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 22, 2011

Thomas Stone

Thomas Stone, signer of the Declaration of Independence, apparently lived an obscure life except when duty to the cause of liberty called. He had an unassuming manner and applied his time and energy to his domestic life. He apparently did not keep a journal or other personal records. What little we know about him came from fragments of information scattered among the public records and testimonies of surviving family members, friends and other patriots.

Stone was born in 1743 at the Pointoin Manor in Maryland. He received a good education according to English standards, including some knowledge about the classics, before embarking on a study of the law at age twenty-one. There is no record of the place where he first practiced law, but it is assumed that he started in Annapolis.

Even though Thomas did not have much personal fame, he readily joined the patriots' cause of liberty and was very active in the movement even before he was elected to the General Congress in 1774 as one of Maryland's first five delegates. After performing his duties in the Congress, which lasted fifty-two days, he went home to retire from public life. His fellow citizens apparently liked what they saw in 1774 because Thomas was elected to the General Congress of 1775.

The majority of residents of Maryland opposed even the thought of political independence from England and instructed their delegates to vote against any petitions calling for independence. When the restriction was finally removed six weeks later in June, 1776, Thomas Stone and other delegates from Maryland were ready to vote for and sign the Declaration of Independence. An important note: Stone and other delegates from Maryland were unanimously re-elected to the Congress on July 4, 1776, the very day that the Declaration of Independence was accepted.

Stone did not become a prominent member of Congress, but he was very useful to that body of patriots because of his good common sense and his unrelenting willingness to labor for the cause of liberty. He was a member of the committee with the responsibility to write the Articles of Confederation, adopted in November, 1777. He was elected to Congress again in 1777 but retired from it in 1778 in order to become a member of the Maryland Legislature. Maryland, with strong principles for state rights and independence, did not accept the idea of a general political union with Congress as the head until 1781 when it accepted the Articles of Confederation.

Thomas returned to the General Congress in 1783 and was present when General George Washington resigned his military commission and returned military power to the Congress. Thomas was appointed President of Congress, pro tempore, in 1784 and might have remained in that important position, the highest office attained through the vote of the people, except his personal modesty stopped him. When Congress adjourned, he returned to his home and law profession at Port Tobacco where he died on October 5, 1787, at age 45.

Facts are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp. 151-153.

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