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, November 7, 2011

Joseph Hewes

                    Joseph Hewes, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born January 23, 1730, on his father's property in Kingston (now Princeton), New Jersey).  One source stated that the property was "a small farm," and another source called it an "estate called Maybury Hill."  His ancestors emigrated from England about 1635.  His parents, Aaron and Providence Hewes, were Quaker farmers -  members of the Society of Friends.  Soon after their marriage, they to New Jersey  in 1728 in order to escape religious persecution from New England Puritans as well as Indian attacks in Connecticut.  Mrs. Hewes was apparently wounded by a gunshot in the neck by Indians attacking them as they traveled to New Jersey.

                    Joseph received his education at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University); upon his graduation, he became an apprentice in the counting house of a merchant in Philadelphia.  His studies and apprenticeship prepared him for a life in business.  When Joseph completed his apprenticeship, his father gave him some money.  With this money and his good reputation, he began his first mercantile and shipping business in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1760 at age 30.  His training had been thorough, and he gained sufficient skills to amass "an ample fortune" in just a few years.

                    In 1763 Joseph moved to Edenton, North Carolina, and made it his permanent home.  There he built a mercantile and shipping empire and amassed a large fortune before the fight for independence began.  He earned the respect of the people there because of his "uprightness and honorable dealings."

                    Even though he was new to the area, the residents there recognized his good character and elected him to represent them in the North Carolina legislature.  He performed his legislative duties so faithfully that he was re-elected to the office numerous times.

                    Joseph was engaged to marry Isabella Johnston, the daughter of Samuel Johnston who was later Governor of North Carolina.  Isabella died a few days before the scheduled wedding, and Joseph never married nor had any children.

                    Joseph was one of the earliest of North Carolina patriots and was influential in organizing a state convention to second the call from Massachusetts to hold a General Congress.  Joseph was elected to be a delegate from North Carolina during the summer of 1774 to attend the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia in September of that year.  He was seated on September 14 and "was immediately placed upon the committee appointed to draw up a Declaration of Rights.  During the 1774 session Joseph showed his strong patriotism when he worked tirelessly for "a plan for a general non-importation agreement throughout the Colonies," and then he voted for it and signed it.  By doing so, he sacrificed his own business and "cheerfully laid it upon the altar of Freedom."

                    Again in 1775 Joseph was elected to be a delegate to the Continental Congress and took his seat there on May 10.  Joseph was not a debated but worked diligently as a member of committees.  He could be considered as the first Secretary of the Navy of the United States because he served as the chairman of the naval committee.  He was also a member of the "Secret Committee."

                    Joseph continued in 1776 as a delegate to the Continental Congress.  Since North Carolina decided early in favor of independence, Joseph's personal views on the matter were totally supportive of his instructions.  He voted for the Declaration of Independence and signed the document.  He returned home immediately upon the completion of Congress business "for the troubles there demanded his presence, and his private affairs needed his attention to save his fortune from being scattered to the winds."

                    Joseph did not resume his seat in Congress until July 1779, but he soon resigned his seat because of poor health.  He left Congress on October 29, 1779, but he was too ill to travel home.  He died in Philadelphia eleven days after his resignation on November 10 at age 50.  "He was the first and only one of all the signers of the Declaration, who died at the seat of Government, while attending to public duty, and his remains were followed to the grave by Congress in a body, and a large concourse of the citizens of Philadelphia."

                    Facts and quotes are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp. 205-207, and Revolutionary War and Beyond

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