Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Monday, August 1, 2011

George Read

George Read, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was born in 1734 in Cecil County, Maryland, the first of six sons. His grandfather, a wealthy resident of Dublin, and his father emigrated from Ireland about 1726.

George attended school in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he studied Latin and Greek. He was already fluent in English due to the efforts of his father in teaching him. He later studied under the direction of Reverend Doctor Allison; some of his classmates became members of the Continental Congress or held other high political offices.

Read was only 17 when he started studying law in the office of John Morland who was a distinguished barrister in Philadelphia. George was very studious and earned the confidence and friendship of his teacher. He was only 19 when he was admitted to the bar in 1753. He proceeded to establish an honorable and successful law practice.

When George was admitted to the bar as a practicing attorney, he voluntarily signed a deed releasing all his legal rights to the estate of his father to his siblings. He stated that he had received his share of the estate in obtaining his education and felt that he would be treating his siblings unfairly if he made any additional claims on the estate.
George moved his practice to New Castle County, Delaware, in 1754, where he again ran a successful law office even though there were many other successful attorneys in the area.

In 1763 George married a Miss Ross, daughter of George Ross, the pastor of a Church in New Castle. At age 29, Read became Attorney General for the "lower counties on the Delaware" of Kent, Sussex, and New Castle. He held this office until he was elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1774.

George was elected as a member of the Delaware General Assembly in 1765 and was reelected eleven consecutive years. As a member in that assembly he proposed a statement to the King against the Stamp Act. Recognizing that complaints from individual Colonies would not be effective, George was one of the patriots who thought a General Convention would bring more justice. When Boston residents were suffering from the Boston Port Bill, George became active in a movement to collecting money and other aid to help them.

Along with Caesar Rodney and Thomas M'Kean, George was appointed in 1774 as a delegate to the General Congress slated to meet in Philadelphia in September 1774. George was also elected as a delegate in 1775 and 1776. During the 1776 convention, he divided his duties in the Congress and serving as Vice President of Delaware. He was an avid supporter of the Declaration of Independence and considered it a privilege to sign the document. George was President of the Delaware Convention that framed a State Constitution.

Soon after the battle of Brandywine, Governor M'Kinley, President of Delaware, was taken as a prisoner by the British in 1777. George, as Vice President, became the Acting President and discharged his additional duties faithfully. At the same time, he was an active member of the Committee of Safety. With his musket in his hands, George marched with the militia on several occasions to repel invasion. In fact, George and his entire family narrowing escaped at the time of the capture of Governor M'Kinley.

George's health declined to the point that he resigned his seat in the Assembly of Delaware in August, 1779 - only to be re-elected to the position the next year. He was appointed in 1782 as one of the Judges of the Court of Appeals in Admiralty cases and continued in that position until the tribunal was abolished. Read was appointed by Congress in 1785 to be a Justice on a special Court to decide the boundary between Massachusetts and New York.

In 1786 George selected to be a member of a convention meeting at Annapolis, Maryland. The convention was given the responsibility to "consider and repair the defects in the Articles of Confederation." This conference is considered to be the "egg" or the seed for the 1776 convention that gave us the U.S. Constitution.

George was elected, under the new Constitution, to be a Senator for the state of Delaware in 1788. He continued in that position until 1793 when he became Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. He was still serving as Chief Justice when he died from a sudden illness in the autumn of 1798 in the 64th year of his life.

Facts are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp. 137-140.

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