hermitage. His father was also named Richard Tilghman (1672–1738) was a planter.

Matthew and his wife Anna Lloyd Tilghman (1723–1794) had five children: Margaret (1742–1817), Matthew Ward (1743–1753), Richard (1747–1806), Lloyd (1749–1811), and Anna Maria (1755–1843). Margaret married Charles Carroll, Barrister. Richard served as a major in militia of Queen Anne’s County during the Revolution. Anna Maria married her cousin Tench Tilghman on June 9, 1783.


  1. “National Register Information System”. National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service
  2. “Maryland Historical Trust”. National Register of Historic Places: Sherwood Manor. Maryland Historical Trust.

John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence

February 15, 2015



John Witherspoon was a signatory of the Declaration of Independence as a representative of New Jersey. As president of the College of New Jersey (1768–94; now Princeton University), he trained many leaders of the early nation and was the only active clergyman and the only college president to sign the Declaration.[1] John Witherspoon is an ancestor of actress Reese Witherspoon.[2][3][4][5]


John Witherspoon was born on February 15, 1723, at Gifford, a parish of Yester, at East Lothian, Scotland, as the eldest child of the Reverend James Alexander Witherspoon and Anne Walker,[6] a descendant of John Welsh of Ayr and John Knox.[7] This latter claim of Knox descent though ancient in origin is long disputed and without primary documentation.[8] He attended the Haddington Grammar School, and obtained a Master of Arts from the University of Edinburgh in 1739. He remained at the University to study divinity.

Witherspoon was a staunch Protestant, nationalist, and supporter of republicanism. Consequently, he was opposed to the Roman Catholic Legitimist Jacobite rising of 1745-1746. Following the Jacobite victory at the Battle of Falkirk (1746), he was briefly imprisoned at Doune Castle,[9] which had a long-term effect on his health.

He became a Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) minister at Beith, Ayrshire (1745–1758), where he married Elizabeth Montgomery of Craighouse. They had ten children, with five surviving to adulthood.

From 1758-1768, he was minister of the Laigh kirk, Paisley (Low Kirk). Witherspoon became prominent within the Church as an Evangelical opponent of the Moderate Party.[10] During his two pastorates he wrote three well-known works on theology, notably the satire “Ecclesiastical Characteristics” (1753), which opposed the philosophical influence of Francis Hutcheson.[11] He was awarded a Master of Arts, Bachelor of Divinity, and Doctorate of Divinity from the University of St Andrews, Fife.

At the urging of Benjamin Rush and Richard Stockton, whom he met in Paisley,[12] Witherspoon finally accepted another invitation (he had earlier turned one down in 1766) to become President and head professor of the small Presbyterian College of New Jersey in Princeton. To fulfill this, he and his family emigrated to New Jersey in 1768 at the age of 45. He became the sixth President of the college, later known as Princeton University.

Some of the courses he taught personally were Eloquence or Belles Lettres, Chronology (history), and Divinity. Of his courses, none was more important than Moral Philosophy (a required course). An advocate of Natural Law within a Christian and republican Cosmology, which Witherspoon considered Moral Philosophy vital for ministers, lawyers, and those holding positions in government (magistrates). He was firm but good-humored in his leadership. Witherspoon instituted a number of reforms, including modeling the syllabus and university structure after that used at the University of Edinburgh and other Scottish universities. Witherspoon was very popular among both faculty and students, among them James Madison and Aaron Burr.

Upon his arrival at then College of New Jersey at Princeton, Witherspoon found the school in debt, instruction had become weak, and the library collection did not meet current student needs. At once he began fund-raising locally and back home in Scotland, added three hundred of his own books to the library, and began the purchase of scientific equipment: the Rittenhouse orrery, many maps and a “terrestial” globe. He also firmed up entrance requirements. These things helped the school be more on par with Harvard and Yale. According to Herbert Hovenkamp, his most lasting contribution was the initiation of the Scottish Common-Sense Realism, which he had learned by reading Thomas Reid and two of his expounders Dugald Stewart and James Beattie.[13]

As the College’s primary occupation at the time was training ministers, Witherspoon was a major leader of the early Presbyterian church in America. Witherspoon also helped to organize Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, N.J.


