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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Two Mrs. Wythe

George Wythe, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was married twice. He married Anne Lewis of Spotsylvania County, Virginia, in 1756. A few years after Anne's death "in the later sixties," George married Elizabeth Taliaferro of "Powhatan," near Williamsburg. Neither wife left any children.

George was born into a well-to-do family but was orphaned before he was twenty-one years old. His father passed away when George was quite young. George was educated by his mother and then studied law under the direction of an uncle-in-law. Mrs. Wythe died in 1746, and George immediately put his studies aside and spent several years in seeking amusement and pleasure. When he was about thirty years old, he came to his senses and went back to studying law. This turn of events apparently had something to do with his acquaintance with Miss Anne Lewis. Soon after their marriage in 1756, he was admitted to practice law at Williamsburg. Two years later in 1758 he was elected as a member of the House of Burgesses - and thus began his illustrious political career.

Anne Lewis was born August 30, 1726, as the eldest of ten children born to Zachary and Mary Waller Lewis. "Her father was an eminent Colonial lawyer who had built up a fortune from his practice and owned a large landed estate. There is a road in Spotsylvania County which to this day bears the name `The Lawyers' Road,' because of the fact that it was traveled so frequently by Mr. Lewis and his son, John Lewis, going to and from the court house in the adjoining county of Orange."

George was a patriot of the Revolution. He was a professor of law in the College of William and Mary, and while there instructed two future Presidents of the United States and a future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was later Chancellor of Virginia.

Chancellor Wythe died in 1806. It was generally believed that he was poisoned by George Wythe Sweeney, a grandson of his sister. Sweeney was tried for the murder but was acquitted. Wythe freed all his slaves before his death and made arrangements for their support until they could take care of themselves.

Facts and quotes are from Wives of the Signers: The women behind the Declaration of Independence, pp. 233-235.

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