George Read (September 18, 1733 – September 21, 1798) was a delegate from the colony of Delaware selected to go to the First Continental Congress and the Second Continental Congress. It was during the Second Continental Congress that he became infamous for signing the Declaration of Independence. He also served Delaware at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. After the Constitution was ratified he became President of Delaware and was a member of the Federalist party until his death in 1798. He also served as a United States Senator and as a Chief Justice from Delaware. He served alongside fellow delegates Caesar Rodney and Thomas McKean. [Read more…]
Thomas McKean (March 19, 1734 – June 24, 1817) was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence. He also served as President of Delaware and Chief Justice of Pennsylvania and eventual Governor of Pennsylvania. He flip-flopped in his party associations and identified himself as a Federalist and Democratic-Republican. He was a childhood and professional friend of George Read whom he served alongside during the First Continental Congress and the Second Continental Congress. He also served alongside Caesar Rodney. [Read more…]
John Hart (1713 – May 11, 1779) was a Delegate from New Jersey to the Continental Congress and a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. Little is known of the life of John Hart, but what we do know is that he was an honorable man who loved his family and served his country. He was known for his common sense and his ability in practical matters. He was selected to represent New Jersey in the Second Continental Congress. Here he would serve alongside fellow New Jersey delegates: John Witherspoon, Richard Stockton, Francis Hopkinson, and Abraham Clark. At the age of 63 he was one of the senior members of the Congress.
Early Life of John Hart
John Hart was born in 1713 to the Justice of the Peace of Hopewell Township, Edward Hart. He received some education, but did not go to the prestigious schools as many of the other signers of the Declaration of Independence. He eventually learned the law which enabled him to serve on the Continental Congress, but was not known for his legal mind. Hart had a keen mind for money and business matters and took a common sense approach to these matters. He was able to take the complicated and break it down so that a simple man could understand it.
In 1739 he married Deborah Scudder and the two went on to have twelve children. He and Deborah were married until 1776 when she passed away.
Although he had not received the best education John Hart served New Jersey in many political stations. He was first elected to the Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 1750 and then the New Jersey colonial Assembly in 1761. From the Assembly he was appointed to the local Committee of Safety and the Committee of Correspondence. Soon after he would become a judge for the Court of Common Pleas. It would be here that he would showcase his character and gain the reputation as an honest and just man. He would earn the nickname “Honest John.”
His public service elevated his name in the New Jersey political arena and soon landed him as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. How he arrived there is a bit of a controversy. At the First Continental Congress the New Jersey delegates were opposed to Independence and were then replaced y those in favor of a break from Britain. This helped tip the scales for the Declaration of Independence and unify the 13 original colonies. John Hart was then thrust into the international spotlight and would sign his name and be branded a traitor by King George III.
John Hart did not escape the war without scars. His wife would die in October of 1776 and then he would have to flee his home for a few days due to the Hessian presence in the area. After the Battle of Trenton, Hart resumed his lifestyle. He would have dinner with George Washington shortly before the Battle of Monmouth and the Continental Army would set up their quarters on his land.
John Hart returned from the Assembly in Trenton and fell ill two days later. He complained of sharp pains which were diagnosed as gravel or what we would now call kidney stones. This occurred around November 10, 1778 and it would last until his death on May 11, 1779. It was a slow and painful death for this American patriot.
The New Jersey Gazette eulogized him:
On Tuesday the 11th instant, departed this life at his seat in Hopewell, JOHN HART, Esq. the Representative in General Assembly for the county of Hunterdon, and late Speaker of that House. He had served in the Assembly for many years under the former government, taken an early and active part in the present revolution, and continued to the day he was seized with his last illness to discharge the duties of a faithful and upright patriot in the service of his country in general and the county he represented in particular. The universal approbation of his character and conduct among all ranks of people, is the best testimony of his worth, and as it must make his death regretted and lamented, will ensure lasting respect to his memory.
Hart died with much debt and his land was seized and sold by the loyalists of New Jersey. With the exception of two, his kids were grown and moved to the frontier or married in the area.
Abraham Clark (February 15, 1726 – September 15, 1794) was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and delegate for New Jersey in the Second Continental Congress. He did not participate in the First Continental Congress. Little is known of Clark outside of his public service. He served in the House of Representatives until his death in 1794. During the Second Continental Congress he served alongside fellow New Jersey delegates: John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, and Richard Stockton.
Abraham Clark’s Life and Career
- Clark was born in New Jersey on February 15, 1726 and at a young age established himself as a math prodigy. He was tutored in the trade of surveying which gave him a steady income that allowed him to pursue an education in law.
- He graduated from law school and passed the bar he set his own practice and quickly gained the reputation as a man for the little man and would defend many who could not afford a lawyer.
- He was known for his integrity and his character during the years of his law practice.
- Abraham was not as privileged as some of the other signers of the Declaration of Independence. Although his father had enough money to give him an education he was not sent to the finest of schools. Clark worked extremely hard and developed a solid work ethic and learned to become resourceful. His natural ability in math would aid him throughout his life and career.
- In 1748, at the age of twenty-two, Abraham Clark met Sarah Hatfield. It would not be long and he reliquished his life as a bachelor and the two were married.
- Abraham and Sarah gave birth to ten children.
- He was known to his children as a strong father figure. Abraham did his duty as the breadwinner and gave his wife and children a good life. Although he was not raised wealthy, his resourcefulness gave him a sizable estate.
- Clark pursued a career in politics and was elected to the Provincial Congress in 1775 and was sent as a delegate of New Jersey to the Second Continental Congress after the state replaced the delegates not for independence from Great Britain.
- Clark was a leading voice in New Jersey for independence and that carried over into the Continental Congress. He would serve in the Congress through 1778.
- Two of Clark’s sons were officers in the Continental Army and were captured by the British. They were tortured and beaten by the British due to their father’s signature on the Declaration of Independence and were placed on the prison ship, Jersey. Aboard the Jersey, Captain Clark was thrown into a dungeon where he lay in his own urine, feces, and blood. He was fed very little and his father learned of it and raised the issue to Congress. It was the only time that Abraham Clark mentioned his sons that served in the army. The British responded by improving his conditions.
- He retired from public service in 1794 and died of sunstroke that September. His epitaph reads:
Firm and decided as a patriot,
zealous and faithful as a friend to the public,
he loved his country,
and adhered to her cause
in the darkest hours of her struggles
Francis Hopkinson (September 21, 1737 – May 9, 1791), was a delegate from New Jersey during the Second Continental Congress and later served as a judge in Pennsylvania. He signed the Declaration of Independence after New Jersey purged itself of its loyalist delegates in the First Continental Congress. He along with John Witherspoon, Richard Stockton, John Hart, and Abraham Clark voted in favor of independence from Great Britain. New Jersey would become one of the first middle colonies to vote for independence. Hopkinson also aided in the design of the American flag. [Read more…]