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 28, 2011

Thomas Hayward

                    Thomas Hayward, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in 1746 in St. Luke's parish, South Carolina.  His father was Colonel Dame Hayward.  Colonel Hayward was "one of the wealthiest planters" in South Carolina who also possessed a high appreciation of the importance of education.  Colonel Hayward put Thomas "in the best classical school in that region."  Thomas was "a thoughtful and industrious student;" he mastered Latin so well that he was able to "read with fluency the works of the Roman historians and poets, in that language."

                    After Thomas completed his preparatory studies, he began studying law in the office of Mr. Parson.  Thomas did so well by the time he was 20 years old that his father sent him to England to finish his legal education.   "He entered one of the Inns of court at the Temple" and was an ardent student there.  He left that institution with "valuable treasures in the form of a well-stored mind" and as "a polished lawyer."

                    Thomas detected in England that the British people considered British subjects born in America to be inferior to those who were born in England.  Since this was the feeling in society as a whole, the government seemed to follow the same sentiment in appointments to office in America where few colonists served in high offices.  The British government was also partial in its protection of "rights and privileges."  Even though Thomas was quite young, he became "alienated … from his mother country."  He returned to America with a great desire for the Colonies to become independent from "the bondage of trans-atlantic rule."

                    While he was still abroad, Thomas visited other European nations.  He was not "dazzled by the pomp and trappings of royalty and its minions" but considered them to be "costly and bloodstained fruit of wrong and oppression."  Even as he stood in front of thrones, his patriotism for his country "took deep root" as he compared the "toiling, down-trodden millions of the producers" to the "happy laborers of his own dear land."

                    Upon his return to America, Thomas opened his law practice and married Elizabeth Matthews, "a most amiable and accomplished young lady."  Thomas had a "sedateness and energy of purpose" even as a young man entering into his chosen profession.  He was among the early South Carolinians to resist "the oppressive measures of the Home Government, and from the passage of the Stamp Act, until the battle of Lexington, he consistently and zealously promoted the patriot cause" of liberty.  He was open and frank in his feelings and thoughts about the cause and became a leader in the revolutionary actions of South Carolina.  He was appointed to the first General Assembly and to the first "Committee of Safety" in South Carolina.

                    Thomas was elected as a delegate to the General Congress in 1775, but he modestly declined the honor until his fellow citizens convinced him to go.  He was seated in early 1776 and "warmly supported" the motion of Richard Henry Lee for independence from British rule in June.  He was present and voted for - and later signed - the Declaration of Independence.  He continued serving in the General Congress until 1778 when he was appointed to be "Judge of the criminal and civil courts of South Carolina."  His first offence of signing the Declaration of Independence and his second offence of accepted the judgeship "made him very obnoxious to the enemy."  Using Americans loyal to the throne, the British tried very hard to capture Thomas.

                    Because of Thomas's position as judge, he was in "great danger."  It was his "pure patriotism" that kept him in the position because his profession in law could have insured a retirement of ease in private life.  "At the time he was appointed Judge, the enemy were in force at Charleston and vicinity.  But this had no effect upon him, for he tried, and caused to be executed, virtually within sight of the British lines, several persons who were found guilty of treason."

                    At the same time that Thomas served as Judge, he also held a military commission.  He was with Edward Rutledge when the colonists fought the British at Beaufort in 1780.  He was shot during that skirmish and was scarred for life from the wound.  Thomas was taken prisoner when Sir Henry Clinton and Admiral Arbuthnot captured CharlestonHayward, Rutledge and other prisoners were sent to St. Augustine, Florida, where Hayward stayed for nearly a year.

                    While Thomas was in Florida, a detachment of British soldiers went to his plantation and took all his slaves - about 200.  The slaves were sent to Jamaica and sold to sugar planters there.  Although he later recovered some of his property, he lost about 130 slaves valued at $50,000.00.  Along with the loss of his property, he suffered a greater loss when he lost his wife.  She became ill from the shock and never recovered.  She died in 1781 about the time he was released from prison.

                    Judge Hayward resumed his seat on the bench soon after his return to South Carolina and was an active judge until 1798.  He was a member of the South Carolina convention when it framed the state constitution in 1790.  He married a second time to Elizabeth Savage and greatly desired to retire and live in domestic happiness.  He retired from public service in 1799 and died in March 1809 at age 63.  He was survived by his widow and four children - Daniel (by his first wife), Thomas, James Hamilton, and Elizabeth Savage.

                    Facts and quotes are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp. 215-218.

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