1726 – 1794
I was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
I was born into a farm family in Elizabeth in 1726, but I was unable to do heavy labor. Instead, I learned about surveying and the law, and offered free advice to friends and neighbors who called me “the poor man’s counselor.” In 1748, I married Sarah Hatfield and we started a family that would eventually have ten children.
I was among the first to openly argue against Parliament for the way they were reducing our rights and privileges as British citizens. In all my revolutionary activities I acted as a champion of people’s liberty.
Maybe that’s why I was appointed to be one of New Jersey’s delegates to the Continental Congress with the authority to vote for independence and join a confederation of states if New Jersey could control its affairs. I signed the Declaration of Independence. And while I was in Philadelphia, two of my sons were captured and imprisoned on the Jersey, the enemy’s deadliest prison ship, anchored in New York harbor. The British offered to release them if I recanted my stand for independence, but I refused.
After we won our independence and a new Constitution was written in 1787, I had deep reservations about it unless it also contained a Bill of Rights, which we eventually added.
I lived in 1794, until I stayed out in the sun too long, overseeing a bridge being built on my farm, and I died from a bad case of sun-stroke.Learn More