Anne Lee

Wife of Declaration Signer Richard Henry Lee

Richard Henry Lee
Charles Willson Peale, Artist
National Portrait Gallery
Smithsonian Institution

Richard Henry Lee was born on January 20, 1733, at his family’s plantation, Stratford Hall, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the seventh of eleven children. Perhaps the most wealthy and powerful individual in Virginia, his father, Thomas Lee, was president of the Virginia Council of State and the principal founder of the Ohio Company. The Lees were a Revolutionary dynasty that included not only Richard Henry, but his brothers Arthur, William, and Francis Lightfoot Lee.

Richard was educated early on in life by private tutoring at home. In 1748, his father sent him to England to be educated. There he attended Wakefield Academy in Yorkshire, where he became fluent in Latin and Greek. His formal education ended at age twenty, followed by a lengthy tour of northern Europe, and he returned to Virginia in 1753. Back at Stratford Hall, he supplemented his education by studying law, government, history, and the classics.

On December 5, 1757, Richard Henry Lee married Anne Aylette, and they had four children: Thomas, Ludwell, Mary, and Hannah. The family lived at Stratford Hall until 1763, when they moved to Chantilly-on-the-Potomac, a three-and-a-half story, ten-room home he had built on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River. Situated on 500 acres three miles away from Stratford Hall, Chantilly was said to have a finer view of the Potomac River.

At Chantilly, Lee became a gentleman farmer, growing tobacco, corn, and wheat and raising livestock. Chantilly’s outbuildings included a kitchen, a barn, a dairy, a blacksmith shop, and various stables. A boat dock constructed at nearby creeks was christened Chantilly Landing.

Political Career
Richard Henry Lee’s political career began in 1755, when he was appointed a justice of the peace in Westmoreland County. In 1758, he was elected to the . Lee often served on important committees, some of which thrust him into the center of political controversy. In 1757, Lee joined forces with Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie in opposing the powerful speaker and treasurer of Virginia, John Robinson, who was using colonial funds to the advantage of his political cronies. Lee introduced the motion in the House of Burgesses to appoint a committee to inquire into the state of the treasury, leading to the separation of the two offices.

As a member of Virginia’s House of Burgesses, Richard Henry’s first bill proposed “to lay so heavy a duty on the importation of slaves as to put an end to that iniquitous and disgraceful traffic within the colony of Virginia.” Africans, he wrote, were “equally entitled to liberty and freedom by the great law of nature.” Such words, coming as they did in 1759, have been called “the most extreme anti-slavery statements made before the nineteenth century.” This speech helped establish his reputation as a great orator, second only to Patrick Henry.

In 1765, enforcement of the Stamp Act began. Richard Henry co-authored the Westmoreland Resolves, binding citizens to support “our lawful sovereign, George the Third… so far as is consistent with the preservation of our rights and liberty.” The public signing of the Westmoreland Resolves by prominent landowners, including Richard Henry, Thomas, Francis Lightfoot, and William Lee and the four brothers of George Washington, was one of the first deliberate acts of resistance against British rule.

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Susannah Lyme Penn

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer John Penn

John Penn was born on May 17, 1741, in Caroline County, Virginia. He was the only child of Moses Penn, a moderately successful plantation owner, and Catherine Taylor Penn. He was educated at home with only a few years of formal schooling, although his parents could well afford to pay for his tuition. Penn was distant relative of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.

John Penn

Moses Penn died in 1759, and John inherited an ample estate, but he was dissatisfied with the prospects it offered, and decided to continue his education. He began to study law under his cousin and neighbor, Edmund Pendleton, a lawyer, a Patriot, and one of the most accomplished statesmen of Virginia. Pendleton gave young Penn access to his library, which was one of the best in the province.

Penn studied diligently, and remarkably passed the Virginia bar exam at the age of twenty-one, after which he practiced law in Caroline County for twelve years. He quickly became noticed, and soon equaled the most distinguished at the bar. As an advocate, there were few who surpassed him.

On July 28, 1763, John Penn married Susannah Lyme of Granville County, North Carolina, and they had three children.