by Ole Erekson, Engraver, c1876, Library of Congress

Witherspoon was a prominent evangelical Presbyterian minister in Scotland before becoming the sixth president of Princeton in 1768. Upon his arrival, he transformed a college designed predominantly to train clergymen into a school that would equip the leaders of a new Protestant national generation. Witherspoon made fundamental changes to the moral philosophy curriculum, strengthened the college’s commitment to natural philosophy an early form of science tempered with Christian principles, and positioned Princeton in the larger transatlantic world of the republic of letters. Although a proponent of Christian values, Witherspoon’s common sense approach to the Public morality of civil magistrates was more influenced by the Enlightenment ethics of Scottish philosophers Francis Hutcheson and Thomas Reid than the Christian virtue of Jonathan Edwards. In regards to civil magistrates, Witherspoon thus believed moral judgment should pursued as a science. In this regard, he held to old Roman Republic concepts of virtue in determining moral leadership in civil magistrates. It could be cultivated in his students or deduced through the development of the moral sense—an ethical compass instilled by God in all human beings and developed through religious education (Reid) or civil sociability (Hutcheson). Contrary to modern distinctions of morality, Witherspoon saw morality as having two distinct components: Spiritual and Temporal. Civil government owed more to the latter than the former in Witherspoon’s Presbyterian doctrine. Thus, public morality owed more to the natural moral laws of the Enlightenment than traditional sources of Christian ethics. However, as a Christian, Witherspoon saw the impossibility of maintaining public morality or virtue in the citizenry without an effective religion. In this sense, the temporal principles of morality required a religious component which derived its authority from the spiritual. Therefore, public religion was a vital necessity in maintaining the public morals. Thus, while “public morals” were derived from natural virtue, its ultimate source lay in the public religion of Christianity. However, in this framework, it was not incongruent for non-Christian societies to have virtue, which by his definition, could be found in natural law. Witherspoon, in accordance with the Scottish moral sense philosophy, taught that all human beings—Christian or otherwise—could be virtuous. Nonetheless, in keeping with the direction of destiny taught by the English Reformation, Scottish Reformation, and Irish Reformation colonial founders, he saw the new American national leaders, guided by their Christian religion, natural virtues, and republican sense of government, would be the most Protestant, Christian, Free, and therefore noble nation, a light to the world. Many of his students, including James Madison, Aaron Burr, Philip Freneau, William Bradford, and Hugh Henry Brackenridge, played prominent roles in the development of the new nation.[14]

As a native Scotsman, long wary of the power British Crown, Witherspoon saw the growing centralization of government, progressive ideology of colonial authorities, and establishment of Episcopacy authority as a threat to the Liberties of the colonies. Of particular interest to Witherspoon was the crown’s growing interference in the local and colonial affairs which previously had been the prerogatives and rights of the American authorities. When the crown began to give additional authority to its appointed Episcopacy over Church affairs, British authorities hit a nerve in the Presbyterian Scot, who saw such events in the same lens as his Scottish Covenanters. Soon, Witherspoon came to support the Revolution, joining the Committee of Correspondence and Safety in early 1774. His 1776 sermon “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men” was published in many editions and he was elected to the Continental Congress as part of the New Jersey delegation,[15] appointed Congressional Chaplain by President Hancock, and in July 1776, voted to adopt the Virginia Resolution for Independence. In answer to an objection that the country was not yet ready for independence, according to tradition he replied that it “was not only ripe for the measure, but in danger of rotting for the want of it.”


In John Trumbull’s famous painting, Witherspoon is the second seated figure from the (viewer’s) right among those shown in the background facing the large table.[16]

Witherspoon served in Congress from June 1776 until November 1782 and became one of its most influential members and a workhorse of prodigious energy. He served on over 100 committees, most notably the powerful standing committees, the board of war and the committee on secret correspondence or foreign affairs. He spoke often in debate; helped draft the Articles of Confederation; helped organize the executive departments; played a major role in shaping foreign policy; and drew up the instructions for the peace commissioners. He fought against the flood of paper money, and opposed the issuance of bonds without provision for their amortization. “No business can be done, some say, because money is scarce,” he wrote. He also served twice in the New Jersey Legislature, and strongly supported the adoption of the United States Constitution during the New Jersey ratification debates.

In November 1778, as British forces neared, Witherspoon closed and evacuated the College of New Jersey. The main building, Nassau Hall, was badly damaged and his papers and personal notes were lost. Witherspoon was responsible for its rebuilding after the war, which caused him great personal and financial difficulty.

