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The signers of the declaration of independence

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  • 1. The Signers of the Declaration of Independence Fifty-six men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the cause of American Independence Addresses indicators 3-3.1, 4-3.2, 4-3.3, 8-2.1, USHC 2.2
  • 2. 56 Men signed the Declaration of Independence • These founding fathers knew that they were pledging “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.” • To fully understand the importance of this document and their actions, we must look more closely at both.
  • 3. Before we go on… • Take out a piece of paper and create a brief list of your favorites of the Founding Fathers and what you already know about them. • As we continue our study, add to your list the information you gain about your favorites as well as adding new names and information about people that you find interesting.
  • 4. Try to see things from the perspective of the American Colonists in 1775. Many of the colonists felt they had been betrayed. What hurt the most was that they were betrayed by somebody from whom they had expected better — the king, a father figure who should do right by his people. Of course there is another side to the story.
  • 5. Two Continental Congresses • John Adams said that the representatives of the First Continental Congress possessed “fortunes, ability, learning, eloquence, acuteness, equal to any I have ever met with in my life.” These men met in Philadelphia and drafted a complaint to the king which he did not answer, so they called a Second Continental Congress in May 1775. • Joy Hakim said that “the Second Continental Congress as a whole was so extraordinary it would still inspire awe 200 years later.” • The Declaration of Independence came out of the Second Continental Congress.
  • 6. Some interesting things you might like to know… • Five men - Adams, Sherman, Livingston, Jefferson and Franklin - were selected to write the Declaration of Independence. • Benjamin Franklin noted in their first meeting that five men could never agree on anything and suggested that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson should do the writing. • Adams then told Jefferson that he should write it by himself…
  • 7. The short meeting of the committee of five…
  • 8. Adams Jefferson Jefferson did not think he was worthy or capable but Adams assured him that he was for three reasons: •“You’re a Virginian and a Virginian ought to be at the head of this business. •I’m obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. •You can write ten times better than I can.”
  • 9. And so, the job of writing the document that would break ties with England began. • Jefferson was a quiet, shy, retiring man who sought to stay out of the limelight. Now he found himself in the hottest seat of all! • Jefferson never did anything half-way. He pressed his brilliant mind to action and came up with what is considered one of the finest pieces of prose in the English language, knowing the risks they were all taking. This document was destined to bring war!
  • 10. Meanwhile, back in the meeting in Independence Hall… • John Adams, Patrick Henry, Ben Franklin, and others who favored independence had the job of convincing those who were not. • Most of the delegates were conservatives who favored a less hostile approach. • Consider that many of them were wealthy men whose wealth came from their trade with England. A break would hurt them in their pocketbooks. • Many delegates considered themselves only as Virginians or New Yorkers – no idea of unity.
  • 11. Patrick Henry, the fiery redheaded Virginian, saw that conservatives and undecided representatives could destroy the will of the Congress. Like the other liberal leaders he was determined to take a stand. He stated during the Congress that "the distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, New Englanders are no more. I'm not a Virginian but an American."
  • 12. Other leaders in favor of the break with England continued to persuade… Two of the greatest minds in America, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, were at the center of the drama. Both men were clever, persuasive, and determined to have a new nation.
  • 13. South Carolina’s delegates were wealthy planters or sons of planters. They were of the wealthy, privileged class. A break with England would change that… This image from the play 1776 has Edward Rutledge explaining the issue from his point of view. Many in the group were in his same situation. Rutledge was the youngest signer.
  • 14. Other South Carolinians also spoke out… Arthur Middleton was heir to one of America’s wealthiest fortunes and, at 34, the oldest of the South Carolina group. Thomas Heyward, was only 30 when he attended but he already had a career in colonial politics. Thomas Lynch, Jr. was the second youngest delegate and he was standing in for his father who was too ill to attend.
  • 15. There were other delegates who were either not in favor of, or undecided about, the issue. • Benjamin Franklin, the oldest of the delegates – and probably the wisest – spoke quietly to delegates to help them see the rightness of the cause. Many came around to his way of thinking. • Sam Adams, fiery and outspoken, persuaded delegates to the cause. • John Adams, the most zealous, and many would say the greatest statesman, relentlessly spoke out in favor of revolution.
  • 16. Patrick Henry only stayed a short time having been called home to Virginia for urgent business in the House of Burgesses. Perhaps the words of his famous speech to the Virginia Legislature in March 1775 were still ringing in their ears. “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
  • 17. Benjamin Franklin’s own family sadly was divided by the cause William Franklin — son of founding father Benjamin Franklin — was New Jersey's last royal governor. A loyalist to the bone, William Franklin retreated to the safety of Britishoccupied New York City, where he did everything in his power to assist the forces of the Crown. Following the American victory, he went into exile in England, where he lived out his life. Father and son were reconciled — barely — years after Yorktown.
