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, December 12, 2011

Arthur Middleton

                    Arthur Middleton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in 1743 at his father's residence - Middleton Place - in South Carolina.  His father was Henry Middleton, who descended from English ancestors and became a wealthy planter.  Henry gave his son "every opportunity for mental and moral culture" available in the area, and then he sent Arthur to England to further his education as was the "prevailing custom among the men of wealth in the southern areas prior to the Revolutionary War.  Their "superior education" consequently made the sons "political and social leaders."

                    Arthur was only twelve years old when he was sent to England to study at Hackney, a preparatory school attended by "several of Southern members of Congress" before they entered Cambridge.  Arthur, however, transferred to a school in Westminster at age fourteen and remained there four years before entering the University of Cambridge.  Arthur was a "very close and thoughtful student" and "shunned the society of the gay and dissipated."  He studied at Cambridge for four years and graduated at age twenty-two with distinguished honors as well as the "sincere respect and esteem" of professors and students.

                    After graduating from Cambridge, Arthur continued to live in England in order to meet relatives living in England and to gain more "self-improvement."  He later traveled on the Continent for two years; he spent several months in Rome studying fine arts and becoming a "proficient" painter.

                    Arthur returned to South Carolina in 1768 and soon married Mary Izard.  After being married for about a year, Arthur and Mary traveled to Europe where they spent a lengthy time in England.  They returned home in 1773 where they began living in the family home.   They had everything - wealth and domestic happiness - for a "bright prospect of worldly happiness," but this was not to be. 

At that time "the dark clouds of the Revolution," and the fury of the great storm "burst" upon the American colonists. 
There was no middle ground because no one could remain neutral; no one could stay on the fence.  Everyone had to decide whether they were loyal to Great Britain or whether they would fight for independence.  Arthur and his father "laid their lives and fortunes upon the altar of patriotism."

Once this decision was made, Arthur put aside his life of ease and became active in the patriot cause of liberty.  He was appointed by the Provincial Congress in 1775 to serve the public as a member of a committee of safety in South Carolina.  In that office he was unyielding on principles.  When the news broke that the Governor, Lord William Campbell, "was acting with duplicity."

Even though there was a close relationship between the Middleton family and the family of Lord Campbell, Arthur put aside his private feelings and recommended that Lord Campbell be arrested.  The majority of the committee was too timid to take such action so they allowed Lord Campbell to "flee" from South Carolina.  The arrest of the governor might have saved much pain and death in South Carolina because he joined Sir Henry Clinton and encouraged him to "ravage the coast" and attack Charleston.  Lord Campbell was killed in the military engagement.

Arthur was appointed in the winter of 1776 to a committee given the responsibility to "form a government for South Carolina."  Early the next spring he was elected to represent South Carolina at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.  He was "an active promoter" of the proposal to cut national ties with England.  He voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence.  Even though he could lose his life and property for being so patriotic if England won the war, Arthur gave the "consideration" no weight.

Continuing as a member of the Continental Congress until the end of 1777, Arthur then returned to South Carolina where he was elected to be the first governor in 1778 under the newly adopted state constitution.  He declined the appointment because he considered the framing of the constitution to be illegal.

When the British army invaded South Carolina in 1779, the Middleton property was fully "exposed to their ravages."  Arthur instructed his wife to move the family to safety and joined Governor Rutledge in defending their state.  A "large portion" of his "immense estate was sacrificed."  When Charleston surrendered to the British the next year, Arthur was among the prisoners sent to St. Augustine, Florida.  He was in Florida about a year before being sent to Philadelphia as an exchange prisoner.  Upon his return to South Carolina, he was immediately elected to represent his State Legislature in Congress where he remained until November 1782.

                    Arthur served as a representative in his State Legislature until he had to resign due to illness near the end of 1787.  He died on January 1, 1788, from a weakened "constitution" from an "intermittent fever" over a lengthy period of time.  He left Mary a widow with eight children.  Mary lived until 1814, long enough to see her children "among the honored of the land."

                    Facts and quotes are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp 223-226.

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