In 1780 he was elected to a one-year term in the New Jersey Legislative Council representing Somerset County.


John Witherspoon Statue, Princeton


John Witherspoon Statue, Paisley, Scotland

Witherspoon had suffered eye injuries and was blind by 1792. He died in 1794 on his farm Tusculum, just outside of Princeton, and is buried in the Princeton Cemetery.

Witherspoon has been viewed as being “not a profound scholar” but “an able college president”.[17]

From among his students came 37 judges, three of whom made it to the U.S. Supreme Court; 10 Cabinet officers; 12 members of the Continental Congress, 28 U.S. senators, and 49 United States congressmen. His most prominent students were Aaron Burr and James Madison. When the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America met in 1789, 52 of the 188 delegates had studied under Witherspoon.

The President’s House in Princeton, New Jersey, his home from 1768 to 1779 is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. A bronze statue at Princeton University by Scottish sculptor Alexander Stoddart is the twin of one outside The University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, Scotland.[18] In Princeton today, a University dormitory built in 1877, the street running north from the University’s main gate, and the local public middle school all bear his name. Another statue stands near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., at the intersections of Connecticut Avenue, N and 18th Streets.

Paisley, Scotland honored Witherspoon’s memory by naming a newly constructed street in the town center after him, in honor of his having lived in Paisley for a portion of his adult life.

A son-in-law was Congressman David Ramsay, who married Frances Witherspoon on 18 March 1783. Another daughter, Ann, married Samuel Stanhope Smith, who succeeded Witherspoon as president of Princeton in 1795.

The Witherspoon Society is a body of laypeople within the Presbyterian Church (USA) in existence since 1979 that is activist in liberal and progressive causes that takes its name from John Witherspoon.[19]

A merchant ship, the SS John Witherspoon, saw service during the second world war. It was part of convoy PQ-17, and was sunk by a German U-boat in the North Atlantic on July 6, 1942.

The Witherspoon Institute is an independent research center that works to enhance public understanding of the moral foundations of free and democratic societies. Located in Princeton, it promotes the application of fundamental principles of republican government and ordered liberty to contemporary problems through a variety of centers, research programs, seminars, consultations, and publications.[20]

Witherspoon was portrayed in the musical 1776 by Edmund Lyndeck in the 1969 stage play and by James Noble in the 1972 film.


  1. “Princeton Presidents”. Princeton University.
  2. In context: Vermont Historical Society news and notes, Volume 8, Issue 4 Page 8
  3. Film review, Issues 62-63 Orpheus Pub., 2006 p. 55
  4. Biography Today Annual Cumulation 2003: Profiles of People of Interest to Young Reader p. 448
  5. Reese Witherspoon: The Biography by Lauren Brown. Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2007
  6. Witherspoon’s mother’s name has alternatively been spelled as “Anna Walker”.
  7. Maclean, John, Jr. (1877). History of the College of New Jersey: From Its Origin in 1746 to the Commencement of 1854. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: J. B. Lippincott & Co.. Vol. 1, p384.
  8. Waters (1910). Witherspoon, Knox. The New England historical and genealogical register, Volume 64.
  9. “John Witherspoon”. The History of the Presbyterian Church. Archived from the original on February 20, 2008.
  10. Herman, Arthur (2003). The Scottish Enlightenment. Fourth Estate. p. 186. ISBN 1841152765.
  11. Macintyre, Alasdair (1988). Whose Justice? Which Rationality?. Duckworth. p. 244. ISBN 0715621998.
  12. Rampant Scotland “Rampant Scotland, John Witherspoon”
  13. Science and Religion in America, 1800-1860, Herbert Hovenkamp, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978 ISBN 0-8122-7748-1 p. 5, 9
  14. Jeffry H. Morrison, John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic (2005)
  15. Herman, Arthur (2003). The Scottish Enlightenment. Fourth Estate. p. 237. ISBN 1841152765.
  16. Key to Trumbull’s picture
  17. Charles W. Snell (February 8, 1971). National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Maclean House / President’s House (1756-1879) / Dean’s House (1879-1968)PDF (32 KB). National Park Service
  18. Princeton University “Statue Unveiling”
  19. Witherspoon Society Website
  20. The Witherspoon Institute