In 1774, Penn moved to North Carolina with his wife and children, and settled in Williamsboro, Granville County, where he set up a law practice. There, he displayed great ability and eloquence, and his practice flourished, as did his interest in politics.

In 1775, Penn was elected to the Third Provincial Congress, which met at Hillsborough, NC. Shortly thereafter, he was elected to succeed Richard Caswell as delegate to the Continental Congress, taking his seat on October 12. Penn, though very talkative in private, rarely spoke in the Congress, but he was very diligent in public business.

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Elizabeth Bassett Harrison

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer Benjamin Harrison

Elizabeth Bassett was born on December 13, 1730, at Eltham, the family estate in New Kent County, Virginia. She was the daughter of William Bassett and a niece of Martha Washington. Elizabeth’s great-grandfather, William Bassett, came to America from Newport on the Isle of Wight and settled in Blissland in New Kent County, Virginia, where he died in 1671.

Benjamin Harrison V
Charles Willson Peale, Artist
National Portrait Gallery
Smithsonian Institution

Benjamin Harrison V was born on April 5, 1726, at Berkeley Plantation, the family estate in Charles City County, Virginia, which is beautifully situated on the banks of the James River overlooking Petersburg and Richmond. He was the eldest son of ten children born to Benjamin Harrison IV and Anne Carter Harrison, one of the most prominent planter families in the South; he was the fifth in a line of politicians bearing the same name.

Benjamin’s father, Benjamin Harrison IV, was a member of the House of Burgesses from 1736 to 1744, and was Sheriff of Charles City. Harrison IV built Berkeley mansion in 1726 with brick fired on the plantation. His initials and those of his wife Ann appear in a datestone over a side door. It was built

Benjamin’s mother, Anne Carter Harrison, was the daughter of Robert “King” Carter, whose family, like the Harrisons, was a force in Virginia and national politics. He served for many years as treasurer of the Colony and member of the King’s Council, and was a wealthy and influential member of the Virginia aristocracy and owned over 300,000 acres and a thousand slaves.

Benjamin V was a student in the College of William and Mary when his father and two sisters were killed by lightning during a thunderstorm at Berkeley on July 12, 1745. At age 19, he returned home and took over the management of Berkeley’s 1,000 acre operations, including ship building and horse breeding. Although he was considered young to be entrusted with such duties, he displayed good judgment in his responsibilities. In time, Harrison’s landholdings grew to include eight plantations and other properties.

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Dorothy Walton

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer George Walton

Dorothy Camber was born 1754 in Chatham County, Georgia, the daughter of Dorothy and Thomas Camber, who came to America from East Essex, England. She had two sisters and three brothers. The crown had given large tracts of land in the Colony of Georgia to her father.

George Walton was born in December 1749 in Farmville, Cumberland County, Virginia, the fourth child of Robert Walton and Mary Hughes. George’s father died within a few months of his birth, and his mother died before he was seven. He was raised by his uncle, also named George Walton, of Prince Edward County, Virginia, who oversaw his education and welfare until he was apprenticed to a carpenter at the age of fifteen.

George Walton was entirely self-taught; his employer would not permit him the use of a candle to read at night, so Walton burned pine knots to read by. When his master realized that his young student had other talents worth pursuing, he released Walton from his contract.

In 1769, George Walton moved to Savannah, Georgia, and studied law in the office of Henry Yonge, Jr. In 1774, Walton was admitted to the bar, and took the oath of allegiance to the king that was required before an attorney was allowed to practice law in the colony. His older brother John had established himself in Augusta, Georgia; George joined him there, and within two years, built one of the most successful legal practices in Georgia.

In the years leading to independence, Georgia was largely loyal to the British crown. It was the youngest colony and sparsely populated. But Walton zealously supported independence from England, and did not hesitate to make his feelings known in business and social circles.

George Walton became heavily involved with the patriot movement in Georgia in 1774. He was one of four people who called a public meeting at Tondee’s Tavern in Savannah on July 27, 1774. The group called for a Provincial Congress of delegates from each parish in Georgia to address how to protect their eroding civil liberties. Walton was appointed to the committee that created the Committee of Correspondence in order to spread news quickly to patriots around the province, and to correspond with patriotic individuals in other colonies.

