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, October 31, 2011

William Hooper

                    William Hooper, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born on June 17, 1742, probably in Boston, Massachusetts.  His father was an educated Scotchman having graduated from the University of Edinburgh.  Soon after his graduation, he emigrated from Scotland to America and settled in Boston.  He married in Boston, and William was his first born.    Mr. Hooper was especially attentive to William's education and preparation for college.  William was taught by Mr. Lovell, a famous teacher in Massachusetts Bay.  After proper preparation, William entered Harvard University where he was a "close and industrious student" for three years and then graduated with "distinguished honors" in 1760.

                    Mr. Hooper planned for his son to enter the clerical profession, but William decided that he preferred the bar and began his studies in the office of "the celebrated James Otis."  When he completed his studies, he recognized that he would have a difficult time establishing an office in the heavily practiced Massachusetts; therefore, he moved to North Carolina where he had Scottish relatives and began practicing there in 1767.

                    William rose quickly in his profession and was soon head of the bar in that area.  He was particularly well esteemed by government leaders.  After successfully managing several government cases, he became quite influential.

                    In 1770-1771 period of time, a group of people known as the "Regulators" arose.  At their beginning, they appeared to William and others to be trouble makers, and he sided with the government in their efforts to maintain order.  He "advised and assisted Governor Tryon" in his efforts to put down the rebellion.  For this reason, he became known as a "royalist."

                    The "Regulators" were actually the beginning of the patriot movement in North Carolina very similar to those taking place in Massachusetts and Virginia.  The patriots believed that Governor Tryon's acts were "oppressive and cruel," and they were "impelled to action by a strong sense of wrong and injustice."  "Governor Tryon was a tyrant of the darkest hue, for he commingled, with his oppressions, acts of the grossest immorality ad wanton cruelty."  The "Regulators" were common people who showed their true patriotism by "the rules of government they adopted, the professions they made, and the practices they exhibited."  Some of the "Regulators" became early martyrs of the Revolution.

                    Because William had once sided with the government against the patriots, he was viewed with suspicion for awhile when he openly joined the cause of liberty.  Those who knew him best knew that he was a true patriot; Mr. Otis, his instructor in his youth, had lit the flame of patriotism in his heart.  William's sincerity in the cause of liberty became very apparent because of his consistent public service.

                    William began his legislative service as a member of the North Carolina Provincial Assembly in 1773, representing the town of Wilmington.  The next year he was elected to represent Hanover County in the Assembly.  From the beginning of his service in the Assembly, he sympathized with the patriots.  His sympathy to the cause of liberty caused him to "oppose the court party in the state."  His opposition was so great that the royalists considered William to be the leader of the patriots' cause.

                    When Massachusetts proposed a General Congress, North Carolina "hailed" the idea "with joy" and called a convention in the summer of 1774 to consider the matter.  The first action after passing resolutions approving the convention was to appoint William Hooper as their first delegate to the Continental Congress.  William was one of the youngest delegates at the Congress, but he was named to two very important committees - arranging and proposing measures for action.

                    William was elected to Congress again in 1775 and was appointed as chairman for the committee to write a letter to the Assembly of the island of Jamaica.  William wrote the address, which clearly outlined the existing difficulties between Great Britain and the American Colonies.  William was elected to the Congress again in 1776 and voted for the Declaration of Independence.  He signed the document on August 2, 1776.  He continued in Congress until March 1777 when he obtained a leave of absence in order to return home to arrange his private affairs and provide safety for his family.

                    William Hooper, like others who signed the Declaration of Independence, was considered an enemy to the British, and the British "used every means in their power to possess his person, harass his family, and destroy his estate.  After the Revolutionary War was over and peace settled once more upon the land, William resumed his profession.  He was not active in public life until 1786 when Congress appointed him as one of the federal judges responsible to adjudicate the dispute between Massachusetts and New York.  The matter was never brought to court because commissioners were able to settle the problem.

                    Mr. Hooper withdrew from public life again because of bad health.  He died at Hillsborough in October 1790 when he was 48 years old.

                    Facts and quotes are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp. 201-204.

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