  • Doctor John Witherspoon, Washington, D.C.
  • *Burns, David G. C. (December 2005). “The Princeton Connection”. The Scottish Genealogist 52 (4). ISSN 0300-337X.
  • Collins, Varnum L. President Witherspoon: A Biography, 2 vols. (1925, repr. 1969)
  • Ashbel Green, ed. The Works of the Rev. John Witherspoon, 4 vols. (1802, repr. with a new introduction by L. Gordon Tait, 2003)
  • Morrison, Jeffrey H. John Witherspoon and the Founding of the American Republic (2005)
  • Pomfret, John E.. ‘”Witherspoon, John” in Dictionary of American Biography (1934)
  • Tait, L. Gordon. The Piety of John Witherspoon: Pew, Pulpit, and Public Forum (2001)
  • Moses Coit Tyler “President Witherspoon in the American Revolution” The American Historical Review Volume 1, Issue 1, July 1896. pp. 671–679. [1]
  • Woods, David W.. John Witherspoon (1906)

Richard Henry Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation

January 20, 2015



Richard Henry Lee (January 20, 1732 – June 19, 1794) was an American statesman from Virginia best known for the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies’ independence from Great Britain. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation and his famous resolution of June 1776 led to the Declaration of Independence, which Lee signed. He also served a one-year term as the President of the Continental Congress, and was a U.S. Senator from Virginia from 1789 to 1792, serving during part of that time as one of the first Presidents pro tempore of the United States Senate. He was also the great uncle of famous Confederate general Robert E. Lee.


Lee at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

In 1757, Lee was appointed justice of the peace for Westmoreland County. In 1758 he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, where he met Patrick Henry. An early advocate of independence, Lee became one of the first to create Committees of Correspondence among the many independence-minded Americans in the various colonies. In 1766, almost ten years before the American Revolutionary War, Lee is credited with having authored the Westmoreland Resolution which was publicly signed by prominent landowners who met at Leedstown, Westmoreland County, Virginia on 27 Feb 1766. This resolution was signed by four brothers of George Washington as well as Gilbert Campbell.

In August 1774, Lee was chosen as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. In Lee’s Resolution on the 7th of June 1776 during the Second Continental Congress, Lee put forth the motion to the Continental Congress to declare Independence from Great Britain, which read (in part):

Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Lee had returned to Virginia by the time Congress voted on and adopted the Declaration of Independence, but he signed the document when he returned to Congress.


“These United colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”[1]

“To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”[2]

“The first maxim of a man who loves liberty, should be never to grant to rulers an atom of power that is not most clearly and indispensably necessary for the safety and well being of society.”[3]


Lee Family Coat of Arms

Political offices

  • Justice of the Peace for Westmoreland County, Virginia (1757)
  • Virginia House of Burgesses (1758–1775)
  • Member of the Continental Congress (1774–1779, 1784–1785, 1787)
  • A Signer of the Declaration of Independence (1776)
  • Virginia State House of Burgesses (1777, 1780, 1785)
  • United States Senator from Virginia (March 4, 1789 – October 8, 1792)
  • President pro tempore during the Second Congress (April 18 – October 8, 1792)

Richard married first on December 5, 1757, Anne Aylett (1738–1768), daughter of William Aylett and Elizabeth Eskridge (1719), who married secondly, Dr. James Steptoe, Col. (1709–1757). Anne died December 12, 1768 at Chantille, Westmoreland Co., Virginia. The couple had four surviving children:

  1. Thomas Lee (1758–1805).
  2. Col. Ludwell Lee, Esq. (1760–1836), who married Flora Lee (1771–1795), daughter of Hon. Philip Ludwell Lee, Sr., Esq. (1727–1775) and Elizabeth Steptoe (1743–1789), who married secondly, Philip Richard Fendall I (1734–1805).
  3. Mary Lee (1764–1795).
  4. Hannah Lee (1765–1801), who married Hon. Corbin Washington (1764–1799), son of Col. John Augustine Washington (1736–1787) and Hannah Bushrod (1738–1801).
  5. Mary belle Lee (1768), who died in infancy.

