The Declaration Signers

By Ed Maier, Former Andersen Partner

I hope each of you had a very pleasant 4th of July and spent some time with your families and friends celebrating our nation’s independence. This is the 15th year I have written around the 4th of July for this newsletter. After the Christmas holidays, this holiday is one of my favorite celebrations of the year.

In June of 1776, the newly formed Continental Congress appointed a committee of five of its members to write a declaration of independence. The five appointed for this task were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman. The actual writing of the declaration was delegated to Jefferson. It took them about two-three weeks to complete and it was submitted to Congress for approval on July 2, 1776. After discussion, debate and revisions it was approved on July 4, 1776. I enjoy reading it once a year around this time. I strongly encourage you to do the same. And you can do so at Declaration.

The Continental Congress was representative of each of the initial 13 states. As you can see from the list below, the members came from a multitude of diverse backgrounds and experiences. While many of them had careers in the law, they also came from other various walks of life. I have done limited reading about several of the members of this Congress. They are unique, interesting, funny, sad and, in some instances, very surprising. But as different as their 56 independent views might be, they came together with one ultimate purpose in mind—to secure an independent nation.

And I encourage you to do the same. Google a few of them and see what you learn. All of you have studied or read about American history at some point in your lifetime. In doing so you probably learned mostly about the “big guys” – Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, John Adams. But what about Oliver Wolcott or John Witherspoon or George Taylor or Button Gwinnett?

Take a moment and expand your knowledge of American history. You will learn, for example, that William Whipple of New Hampshire was not only a successful merchant and judge, but he was also instrumental as a commander in the Continental Army. He led his young soldiers into the battle at Saratoga and secured the surrender of the British General Burgoyne and his troops.

  • New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett – Physician, Judge; William Whipple – Merchant, Soldier, Judge; Matthew Thornton -- Physician
  • Massachusetts: John Hancock -- Merchant; Samuel Adams – Politician; John Adams – Lawyer.
  • Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins – Lawyer, Educator; William Ellery – Lawyer, Judge
  • Connecticut: Roger Sherman – Cobbler, Surveyor, Lawyer; Samuel Huntington – Lawyer; William Williams – Merchant; Oliver Wolcott – Soldier, Sheriff, Judge
  • New York: William Floyd – Soldier; Philip Livingston – Merchant; Francis Lewis – Merchant; Lewis Morris -- Farmer
  • New Jersey: Richard Stockton – Lawyer; John Witherspoon – Clergyman, Author, Educator; Francis Hopkinson -- Lawyer, Judge, Author; John Hart – Farmer; Abraham Clark – Surveyor, Lawyer, Sheriff
  • Pennsylvania: Robert Morris – Merchant; Benjamin Rush Judge – Physician; Benjamin Franklin – Printer, Publisher, Scientist; John Morton – Farmer; George Clymer – Merchant; James Smith – Lawyer; George Taylor – Ironmaster; James Wilson – Lawyer, Judge; George Ross -- Lawyer
  • Delaware: Caesar Rodney – Judge; George Read – Judge; Thomas McKean -- Lawyer
  • Maryland: Samuel Chase – Judge; William Paca – Judge; Thomas Stone – Lawyer; Charles Carroll – Scholar, Lawyer
  • Virginia: George Wythe – Lawyer, Educator; Richard Henry Lee – Farmer; Thomas Jefferson – Lawyer; Benjamin Harrison -- Farmer, Politician; Thomas Nelson, Jr. – Farmer; Francis Lightfoot – Farmer; Carter Braxton -- Farmer
  • North Carolina: William Hooper – Lawyer; Joseph Hewes – Merchant; John Penn -- Lawyer
  • South Carolina: Edward Rutledge – Lawyer; Thomas Heyward, Jr. – Lawyer; Thomas Lynch, Jr. – Lawyer; Arthur Middleton -- Politician
  • Georgia: Button Gwinnett – Merchant; Lyman Hall – Physician; George Walton – Lawyer; Judge

The Revolutionary War had just begun in the prior April 1775. These individuals, at great personal risk, traveled to Philadelphia in 1776 where the Second Continental Congress assembled. They came from all over our young country. They had a variety of backgrounds and experiences. And with no planes, trains or automobiles, the journey was extremely difficult and risky. For example, Arthur Middleton, who traveled from Charleston SC, may have taken eleven days, or more, to travel from his home to Philadelphia PA – a distance of over 700 miles.

They represented different and disparate parts of the colonies. While they had a general purpose in mind, they did not agree with each of the steps in the course of action to be taken. They argued; they negotiated; they cajoled; and finally, they settled on an agreement. They came together for a purpose that was larger than themselves--to assert their independence from unfair governance and control over their destinies. And all of us have benefited from their actions.

Quite simply if these men had not assembled, argued and ultimately, agreed; if this nation was not born in that July of 1776, I would not be here writing about it, nor would any of you be here reading about it. Think about that. Reflect on it. You might even offer up a spiritual thank you.

If you have any comments, I welcome you to write me at If you enjoy what I write and would like to read more of it, go to Amazon and purchase my book – Think Straight. Talk Straight. And thank you if you do!