Abraham Clark, future signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, on February 15, 1726. He was the only child of his parents and grew up working on his father's farm. Abraham was quite studious but didn't receive much early education. As an only child, he was quite spoiled.
Realizing that he did not have what it took to be a farmer, Abraham decided to study mathematics and law. He became a "good practical surveyor." He did not complete a course of legal study, but he transacted a lot of law business in his hometown for several years - "drawing up deeds, mortgages and other legal papers." The people loved and respected their "Poor man's Counsellor."
Abraham held several offices under the British government, including county sheriff, and he faithfully fulfilled his duties. When confronted with the question of being free politically or remaining slaves to England, he immediately joined the cause of liberty. He served on the first vigilance committee organized in New Jersey with "watchfulness and untiring activity."
Abraham was elected to be a delegate to the 1776 Continental Congress. Since the Provincial Congress of New Jersey had given him ample instructions, he understood exactly how his constituents wanted him to vote. He was seated in the Continental Congress in June, and he voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence with the understanding that he was putting the safety of his life, his family and his property in jeopardy. Unlike Richard Stockton and John Hart, Abraham did not suffer in either his person or his property, but the value of his property decreased due to his necessary neglect of it. Two of his sons served in the Continental Army and were captured by the British; they were incarcerated in a prison ship until they were released in the final exchange of prisoners.
Abraham continued to be an active member of the General Congress, with the exception of one term, until 1783 when peace was proclaimed. He served as a member of the State Legislature. He understood the problems of the old confederation and was elected to be one of the New Jersey delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He was prevented from traveling to Philadelphia by ill health. He was chosen to be one of the commissioners who worked to settle New Jersey's accounts with the Federal Government. He was elected a member of the first Congress under the new Constitution and served in that body until June 1794 when he retired from public life. He passed away that autumn at age 68 from an inflammation in his brain, and he was buried in the Rahway, New Jersey, church cemetery.
Abraham saw so much cruelty and oppression in the fight for independence that he grew to hate Great Britain. He had a difficult time with his hatred, but he always tried to control his own feelings and tried to always do what was good for his country. Whenever questions about France came up in Congress, he always took the side of the French against Great Britain.
Facts and quotes come from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp 90-92.
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