Richard re-married in June or July 1769 to Anne (Gaskins) Pinckard. The couple had five surviving children:

  1. Anne Lee (1770–1804), who married Hon. Charles Lee (1758–1815), U.S. Attorney General under John Adams. Charles was the son of Maj. Gen. Henry Lee II (1730–1787) and Lucy Grymes (1734–1792).
  2. Henrietta “Harriotte” Lee (1773–1803), who married Hon. George Richard Lee Turberville (c. 1770), son of Hon. George Richard Turberville, Jr. (1742–1792) and Martha Corbin (1742).
  3. Sarah Caldwell “Sally” Lee (1775–1837), who married Edmund Jennings Lee I (1772–1843), son of Maj. Gen. Henry Lee II (1730–1787) and Lucy Grymes (1734–1792).
  4. Cassius Lee (1779–1850).
  5. Francis Lightfoot Lee II (1782–1850), who married Jane Fitzgerald (died 1816), daughter of Col. John Fitzgerald and Jane Digges. (grandparents of Francis Preston Blair Lee)
  6. ? Lee (1784), who died in infancy.
  7. ? Lee (1786), who died in infancy.

Richard honored his brother, Francis Lightfoot Lee (another signer of the Articles of Confederation and the Declaration of Independence), by naming his youngest son after him.

The younger Francis married Jane Fitzgerald on 9 Feb 1810.[4] In 1811 he purchased the estate Sully in Fairfax County, Virginia from his second cousin Richard Bland Lee.[5] Jane died on 25 Jul 1816, shortly after the birth on their fifth child.


  1. Jane Elizabeth Lee (January 1, 1811 – June 25, 1837); married Henry T. Harrison
  2. Samuel Philips Lee (February 13, 1812 – June 5, 1897); Rear Admiral; married Elizabeth Blair, daughter of Francis Preston Blair
  3. John Fitzgerald Lee (May 5, 1813 – June 17, 1840)
  4. Arthur Lee (February 18, 1815 – August 3, 1841)
  5. Frances Ann Lee (June 29, 1816 – December 5, 1889); married Goldsborough Robinson[6]

Richard was the son of Col. Thomas Lee, Hon. (1690–1750) of “Stratford Hall”, Westmoreland Co., Virginia. Thomas married Hannah Harrison Ludwell (1701–1750).

Hannah was the daughter of Col. Philip Ludwell II (1672–1726) of “Greenspring”, and Hannah Harrison (1679–1731).

Thomas was the son of Col. Richard Lee II, Esq., “the scholar” (1647–1715) and Laetitia Corbin (c. 1657 – 1706).

Laetitia was the daughter of Richard’s neighbor and, Councilors, Hon. Henry Corbin, Sr. (1629–1676) and Alice (Eltonhead) Burnham (c. 1627 – 1684).

Richard II, was the son of Col. Richard Lee I, Esq., “the immigrant” (1618–1664) and Anne Constable (c. 1621 – 1666).

Anne was the daughter of Thomas Constable and a ward of Sir John Thoroughgood.

Jason Barfield II (1626–1700)


Lee County, Georgia is named in his honor. Richard Henry Lee Elementary School in Rossmoor, California and Richard Henry Lee School in Chicago, Illinois are also named in his honor. Richard Henry Lee Elementary in Glen Burnie, Maryland is also named after him.

Richard Henry Lee is a key character in the musical 1776. He was portrayed by Ron Holgate in both the Broadway cast and in the 1972 film. The character performs a song called “The Lees of Old Virginia,” in which he explains how he knows he will be able to convince the Virginia House of Burgesses to allow him to propose independence.


  1. Bailey, Thomas A., Cohen, Lizabeth, and Kennedy, David M. The American Pageant. Thirteenth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006
  2. Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic (1787–1788), Letter XVIII
  3. Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic (1787–1788), Introduction
  4. Alexander, Frederick Warren (1912), Stratford Hall and the Lees Connected with Its History, F. W. Alexander, pp. 145–146,
  5. Gamble, Robert S. Sully: Biography of a House (Chantilly, Virginia: Sully Foundation Ltd., 1973)
  6. Lee, Edmund Jennings (1895), Lee of Virginia, 1642–1892, Franklin Printing Company, pp. 398, ISBN 9780806306049,


Philip Livingston, signer of the Declaration of Independence

January 15, 2015



Philip Livingston was an American merchant and statesman from New York City. He was a delegate for New York to the Continental Congress from 1775 to 1778, and signed the Declaration of Independence.