The royal governor and his council condemned the activities of the Provincial Congress, and when they met again on January 12, 1775, many members were still hesitant, and voted to send a letter asking for a redress of grievances to the British monarch, instead of taking the stronger advice from Walton and other patriots advocating separation from Britain.

Walton openly urged independence. Georgia was the only colony that had not sent delegates to the Continental Congress. Walton was appointed Secretary of the Provincial Congress, and was made a member of the Committee of Safety that ran the provincial government’s affairs when the congress was not sitting. He soon became the president of this committee, making him essentially the governor of the provincial legislature.

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Henrietta Middleton Rutledge

Wife of Edward Rutledge

Howe and the Commissioners
John Ward Dunsmore painting of the 1776 meeting between British Admiral Richard Howe and the American Commissioners: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Edward Rutledge.

Henrietta Middleton was born on November 15, 1750, at Charleston, South Carolina. Henrietta was the daughter of Henry Middleton, the second president of First Continental Congress, and the sister of Arthur Middleton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Edward Rutledge was born on November 23, 1749, at Christ Church Parish, South Carolina. He was the youngest of the seven children born to Dr. John Rutledge, who had emigrated from Ireland to South Carolina around 1735, and Sarah Hext Rutledge. Dr. Rutledge died on December 25, 1750, leaving Sarah a widow with seven children, at the age of 27. Sarah’s father had left her substantial lands, two homes in Charleston, a 550 acre plantation at Stono, and 640 acres in Saint Helena Parish in Granville County, South Carolina

After acquiring a classical education, Edward studied law with his older brother John, who guided him in his career as a lawyer. In 1769, Rutledge was entered as a student at the Temple, a prestigious school in London, England. He attended the courts of law and the houses of parliament for four years, and listened to some of the most distinguished orators of the day, in court and in Parliament.

Rutledge returned to Charleston in 1773 and built a successful law practice with his partner, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Edward’s mother, Sarah Hext Rutledge, gave him a 640-acre plantation in Saint Helena Parish that she had inherited from her father, and thus enabled him to meet the property qualification for election to the Commons House of Assembly.

During his first year of practice, Rutledge won Whig acclaim by obtaining the release of newspaper publisher Thomas Powell, who had been imprisoned by the Crown for printing an article critical of the Loyalist upper house of the colonial legislature.

On March 1, 1774, Edward Rutledge married Henrietta Middleton, and subsequently built a home in Charleston across the street from the house of his brothers, John and Hugh. Henrietta gave birth to three children, two of whom survived to adulthood: Henry Middleton Rutledge and Sarah Middleton Rutledge.

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Ann Thompson Gerry

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer Elbridge Gerry

Elbridge Gerry
James Bogle, Artist

Ann Thompson was born on August 12, 1763, and was educated in Europe. She was the daughter of Catharine (Walton) and James Thompson, a wealthy New York mechant from an old and highly honored family. Ann’s grandfather, Jacob Walton, first married Maria Beekman and later Polly Cruger. Both wives were members of distinguished colonial families in New York.

Elbridge Thomas Gerry was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on July 17, 1744, the third of Thomas and Elizabeth Greenleaf Gerry’s eleven/twelve children. A former ship’s captain who emigrated from England in 1730, Thomas Gerry was a pillar of the Marblehead community, serving as a justice of the peace and selectman and as moderator of the town meeting. The family was prosperous, thanks to a thriving mercantile and shipping business and an inheritance from Elizabeth Gerry’s side of the family.

Early Life
Young Elbridge was probably educated by a private tutor before his admission to Harvard College in 1758. Like many of his fellow scholars, he paid careful attention to the crisis that would eventually precipitate the American Revolution, arguing in his master’s thesis that the colonists were justified in their resistance to “the new Prohibitory Duties, which make it useless for the People to engage in Commerce.”

Gerry had planned to become a physician, but soon after graduating from Harvard in 1762, Gerry joined his father and two brothers in the family business, exporting dried codfish to Barbados and Spain. In the process, he carved out a considerable fortune for himself as a merchant, and eventually became one of the wealthiest merchants in Marblehead.

