Whatever Became Of…56 Signers? (3d in series)

…We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes , and our Sacred Honor.

The Grand Flag of the Union, first raised in 1775 and by George Washington in early 1776 in Boston. The Stars and Stripes did not become the "American flag" until June 14, 1777. (Author photo © Kenneth C. Davis)

The Grand Flag of the Union, first raised in 1775 and by George Washington in early 1776 in Boston. The Stars and Stripes did not become the “American flag” until June 14, 1777. (Author photo © Kenneth C. Davis)

Part 3 of a series of posts about the fates of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  A printer, a politician, a duelist, a Connecticut Yankee and the most famous signature in U.S. history. The next five in alphabetical order:

-Benjamin Franklin  (Pennsylvania) America’s most famous man in 1776, Franklin was 70 years old at the time of the signing. Printer, publisher, writer, scientist, diplomat, philosopher –he was the embodiment of the Enlightenment ideal. A member of the draft committee that produced the Declaration, Franklin was a central figure in the independence vote and then helped the war effort by winning crucial French support for the America cause. But he lost no Fortune, reportedly tripling his wealth during the conflict. Franklin returned to the scene of the Declaration’s passage in 1787 to help draft the Constitution.. When he died at age 84 in 1790, his funeral was attended by a crowd equal to Philadelphia’s population at the time. Read more on Franklin at this National Park Service site.

-Elbridge Gerry (Massachusetts) A 32 year old merchant from Marblehead, Gerry (pronounced with a hard G like Gary) is much more famous for later dividing Massachusetts into oddly-shaped voting districts as the state’s governor. A cartoonist compared the districts to a salamander and the word “gerry-mandering” was born. Though he voted for independence, Gerry was not present to sign in August, signing later in the fall of 1776, He profited from the war and later joined the Massachusetts delegation to the Constitutional convention in 1787, although he refused to sign the Constitution. He became James Madison’s second vice president in 1812, but died in office in 1814 at age 70.

-Button Gwinnett (Georgia) An English-born plantation owner and merchant, he was 41 at the time of the signing. And didn’t last much longer. A political argument with a Georgia general led to a duel in which Gwinnett was mortally wounded. He died in 1777 at age 42, the second of the signers to die. (John Morton of Pennsylvania was first.)

-Lyman Hall ( Georgia) A Connecticut Yankee physician transplanted to Georgia plantation owner, Hall  was 52 years old at the signing. A vocal patriot when Georgia was far more hesitant about independence, he first came to Philadelphia s a nonvoting delegate. Hall’s plantation was destroyed during the war when the British made their punishing attacks on the South. He later served as Georgia’s governor, dying at age 66 in 1790.

-John Hancock (Massachusetts) Born into a poor parson’s family in Lexington (National Parks Service site) , Hancock was sent o live with a wealthy uncle when his father died. He inherited his uncle’s shipping business and was one of America’s wealthiest men by the time he was thirty. A patriot leader in Boston, it was Hancock and Samuel Adams who the British sought to capture on that April 1775 night when the war began. President of the Continental Congress when independence was declared, he was 39 at the time of the signing. The outsized signature on the document cemented his fame in American lore. After the war Hancock was governor of Massachusetts at the time of his death in 1793 at age 56.

 

Longer sketches of these signers can be found at this National Park Service site.

Don't Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Don’t Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

America's Hidden History, includes tales of "Forgotten Founders"

America’s Hidden History, includes tales of “Forgotten Founders”

 

 

 

Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion Paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion Paperback-April 15, 2014)

 

Whatever Became Of…56 Signers? (2d in a series)

…We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes , and our Sacred Honor.