Philip Livingston, signer of the Declaration of Independence

He was born January 15, 1716, in Albany, New York, to Philip (1686–1749), 2nd Lord of the Manor. Philip, however, was Lord Livingston’s fourth son, and thus could not inherit. The wife of the 2nd Lord of the Manor was a daughter of Albany, New York, Mayor Pieter Van Brugh. On 14 April 1720 he married Christina Ten Broeck, daughter of Dirk and Margarita (Cuyler) Ten Broeck. Their son Philip Philip Livingston’s daughter Christina (1774–1841) married John Navarre Macomb (1774–1810) who was the son of Alexander and Catherine (Navarre) Macomb and brother of Major General Alexander Macomb.


Philip Livingston, artist unknown

Philip attended and graduated from Yale College in 1737. He then settled in New York City and pursued a mercantile career. He became prominent as a merchant, and was elected Alderman in 1754. He was reelected to that office each year until 1763. Also in 1754, he went as a delegate to the Albany Congress. There, he joined delegates from several other colonies to negotiate with Indians and discuss common plans for dealing with the French and Indian War. They also developed a Plan of Union for the Colonies which was, however, rejected by King George.

Livingston became an active promoter of efforts to raise and fund troops for the war, and in 1759 was elected to the Province of New York assembly. He would hold that office until 1769, serving as Speaker in 1768. In October 1765, he attended the Stamp Act Congress, which produced the first formal protest to the crown as a prelude to the American Revolution. Philip became strongly aligned with the radical block in that Congress. He joined New York City’s Committee of Correspondence to continue communication with leaders in the other colonies, and New York City’s Committee of Sixty.


by Ole Erekson, Engraver, c1876, Library of Congress

When New York established the New York Provincial Congress in 1775, he was the President. They also selected him as one of their delegates to the Continental Congress that year. In the Congress, he strongly supported separation from Great Britain and in 1776 joined other delegates in the Declaration of Independence.

After the adoption of the new New York State Constitution, he was appointed to the New York State Senate (Southern D.) in 1777, while continuing to sit in the Continental Congress. He died suddenly on June 12, 1778, while attending the sixth session of Congress in York, Pennsylvania and is buried in the Prospect Hills Cemetery there.


Philip Livingston’s grave monument in Prospect Hill Cemetery at York, Pennsylvania.

Livingston was a Presbyterian, a Mason, and an original promoter of King’s College, which became Columbia University.


  • Philip Livingston at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Biography by Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, 1856
  • Philip Livingston at Find a Grave

General William Russell, Virginia soldier, statesman, and frontiersman

January 14, 2015



William Russell was an army officer and a prominent settler of the southwestern region of the Virginia Colony. He led an early attempt to settle the “Kentuckee Territory” (then part of Virginia). He was a justice of Fincastle County, Virginia. Russell aided in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. During the American Revolution, he fought in the Battle of Point Pleasant (1774) and the Battle of Yorktown (1781). While a representative in the Virginia House of Delegates, Russell was noted for his stance opposing the 1785 State of Franklin petition for admittance into the United States.


Born in 1735, William Russell was educated at the College of William & Mary. Russell’s first wife was Tabitha Adams, who died in 1776. His second wife, Elizabeth Henry —a sister of Patrick Henry —survived him by more than thirty years. Elizabeth was important in the early history of the Methodist Church in America. Many descendants of Russell lived in Russell and Scott Counties in Virginia.

He was an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Russell led a early attempt to settle the area that would become Kentucky —then part of Fincastle County, Virginia —in September 1773. The party of frontiersmen was ambushed by Native Americans and Russell’s eldest son, along with the eldest son of Daniel Boone, was killed. After the battle, the party became discouraged and turned back.

Russell was elected a justice of Fincastle County, Virginia. As a Virginia representative to the Continental Congress, where legend credits him with aiding in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Russell was serving in the Virginia House of Delegates at the time of his death.

In the American Revolutionary War, he participated in the 1774 Battle of Point Pleasant. He was promoted to Colonel in 1776. After the fall of Charleston in 1780, Russell was captured by the British and held prisoner. He was subsequently exchanged, and rejoined the Continental Line. Russell was present at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown in 1781. During this time, he was brevetted to the rank of Brigadier General, commanding the 5th Virginia Regiment, until it was disbanded on 15 November 1783.