Early Political Career
A thriving port and commercial center, Marblehead was a hotbed of anti-British activity during the 1760s and 1770s. Elbridge Gerry joined a Marblehead social group that became increasingly political as Massachusetts felt the impact of Britain’s restrictive policies toward the American colonies. In 1770, he served on the local Committee of Inspection to enforce the boycott of the Townshend Acts, and two years later, he helped Samuel Adams in setting up Committees of Correspondence.

With John and Samuel Adams, Gerry made up the patriot triumvirate in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Gerry was elected to the Massachusetts General Court in May 1772, and later to its successor, the Provincial Congress, serving as chairman of the committee on supplies during the fall and winter of 1774-1775. There he met Samuel Adams, with whom he immediately bonded. Gerry used his procurement skills as a shipping merchant to help the colonists in their revolt against England’s King George III.

Historian Mercy Otis Warren later recalled that Gerry coordinated the procurement and distribution of arms and provisions with “punctuality and indefatigable industry,” an effort he would continue while serving in the Continental Congress.

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Mary Trumbull Williams

Wife of Declaration Signer William Williams

Mary Trumbull was born on July 16, 1745, in Lebanon, Connecticut, the second daughter of Jonathan Trumbull, Royal Governor of Connecticut, who was the only Colonial governor to remain true to the cause of the Colonies. He served as governor in both a pre-Revolutionary colony and a post-Revolutionary state, and patriots from all parts of New England came to consult with him and lay plans for future action. Trumbull was in constant correspondence with Samuel Adams and other patriots of Massachusetts, and the confidant and adviser of General Washington.

American Patriot
William Williams

Mary Trumbull was also the sister of patriots Jonathan, Jr. and Joseph Trumbull and of the painter John Trumbull, daughter of Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, (Sr.), and great-great-great-granddaughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, was also a third cousin once removed of Patriots John Adams and Oliver Wolcott.

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Ann Borden Hopkinson

Wife of Declaration Signer Francis Hopkinson

Ann Borden was born on May 9, 1747, at Middleton, Monmouth County, New Jersey. She was the daughter of Colonel Joseph and Elizabeth Rogers Borden, members of a well-to-do family who had founded Bordentown, New Jersey. Ann and her older sister Mary were said to be the handsomest girls in New Jersey. Joseph Borden had a line of stage coaches and boats traveling between New York and Philadelphia.

Francis Hopkinson, the son of Thomas Hopkinson and Mary Johnson Hopkinson, was born on October 2, 1737, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thomas’s early death in 1751 left his wife to care for the children, the oldest of whom, Francis, had just turned fourteen. Mrs. Hopkinson was a lady of superior intellect and well qualified to supervise the education of her children. She had early on recognized indications of genius in her son Francis and made every effort, despite her limited income, to give him the advantages of a superior education.

American Patriot
Francis Hopkinson
Robert Edge Pine, Artist

Mary Hopkinson also had help from her husband’s friend, Benjamin Franklin, who saw Francis through the College of Philadelphia, where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree on May 17, 1757, and a master’s degree in 1760. His mother lived to see him graduate and become an eminent lawyer.

Hopkinson studied law in the office of Benjamin Chew, the Attorney General of Pennsylvania. Hopkinson became an attorney in 1761, and set up his practice in Philadelphia. But his was not a career restricted to law and politics. He cultivated an appreciation for music, writing, heraldry, and art. When not working, he spent much of his spare time in service to the Philadelphia Library, as secretary from 1759 through 1766.

In early December 1765, Hopkinson was debating a trip to England, and he wrote to Benjamin Franklin: “I have finished the Translation of the Psalms of David, to the great Satisfaction of the Dutch Congregation at New York, & they have paid me £145 their Currency, which I intend to keep as a Body Reserve in Case I should go to England.” Finally, on May 22, 1766, he sailed aboard the Hayfield, a ship owned by Redmond Conyngham, a friend of the family.

Hopkinson spent from May 1766 to August 1767 in England in hopes of becoming commissioner of customs for North America. Although unsuccessful, he spent time with the future Prime Minister Lord North and his half-brother, the Bishop of Worcester Brownlow North, and painter Benjamin West.