The Grand Flag of the Union, first raised in 1775 and by George Washington in early 1776 in Boston. The Stars and Stripes did not become the "American flag" until June 14, 1777. (Author photo © Kenneth C. Davis)

The Grand Flag of the Union, first raised in 1775 and by George Washington in early 1776 in Boston. The Stars and Stripes did not become the “American flag” until June 14, 1777. (Author photo © Kenneth C. Davis)

Here are the next five Signers of the Declaration, continuing in alphabetical order:

-Samuel Chase (Maryland) A 35 year old attorney, Chase has the distinction of being among those signers who didn’t vote on July 4; he signed the later printed version in August. Accused of wartime profiteering but never tried or convicted, he later went broke from speculation and settled into law practice. George Washington appointed him to the Supreme Court, where the became the first justice to be impeached –although he wa acquitted. He died in 1811 at age 70.

-Abraham Clark (New Jersey) An attorney, 50 years old at the signing, Clark had two sons who were captured and imprisoned during the war; one on on the notorious British prison ship Jersey and the other in a New York jail cell. Clark served in Congress on and off and opposed the Constitution’s ratification until the Bill of Rights was added. He died in 1794 at age 68.

-George Clymer (Pennsylvania) A 37 year old merchant the time of the signing, Clymer was a well-heeled patriot leader who helped fund the American war effort. He was also elected to Congress after the July 2 independence vote, signing the Declaration on August 2. He belongs to an elite group who signed both the Declaration and the Constitution.  (The others were Roger Sherman of Conn,; George Read of Del.; and Franklin, Robert Morris and  James Wilson, all of PA.) He continued to prosper after the war and died in 1813 at age 74. 

-William Ellery (Rhode Island) A modestly successful merchant turned attorney aged 48 at the signing,, Ellery replaced an earlier Rhode Island delegate who died of small pox in Philadelphia. (Smallpox killed more Americans than the war did during the Revolution.) A dedicated member of Congress during the war years, Ellery saw his home burned by the British although it is thought unlikely they knew it was the home of a signer.  He was rewarded after the war by President Washington with the lucrative post of collector for the port of Newport which he held for three decades. He died in 1829, aged 92, second in longevity among signers after Carroll.  (See previous post.)

-William Floyd (New York) A 41 year old land speculator born on Long Island, New York, Floyd abstained from the July 2 independence vote with the rest of the New York delegation, but is thought to be the first New Yorker to sign the Declaration on August 2. Reports that his home on Fire Island was destroyed by the British were exaggerated, although it was used as a stable and barracks by the occupying Redcoats. (It is now part of a Fire Island National Park.)  Floyd served in the first Congress before moving to western New York where he owned massive land tracts and where he died at age 86 in 1821.

Longer sketches of these signers can be found at this National Park Service site.

Read more about the Revolution, Declaration and “Forgotten Founders” in these books:

Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion Paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion Paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don't Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Don’t Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

America's Hidden History, includes tales of "Forgotten Founders"

America’s Hidden History, includes tales of “Forgotten Founders”

 

Whatever Became Of…56 Signers? (One in a series)

 

The Grand Flag of the Union, first raised in 1775 and by George Washington in early 1776 in Boston. The Stars and Stripes did not become the "American flag" until June 14, 1777. (Author photo © Kenneth C. Davis)

The Grand Flag of the Union, the “first American flag,” originally raised in 1775 and later by George Washington in early 1776 in Boston. The Stars and Stripes did not become the “American flag” until June 14, 1777. (Author photo © Kenneth C. Davis)

…We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes , and our Sacred Honor.

Strong words that conclude the Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.

There is little question that men who signed that document were putting their lives at risk. The identity and fates of a handful of those signers is well-known. Two future presidents –Adams and Jefferson– and America’s most famous man, Benjamin Franklin, were on the Committee that drafted the document.

But the names and fortunes of many of the  other signers, including the most visible, John Hancock, are more obscure. In the days leading up to Independence Day, I will offer a thumbnail sketch of each of the signers in alphabetical order. Some prospered and thrived; some did not: How many of those signers actually paid with their lives, fortunes and sacred honor?