William Russell died on January 14, 1793. His body now rests at Arlington National Cemetery.



  • Russell County, Virginia, and Russellville, Kentucky, are named for him.
  • Russell County, Kentucky, is named for his son William Russell (III).


  • William Russell and his Descendants by Anna Russell des Cognets, Lexington, KY, 1884
  • William Russell: a Revolutionary patriot of the Clinch Valley by Mary Katherine Thorp, Master’s Thesis, University of Virginia, 1936

Edward Rutledge, Federalist governor of South Carolina and signer of the Declaration of Independence

November 23, 2014



Edward Rutledge was an American politician and youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. He later served as the 39th Governor of South Carolina.


by Ole Erekson, Engraver, c1876, Library of Congress

Like his eldest brother John Rutledge, Edward was born in Charleston on November 23, 1749. He was the youngest of seven children (5 sons and 2 daughters) born to Dr. John Rutledge and Sarah Hext. His father was a physician and immigrant of Scots-Irish descent; his mother was born in South Carolina and was of English descent. Following his brothers John and Hugh he studied law in London at the Inns of Court. In 1772 he was admitted to the English bar (Middle Temple), and returned to Charleston to practice. He was married on 1 March 1774 to Henrietta Middleton (17 November 1750 – 22 April 1792), daughter of Henry Middleton. The couple had three children:

Maj. Henry Middleton Rutledge (5 April 1775 – 20 January 1844)

Edward Rutledge (20 March 1778 – 1780)

Sarah Rutledge (1782–1855)

Rutledge had a successful law practice with his partner, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. He became a leading citizen of Charleston, and owned more than 50 slaves.[1]

Along with his brother John, Rutledge represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress. He worked to have African Americans expelled from the Continental Army.[1] Although a firm supporter of colonial rights, he (as a delegate) was instructed initially to oppose Lee’s Resolution of independence; South Carolina’s leaders were unsure that the time was “ripe.”[2] By early July 1776, he was instructed to vote in favor. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no evidence that he opposed the anti-slavery clause in the Declaration. At age 26 he was the youngest to sign the Declaration of Independence.

He returned home in November 1776 to take a seat in the South Carolina Assembly. He served as a captain of artillery in the South Carolina militia, and fought at the Battle of Beaufort in 1779. The next year he was captured by the British in the fall of Charleston, and held prisoner until July 1781.


Edward Rutledge, 39th Governor of South Carolina

After his release he returned to the state assembly, where he served until 1796. He was a very active member, intent on the prosecution of British Loyalists. At times he served on as many nineteen committees. He also served as an elector, in 1788, 1792, and in 1796 when, despite his avowed allegiance to the Federalist party, he voted for Thomas Jefferson. He was then elected to the state Senate, twice, and in 1789 was elected Governor. This would be his last office. His health declining, he was barely able to complete his term as Governor. He died in Charleston on January 23, 1800, at the age of 50, before the end of his term. Some said at the time that he died from apoplexy resulting from hearing the news of George Washington’s death.[1]


  1. Williams, American National Biography
  2. The Rise of the Republic of the United States (1881) by Richard Frothingham, p. 515; The Story of Philadelphia (1900) by Lillian Ione Rhoades MacDowell, p. 169; The Constitutional Review, Volume 6 (1922), article by Henry Campbell Black, p. 162; Revolutionary America, 1763-1815: A Political History (2008) by Francis D. Cogliano, p. 91
  3. The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia: a Comprehensive Collection of the Views of Thomas Jefferson (1900) by Thomas Jefferson, edited by John P. Foley, p. 246
  4. In the 19th Century, Rutledge was routinely included in volumes of biographies of American statesmen. Invariably, each capsule biography of Rutledge points out that nothing is known of what he said or did during the Continental Congress, due to the fact that the Congress was conducted in closed session and its members had made a pact of secrecy. The 19th Century biographers pointed to no letters or memoirs in which Rutledge’s participation was specified. See, e.g. (there are many others), Lives of the Presidents of the United States by Robert W. Lincoln (1836), p. 390; Sanderson’s Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (1846) by John Sanderson and Robert Taylor Conrad, p. 351; The United States Manual of Biography and History by James V. Marshall (1856), p. 115; An Outline of the Political and Social Life of George Washington, Volume 2 (1895) by James Tyson, p. 339
  5. McClure, Rhonda R. (2003). Finding Your Famous {& Infamous} Ancestors. United States: F+W Media. p. 8. ISBN 1558706542. Retrieved July 1, 2014. “”…Goldie’s Rutledge line traces back to a Joseph Rutledge, born about born about 1744 in Amelia County, Virginia, and died about 1814 in Greenville, South Carolina. He married Mary Paschal and is Goldie’s third great-grandfather. Since Edward Rutledge was born in Charleston, South Carolina on 23 Nov. 1749, it is not possible for Joseph to be a descendant of Edward’s. It may still be possible for Goldie and Edward to be cousins, though it looks like the connection would have to be at least three more generations back.”