On October 23, 1767, as he had left, so he returned. He still lived with his mother, and had yet to embark on a career. In one way, however, his experience had been very helpful; realizing that he could not depend upon the patronage of friends and family for his advancement in life, Francis realized the inevitability of hard work to build a career for himself.

He set up shop as a retail merchant offering drygoods, fabric, and wine. This new business brought him £1500 in just four months, added to his work in conveyancing – the branch of law that consists of examining titles, checking their validity, and drawing deeds, for the conveyance of property from one person to another.

It was with this increase of confidence that Francis met and fell deeply in love with Miss Ann Borden of Bordentown, New Jersey. Ann was considered to be an amiable, accomplished, and beautiful girl. Ann Borden married Francis Hopkinson on September 1, 1768. The couple had five children who lived to adulthood: Joseph, Elizabeth, Mary, Ann, and Francis.

Though Hopkinson was now a successful businessman and a new father, he still had the yearning for public service. During the next three and a half years, he did not give up his pursuit of a government appointment and finally, on May 1, 1772, Hopkinson was given the position of Collector of his Majesty’s Customs for the Port of New Castle, Delaware. This, added to his already growing wealth, enabled him to purchase 1060 acres of land from John Penn, in October of 1772.

In 1773, Hopkinson was appointed to the New Jersey Provincial Council by Governor William Franklin. In early 1774, the family moved to Bordentown, New Jersey, Ann’s hometown. There, across the street from his father-in-law, Joseph Borden, Hopkinson built his house. He was admitted to the New Jersey bar on May 8, 1775, and began practicing law in Bordentown.

Patriot's home
Francis Hopkinson House
Built in 1750 on the southeast corner of Farnsworth Avenue and Park Street in Bordentown, this house became the home of Francis and Anne Borden Hopkinson from 1774 until his death. The house was originally only two stories with a gable roof. Flemish bond brick, a pent roof, and a patterned end wall were added in 1850.

During the American Revolution, Bordentown was a hotbed of revolutionary fervor with men such as Francis Hopkinson and Thomas Paine. Patience Wright lived across the street from the Hopkinsons. Patience’s son became a friend of George Washington, painted his portrait, and designed some of the first American coins.

Francis Hopkinson resigned his crown-appointed positions in 1776, and on June 21, he was chosen as one of the New Jersey delegates to the Second Continental Congress. On June 28, he took his seat; he signed the Declaration of Independence a month later. He served in the Second Continental Congress for only five months, from June to November, amd then left the Congress to serve on the Navy Board in Philadelphia.

In May and June of 1778, the British pillaged and burned Bordentown. A party of Hessians suddenly invaded the Hopkinson House residence, and the family only had time to escape with their lives before the invaders began to plunder the house. The house was spared burning because of a Hessian Officer’s appreciation for Hopkinson’s library.

As part of the fledgling nation’s government, Hopkinson was treasurer of the Continental Loan Office in 1778, and was appointed judge of the Admiralty Court of Pennsylvania in 1779.

Hopkinson is also credited as America’s first poet-composer at a time when Philadelphia and the colonies were not well known for the arts. He wrote popular airs and political satires in the form of poems and pamphlets. Some were widely circulated, and powerfully assisted in arousing the spirit of political independence in the colonies. His song, My Days Have Been So Wondrous Free, is regarded as the earliest surviving American secular composition.

Probably Hopkinson’s best-known and most popular work was The Battle of the Kegs (1778), a humorous ballad describing the alarm that was caused when the patriots of Bordentown floated kegs filled with gunpowder down the Delaware River in an attempt to blow up the British fleet anchored at Philadelphia.

Patriot's name
Francis Hopkinson Signature
On the Declaration of Independence

After the war, he served as a member of the convention at which our national Constitution was drafted. When the Constitution was put before the people in 1787, Hopkinson gave his full support, with both his voice and his pen, and helped ratify it. He also maintained a steady correspondence with Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson.

On September 24, 1789, he was nominated by President George Washington to the newly created position of judge of the United States District Court of Pennsylvania. He was confirmed by the United States Senate, and received his commission on September 26, 1789. He served in that position until his death. This was an important and dignified position that he was well qualified and suited for, giving stability and dignity to the new national government.