  • 18. Some interesting facts about the men… • You already know the oldest delegate, Ben Franklin, and the youngest delegate, Edward Rutledge. You also know most of the wealthiest delegates. One you haven’t heard of yet is Charles Carroll. He signed “Charles Carroll of Carrollton” so no one else would be mistakenly punished in place of himself.
  • 19. Charles Carroll of Carrollton Charles Carroll of Carrollton was a lawyer and politician from Maryland who was a delegate to the Continental Congress and later a United States Senator. He was the last surviving (dying on November 14, 1832 at 95 years of age) and only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was also possibly the wealthiest man in America.
  • 20. More interesting facts… • One of the best and most accurate accounts we have of the events of the Second Continental Congress can be found in the letters from John Adams to Abigail. Dear Abigail, Dear John, Please remember the ladies…
  • 21. Still more interesting facts… • Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island was a Quaker, opposed to fighting, but he loved the idea of independence. He had a palsy that caused his hand to shake. As he signed the document that would bring the break with England, he proudly declared, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.” Stephen Hopkins is always pictured in a hat – even in the picture of the Signing of the Declaration he is the only one with a hat – you can see him standing in the back row.
  • 22. Even more interesting facts… • Stephen Hopkins signature was shaky but not his spirit. • Button Gwinnett of Georgia was killed in a duel only a year after signing. His signature is one of the most valuable because there are so few examples.
  • 23. And more… • John Hancock, President of Congress, was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, writing his name in large, plain letters, and saying, ``There! John Bull can read my name without spectacles. Now let him double the price on my head, for this is my defiance.'‘ • Few people know it but Hancock suffered terribly from gout. The pain during the meetings of the Congress was so great that he had to be carried from place to place in Philadelphia.
  • 24. Even more… Benjamin Harrison on the left, one of the largest signers said to Elbridge Gerry, one of the smallest of the signers, that he was bound to die quickly because of his size, but Gerry would be left dangling for a long time before he died.
  • 25. Still more… • Two brothers from Virginia signed – Francis Lightfoot Lee and Richard Henry Lee. • Another Virginia delegate, George Wythe, was teacher to Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Wythe was murdered in 1806 when his greedy nephew tried to get rid of all the other heirs to Wythe’s will, including Wythe. Jefferson was devastated by the news.
  • 26. Not done yet… • No one could say that any of the signers was faint-hearted. It took great courage to sign the document. Perhaps no one showed greater determination than Delaware’s Caesar Rodney. Fearing that Delaware would vote “no” in his absence, Caesar Rodney got on his horse in the middle of a terrible storm and rode all night in order to get to Philadelphia and cast his vote. That’s not the unique part…
  • 27. Caesar Rodney was suffering from cancer and he had a tumor removed from his face. The deep gash left by the surgery Rodney covered with a green silk scarf. His best chance for survival was to get treatment for the cancer in England, but if he signed, he would not be able to go to England for the surgery. Still he signed! John Adams said of Rodney that he was the “oddest looking man in the world; his face is not bigger than a large apple, yet there is a sense of fire, spirit, wit, and humor in his countenance.”
  • 28. There are many more great stories about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. Theirs is a story of bravery and dedication to a great cause – liberty. We should never forget the price they, and others since, have paid for our freedom!
  • 29. And so, after weeks of deliberation, Adams, Sherman, Livingston, Jefferson and Franklin present the Declaration of Independence to the Congress.
  • 30. John Hancock was the first to sign… • Then he turned to the other members, and solemnly declared, ``We must be unanimous. There must be no pulling different ways. We must all hang together.'' • Benjamin Franklin said quaintly, ``Yes, we must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.''
  • 31. Although the official date of the Declaration of Independence is July 4, 1776, only John Hancock signed on that date. Others took longer because of difficulty of travel and other obligations. Thomas McKean of Delaware was the last to sign because he was involved in fighting the war. He did not sign until after 1777 – one source says he didn’t sign until 1781 at the end of the war.
  • 32. But the story doesn’t end there…. • When John Trumbull’s famous painting of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence was unveiled at Faneuil Hall in Boston, Adams was there. He quickly pointed out the door behind the signers through which George Washington ran as soon as Adams suggested that Washington should lead the army. Some say Washington was eager to be about the task, others say he threw up.
  • 33. Notice that in the picture Jefferson has his toe on Adams’s foot – as if to say “No more changes – we’ve changed it 27 times already.” Trumbull’s painting now hangs in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol
  • 34. There was abundant wealth in the colonies, especially in South Carolina…At the outbreak of the American Revolution, 8 of the 10 wealthiest men were from South Carolina and South Carolina was easily the wealthiest colony. At the end of the American Civil War, South Carolina was the poorest state. The wealth was derived from the bondage of others and that ended with the Civil War.
  • 35. Good sources of information on the signers are available at: • http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_bo oks/de... • www.cyberlearningworld.com/nhhs/amrev/sccedit.htm • The Signers, The 56 Stories Behind the Declaration of Independence, by Dennis Fradin, ISBN 0-8027-8849-1
  • 36. The Signers of the Declaration of Independence Created by Carol Poole December 2006

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