  • Williams, Patrick G.. “Rutledge, Edward”. American National Biography Online, February 2000

John Dickinson, Penman of the Revolution

November 13, 2014



Often referred to as the “penman of the Revolution,” John Dickinson was an American statesman, delegate to the Continental Congress and one of the writers of the Articles of Confederation.

Dubbed the “penman of the Revolution,” John Dickinson was born on either November 13 or 15, 1732, and won fame in 1767 as the author of “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies.” The letters helped turn public opinion against the Townshend Acts created by British Parliament. Dickinson also helped draft the Articles of Confederation and craft the U.S. Constitution. His legacy is honored through Dickinson College and Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law, both in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.


Portrait of John Dickinson by Charles Willson Peale, 1780

John Dickinson moved with his family from Maryland to an estate in Delaware when he was young. At age 18, Dickinson followed his father, a judge in Delaware, into the study of law at a Philadelphia law office. Once his feet were wet, Dickinson went overseas and spent four years studying in the London court system. While there, he heard leading minds of the day discuss Enlightenment philosophy and individual rights. The experience brought into sharp focus the relationship between history and politics and would influence the rest of Dickinson’s life path.

Dickinson returned to Philadelphia in 1757 to practice law and saw his reputation in the legal field grow. Three years later, he made his first foray into politics and was soon elected to both the Delaware legislature and the Pennsylvania assembly (made possible by Dickinson’s residency in both regions). When he took on Benjamin Franklin (1764) in Pennsylvania on the issue of the state becoming an outright British colony (Dickinson was against it), he lost both the debate and his assembly seat.

As Dickinson sought footing in the political arena, the British government in London, in deep debt from the Seven Years War, began looking for ways to generate revenue. It started with the Stamp Act of 1765, which sought to impose a direct tax on the colonies. Predictably, it met with fierce opposition in the colonies, who refused to pay the tax and boycotted English goods.

Dickinson had a strong, measured voice in the debate, and he was chosen to represent Pennsylvania at the Stamp Act Congress in 1765, where he drafted the body’s anti–Stamp Act resolution (which had little effect on London). In the face of London’s lack of cooperation, in December 1768, Dickinson began (under a pseudonym) publishing in the Pennsylvania Chronicle his “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies.” The letters pointed out the Stamp Act’s violations of traditional English liberties and were universally read on both sides of the Atlantic, going on to wide fame and playing a part in the act’s ultimate rejection.

In 1770, Dickinson married Mary Norris, the daughter of the former speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, and the pair went on to have five children (although only two survived infancy).

The second Continental Congress revealed high tensions and a looming revolution, but Dickinson refused to vote for or sign the Declaration of Independence, saying the emerging country was not ready for open revolt against the most powerful nation on earth. In the end, he abstained from the vote so that the overall vote for independence would be unanimous.

In 1779, after the Revolutionary War, in which he fought in varying roles, Dickinson returned to the Continental Congress and was elected president of Delaware two years later (in 1782 he was elected Pennsylvania president). In 1786, he had a hand in revising the Articles of Confederation, and the document that emerged was a new U.S Constitution, which went into effect the following year. Unfortunately, illness kept Dickinson from signing the document, and a colleague put his name to the parchment.


Portrait of John Dickinson, President of Delaware, on display in the Hall of Governors Portrait Gallery. Courtesy of Delaware Department of State, Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

Dickinson died on February 14, 1808, at his home in Wilmington, Delaware.


John Dickinson. [Internet]. 2014. The website. Available from:


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,454 other followers