Francis Hopkinson died suddenly from an epileptic seizure on May 9, 1791, at Bordentown, at the age of fifty-three. He was buried in Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia. Surviving him were his widow and five children.

Dr. Benjamin Rush wrote:

“He had been subject to frequent attacks of the gout in his head, but for some time before his death, he had enjoyed a considerable respite from them. On Sunday evening, May the 8th, he was somewhat indisposed, and passed a restless night after he went to bed. He rose on Monday morning at his usual hour, and breakfasted with his family. At seven o’clock he was seized with an apoplectic fit, which in two hours put a period to his existence, in the 53rd year of his age.”

Upon his passing, his mother Mary Hopkinson wrote

“My Dear Son Francis Hopkinson departed this life May the 9th 1791. O my God, grant that he and all that I have lost may be happy in the arms of thy Redeeming Love.”

Following the custom of the times, Ann Hopkinson made a mourning brooch to commemorate her bereavement. A lock of Hopkinson’s hair is contained on this brooch, with these engraved words: “Francis Hopkinson Departed this Life 9th of May 1791. Forgive the wish that would have kept you here.” Hopkinson House went to son Joseph Hopkinson of Philadelphia, best known as the author of Hail Columbia.

Francis Hopkinson was quite versatile in his talents, being proficient in mechanics, chemistry, mathematics, music, and writing. Beloved son, adoring husband, loving father, a flawed but dependable and service-minded Christian, patriot to a young nation; truly, a Founding Father of our country. He contributed to the design of numerous important symbols and seals for the United States in the nation’s infancy. Among them are the seal of New Jersey, the Continental Board of Admiralty seal, the seal of the American Philosophical Society, theTreasury seal, and the Great Seal of the United States.

The literary and artistic talents of this versatile signer brought him more acclaim than his political and legal activities. Although a lawyer and judge by profession, he achieved more eminence as an essayist, poet, artist, and musician. His verse and satirical essays rank among the better literary efforts of the Revolutionary and early Federal periods.

Ann Borden Hopkinson died on August 12, 1827, at Middleton, Monmouth County, New Jersey, at age 80.

Patriot's grave
Francis Hopkinson Gravesite
Christ Church Burial Ground
Philadelphia, PA

SOURCES
History of Bordentown
Francis Hopkinson Biography
Wikipedia: Francis Hopkinson
Francis Hopkinson: New Jersey
The Hopkinson Family – PDF File
The Francis Hopkinson Flag Story
The Other Life of Francis Hopkinson

Sarah Cobb Paine

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer Robert Treat Paine

Robert Treat Paine
Edward Savage and John Coles, Jr., Artists

Sarah Cobb was born on May 15, 1744, in Taunton, Massachusetts, where her father, Captain Thomas Cobb, was a prominent citizen, magistrate, and member of the legislature. Her mother was Lydia Leonard, whose father and grandfather were both called Captain James Leonard, had been prominent in the early history of Bristol County. Her brother, General David Cobb, served all through the Revolution, three years of that time as an aide on the staff of George Washington. Sarah’s early life and education were similar to that of other daughters of well-to-do citizens of the commonwealth.

Robert Treat Paine was born in Boston on March 11, 1731, the son of Reverend Thomas Paine and Eunice Treat Paine. He could trace his ancestry back to a colonial governor, an acting president of Harvard, and a signer of the Mayflower Compact. His father, Thomas, was pastor of a church in Weymouth for several years, but because of impaired health, resigned and engaged in mercantile pursuits in Boston.

A bright, well-bred, popular youngster, Robert Treat Paine studied for seven years at the Latin School, then went on to Harvard College. While still a student at Harvard, his father’s business failed; upon graduation in 1749 at the age of eighteen, Paine had to teach in a country village – instead of running the family business as he had expected. He gave up teaching after one school term, and served as Chaplain of the military expedition to Crown Point in 1755.

Because of frail health, Paine set out to build up his strength by working on the sea. He spent some years as a merchant marine visiting the southern colonies, Spain, the Azores, and England. About this time, he decided to forsake the ministry for the law, in which he had become interested during his theological studies.