-John Adams (Massachusetts) Aged 40 when he signed, he went on to become the first vice president and second president of the United States. Adams died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration in 1826 at age 90. (Jefferson died that same day)

-Samuel Adams (Mass.) Older cousin to John, Samuel Adams was 53 at the signing. He went on to a career in state politics, initially refused to sign the Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights, and was governor of Massachusetts. He died in 1803 at 81.

-Josiah Bartlett (New Hampshire) Inspiring the name of the fictional president of West Wing  fame on TV, Bartlett was a physician, aged 46 at the time of the signing. He helped ratify the Constitution in his home state, giving the document the necessary nine states to become the law of the land. Elected senator he chose to remain in New Hampshire as governor. Three of his sons and other descendants also became physicians. He died in 1795 at age 65.

-Carter Braxton (Virginia) A 39-year-old plantation owner, Braxton was looking to invest in the slave trade before the Revolution. Initially reluctant about independence, he helped fund the rebellion and lost a considerable  fortune  during the war –not because he was a signer, but because of shipping losses during the war itself. He later served in the Virginia legislature and died in 1797 at age 61, far less wealthy than he had been, but also far from impoverished.

-Charles Carroll of Carrollton (Maryland) A plantation owner, 38 years old and one of America’s wealthiest men at the signing, Carroll was the only Roman Catholic signer and the last signer to die. Owner of hundreds of slaves, Carroll considered freeing some of them before his death and later introduced a bill for gradual abolition in Maryland, which had no chance of passage.  At age ninety-one, he laid the cornerstone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as a member of its board of directors. He died in 1832 at age 95.

Longer biographical sketches of the Declaration’s signers can be found at this National Park Service site. And read more about the Declaration and the signers in:

DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT® THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTS (HYPERION PAPERBACK APRIL 15, 2014)

DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT® THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTS (HYPERION PAPERBACK APRIL 15, 2014)

Don't Know Much ABout® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Don’t Know Much ABout® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Juneteenth- Time to celebrate

The official Juneteenth Committee in East Woods Park, Austin, Texas on June 19, 1900. (Courtesy Austin History Center, Austin Public Library)

The official Juneteenth Committee in East Woods Park, Austin, Texas on June 19, 1900. (Courtesy Austin History Center, Austin Public Library)

Happy Juneteenth! Since 1865, June 19th has served as another kind of Independence Day. It is a day that celebrates the end of slavery in America.

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger informed former slaves in the area from the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston, Texas that they were free. Abraham Lincoln had officially issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but it had taken two more years of Union victories to end the war in April 1865 and for this news to reach enslaved people  in remote sections of the country.

This is from General Granger’s Order No. 3:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Many of the newly freed slaves in the territory, the last area to receive news of the war’s end and Emancipation, celebrated the news with ecstasy, and according to the Texas State Library, the words “June” and “nineteenth” became a new word and a new celebration of freedom. They called it Juneteenth.

In many parts of Texas, ex-slaves purchased land, or “emancipation grounds,” for the Juneteenth gathering. Examples include: Emancipation Park in Houston, purchased in 1872; what is now Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia; and Emancipation park in East Austin.

Other former slaves began to travel to other states in search of family members who had been separated from them by slave sales.  Starting in 1866, that spontaneous celebration –more commonly called “Juneteenth”– spread to become  a holiday celebrating emancipation in many parts of the United States, although it still lacks national recognition.  Read more about Juneteenth in the article  Juneteenth: Our Other Independence Day , which I wrote for Smithsonian.com

 

 

Pop Quiz: What American institution was “born” on June 14, 1775?

June 14, 1775 is considered the birthday of the United States Army.

Reportedly, at John Adams’ request, Congress voted to “adopt” the Boston troops on June 14, although there is no written record of this decision.  Also on this day, Congress resolved to form a committee “to bring in a draft of rules and regulations for the government of the Army,” and voted $2,000,000 to support the forces around Boston, and those at New York City.  Moreover, Congress authorized the formation of ten companies of expert riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, which were directed to march to Boston to support the New England militia. 

