William Floyd, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, came from a family of early American settlers. His grandfather came from Wales in 1680 and settled in Setauket on Long Island where he gained great wealth and influence.
William was born on December 17, 1734, and was given every opportunity to gain useful knowledge. William was barely finished with his studies when his wealthy father passed away. He assumed the supervision of the family estate and performed his duties with great skill and integrity. He had excellent character traits and a pleasing personality, both of which helped him to be popular with his acquaintances. He was committed to the cause of liberty and was soon active in public life and opposition to the British.
William was elected as a New York delegate to the first Continental Congress in 1774 and took an active role in that body. Previous to his election, he was appointed as a commander of the Suffolk County militia and resumed his command upon his return from Congress in early 1775. When he learned that Long Island was being invaded by a naval force, he marched with his troops to the place where the troops would leave their ships and forced the invaders to go back to their ships. He returned to the General Congress in 1775 and was active on numerous committees there. He voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence.
While William was involved in public duties, his private property was destroyed and his family exiled from their home. After the American army lost the battle of Long Island in August 1776 and retreated across to York Island, the Floyd estate was exposed to the abuses of the British army. The family sought shelter and safety in Connecticut. A party of British cavalry took over the Floyd mansion and used the estate's cattle and sheep to provide for the army.
William went seven years without any income from his property, and yet he never lessened in his zeal for the cause of liberty. He continued to work for independence in both Congress and in the New York legislature. William was part of a small but skillful group who saved the state of New York from bankruptcy in 1779 and put it in a very prosperous financial condition.
William was again elected to Congress in 1780 and remained a delegate until peace was declared in 1783. He and his family returned to their dilapidated home and were happy to be back home after a seven year exile. He declined the opportunity for reelection to Congress but agreed to serve in the State Legislature. When the newly adopted Constitution was ratified in 1778, he was elected as a member of the first Congress held in the city of New York in 1789. He declined reelection and retired from public life.
General Floyd retired to some previously purchased wild land located on the Mohawk and commenced the work of clearing and cultivating those lands. He considered the land to be so beautiful and the soil so productive that he moved there in 1803 at age 69. He concentrated on cultivating his lands and productive farms were on every side in just a few years.
William again entered public life when he was chosen as a Presidential Elector in 1800. The next year he was a delegate in a convention held to revise the New York constitution. He was elected as a state senator and served several times as a Presidential Elector.
William enjoyed robust health, both physically and mentally, and lived a long and active life. He was a successful businessman as well as a great patriot during the storms of the American Revolution and the establishment of our constitutional government. He had the ability to make good decisions and never let unimportant obstacles cloud his opinion and determination. William passed away on August 4, 1821, at 87 years of age.
Facts are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, 63-66.
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