When he returned home in 1754, he began to study law in the office of Benjamin Pratt, later Chief Justice of the Colony of New York. Paine was admitted to the bar in 1757, two months after his twenty-sixth birthday. That same week his father died, passing on to his son the remains of a still-failing business. Paine first set up office in Portland, Maine (then part of Massachusetts), but in 1761 relocated to Taunton, Massachusetts, where he practiced law for many years.

In the 1760s, Paine was active in the resistance movement to the hated Stamp Act and Townshend Acts, and quickly became a patriot for the cause of independence. In 1768, he was a delegate to the provincial convention which was called to meet in Boston after the dissolution of the general court by Sir Francis Bernard, Royal Governor of Massachusetts.

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Rebecca Lee

Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer Francis Lightfoot Lee

Francis Lightfoot Lee

There are no known portraits
of Rebecca Tayloe Lee

Rebecca Tayloe was born in 1753, one of the eight daughters of John Tayloe of Mount Airy, a mid-Georgian plantation house in Richmond County, Virginia. Tayloe, a fourth generation tobacco planter, began construction of the house. The project was started around 1748 with completion in 1758. Its twenty-five spacious rooms afforded generous accommodation for the guests who were eager to accept the invitations of Colonel and Mrs. Tayloe.

Francis Lightfoot Lee was born on October 14, 1734, to Thomas and Hannah Ludwell Lee at Stratford Hall Plantation, the family estate in Westmoreland County on the Northern Neck – a peninsula (traditionally called “necks” in Virginia) nestled between the Potomac and the Rappahannock Rivers. He was the sixth son and eighth child of the Lees, one of the most famous families in Virginia. His brothers, William, Richard Henry, and Dr. Arthur Lee were also American Patriots.

Francis was raised at Stratford Hall Plantation, and like most male children of the Virginia planter class, he was educated at home by a private tutor and was well read in Classical literature, history, and law. He did not have the advantages, which were enjoyed by the elder sons, of an education at the English universities.

The year 1750 was painful for Francis and his younger siblings. While their older brothers were still in England, both parents died that year when Francis turned 16. The children inherited a combination of land, money, slaves, and company stock for land speculation in the Ohio River Valley. Francis was left Coton, a family estate in northern Virginia.

In 1758, he moved to Coton, then in the newly created Loudoun County and became a founder of the village of Leesburg, with his brother Philip Ludwell Lee. He was chief of the local militia, and from 1758 to 1769 served as member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. Although usually quiet and reserved, he did show his strong resistance to the British after the Stamp Act – all the while insisting, “What damned dirty work is this politics!”

During his time as a Burgess, Lee remained attentive to the political scene of not only Virginia, but also of the colonies. He became an opponent of taxation without representation and other British offenses, which he protested not only through personal letters, but also in signing his support to important documents, including the Westmoreland Resolves of 1766. As a member of a committee appointed to protest British policies toward the colonies in 1768, Lee maintained an active role in opposition to the British.

Lee joined the Revolutionary movement at an early date. From the time of the Stamp Act (1765) until the outbreak of war a decade later, he participated in most of the Virginia protests and assemblies. Frank Lee, as he was known to those close to him, was regarded by his brothers as the keenest of them all in political judgement. He had no taste for public life, but the responsibilities that came from bearing the Lee name during the turbulent times of the American Revolution eventually propelled him into service.

Rebecca Tayloe was sixteen when Francis Lee fell in love with her. Her father, John Tayloe, was a member of the King’s Council, who had his family join him to “spend the season” in Williamsburg. Lee, in the capital city as a Burgess, was considered “the catch of Williamsburg,” and Miss Tayloe was one of the belles of colonial society. The two were very happy together, and their courtship seems to have been one of the major events in the social news of 1768 and 1769.

On April 21, 1769, Francis Lee married Rebecca Tayloe. He was 35; she was 16. Rebecca’s father was devoted to his daughter, and did not want her to move very far from him. Instead of the cash dowry he bestowed on the husbands of his seven other daughters, Tayloe gave his daughter and her new husband a 1000 acre parcel of land on his Richmond County plantation, Mount Airy, and agreed to build a house, domestic outbuildings, and plantation structures for a man of high social and political rank, which they named Menokin. The newlyweds resided at Mount Airy with Rebecca’s parents until Menokin was completed in 1771.

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