George Washington received his appointment as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army the next day, and formally took command at Boston on July 3, 1775.  

John R. Maass, Historian 
US Army Center of Military History

June 14 is also Flag Day, marking the day in 1777 when Congress authorized the “Stars and Stripes.”

Don't Know Much ABout® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Don’t Know Much ABout® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion paperback-April 15, 2014)

Who Said It? (6/10/2014)

President Ronald Reagan, “Speech at the Brandenburg Gate,” (June 12, 1987)

As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner, “This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality.” Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.

Earlier in the same speech, Reagan said:

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Source and full Text of Reagan’s speech: TeachingAmerican History.org

The New York Times offers an extensive archive on the Berlin Wall. The fall of the Wall, beginning on November 9, 1989, a little more than two years after Reagan’s speech, is considered the beginning of the end of communism in Europe.

Read more about the Cold War and Reagan’s life and presidency in Don’t Know Much About History and Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents.

Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don't Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Don’t Know Much About® History: Anniversary Edition (Harper Perennial and Random House Audio)

Who Said It (6/4/2014)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “D-Day Prayer” in an announcement to the nation of the invasion of Normandy (June 6, 1944)

Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933

Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933

 

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

Franklin Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum

More D-Day resources can be found at the FDR Library and Museum

Read more about FDR’s life and administration and World War II in Don’t Know Much About® History and  Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents

Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion paperback-April 15, 2014)

history

“In Depth” on Book TV with Kenneth C. Davis

On November 4, 2012, New York Times Bestselling author Kenneth C. Davis sat down for a comprehensive three-hour interview with C-Span’s Book TV.

The interview, which included questions from callers and via e-mail, covered Davis’ career as a writer spanning more than 20 years. In the interview, he discussed his approach to writing history in such books as Don’t Know Much About® History. He also described his background, growing up in Mt. Vernon, New York, how he became a writer, and his early work, including his first book, Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America, which discussed the rise of the paperback publishing industry and the impact of books on American society.

Davis also described the success of his “Don’t Know Much About®” series, with its emphasis on making history both accessible and entertaining while connecting the past to the present.

Watch the video here.

Pop Quiz: Has there been an Atheist President?

Most American Presidents have been Christians and most of them Protestants. Only one to date has been a Roman Catholic– John F. Kennedy. But three American presidents, while nominally Christians, claimed no formal religious affiliation.

Monticello

Thomas Jefferson’s Grave Marker at Monticello

Which three American Presidents had no formal religious affiliation?

This Pew Survey on Presidential Traits provides the answer.

The American public has never had an atheist president, although three of them have had no formal religious affiliation. The most recent one, Andrew Johnson, left office in 1869. Since then, every president has been affiliated with a Christian church. (Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln are the other two.)

The three presidents with no formal religious affiliation were Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Jefferson was publicly accused of being an atheist by his political opponents such as Alexander Hamilton, who said Jefferson was “an atheist in religion and a fanatic in politics.” (David L. Holmes, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, p.  81).

Jefferson once famously expressed his views on religious tolerance this way:

“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

I have written about America’s history of religious tolerance –and intolerance– previously in these articles:

“Jefferson, Madison, Newdow?” New York Times March 26, 2004

“America’s True History of Religious Tolerance,” Smithsonian October 2010

“Why US is Not a Christian Nation,” CNN.Com July 4, 2011.

 

Read more about these men in Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents.

Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion paperback-April 15, 2014)

Who Said It? (5/28/2014)

President John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address (January 20, 1961)

President John F. Kennedy (1961)

President John F. Kennedy (1961)

John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was born on May 29, 1917.

 

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Source: Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=8032.

Read more about the life, times and administration of John F. Kennedy in Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidentsand Don’t Know Much About® History.

Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion paperback-April 15, 2014)

Don’t Know Much About® the American Presidents (Hyperion paperback-April 15, 2014)

history