Francis Lewis, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in 1713 in the town of Landaff in Wales. He was the only son of his parents. His mother was the daughter of a clergyman, and his father served as an Episcopal clergyman. He was an orphan by the time he was five years old and was cared for by a maiden aunt who loved and cared for him as if he was her own child. Another relative provided a portion of his education in Scotland. He became proficient in both his native tongue (ancient Briton) and in the Gaelic language, which was commonly used in Scotland. He was sent by his uncle, Dean of St. Paul's, in London, to Westminster where he received a good education.
Following his period of education, he apprenticed with a merchant in London. When he was twenty-one, he received some money that he invested in merchandise and sailed for New York City. There he formed a business partnership with a Mr. Annesly and married Elizabeth, the sister of his partner. Francis and Elizabeth were the parents of seven children.
Business was good for the partnership, and Francis spent much of his time in Europe until the beginning of the French and Indian War. Francis took an active part in the war and was serving as an aid to Colonel Mercer at Oswego when Montcalm captured the fort in August, 1757. Colonel Mercer was killed, and Lewis was taken to Canada along with about 1400 other prisoners of war, 34 cannons, and large quantities of ammunition and stores as well as several boats in the harbor. Lewis was taken from Canada to France where he was finally exchanged. He received 5000 acres of land from the British government in compensation for his services in the war.
Lewis was elected as a New York delegate in the Colonial Congress of 1765. When the Stamp Act became law and his business nearly ruined by non-importation agreements, Lewis retired to his country home on Long Island.
Lewis was elected as a delegate to the General Congress of 1775 and 1776. There he was an active member and signed the Declaration of Independence in August, 1776. He served as a member of Congress until 1778.
While the British occupied Long Island, they destroyed the Lewis property and brutally confined Elizabeth for several months in prison without a bed or a change of clothing. Her health was ruined, and she died two years later.
Lewis passed away at the nearly ninety years of age on December 30, 1803, with the reverence and esteem of his countrymen.
Facts are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, 71-73.
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