Button Gwinnett was
a native of England, where he was born about the
year 1732. His
parents were respectable in life, and gave their son as good an
their moderate circumstances would allow. On coming of age, Mr.
a merchant in the city of Bristol.
Some time after his
marriage in England, he removed to America, and selecting Charleston,
Carolina, as a place of settlement, he continued there for about two
the expiration of which, having sold his stock in trade, he purchased a
tract of land in Georgia, where he devoted himself extensively to
Mr. Gwinnett had
from his earliest emigration to America taken a deep interest in the
welfare of the
colonies; but, from the commencement of the controversy with Great Britain, he had few anticipations that
the cause of
the colonies could succeed. A successful resistance to so mighty a
that of the United
Kingdoms, to him
appeared extremely doubtful; and such
continued to be his apprehensions, until about the year 1775, when his
experienced no inconsiderable change.
This change in his
sentiments, touching the final issue of the controversy, produced a
corresponding change in his conduct. He now came forth as the open
strong and decided measures, in favor of obtaining a redress, if
American grievances, and of establishing the rights of the colonies on
and enduring basis. In the early part of the year 1776, he was elected
general assembly, held in Savannah, a representative of the province of Georgia, in congress. Agreeably to his
he repaired to Philadelphia, and in the following month of
May, for the
first time, took his seat in the national council. In October, he was
re-elected for the year ensuing to the same responsible station.
In the month of
February, 1777, a convention of citizens from Georgia was held in Savannah to frame a constitution for the
government of the state. Of this convention Mr. Gwinnett was a member,
said to have furnished the outlines of that constitution, which was
Shortly after the
above convention, occurred the death of Mr. Bullock, the president of
provincial council. To this office Mr. Gwinnett was immediately
Unfortunately, while he represented the colony in congress, he was a
with Colonel Lackland McIntosh, for the office of brigadier general of
continental brigade, about to be levied in Georgia, to which office the latter was
The success of his rival, Mr. Gwinnett bore with little fortitude. His
was disappointed, and being naturally hasty in his temper, and in his
conclusions, he seems, from this time, to have regarded Colonel
McIntosh as a
On becoming president
of the executive council, Mr. Gwinnett adopted several expedients by
mortify his adversary. . Among these, one was the assumption of great
over the continental army in Georgia, in consequence of which General
was treated with much disrespect by a part of his officers and
humble his adversary still further, Mr. Gwinnett, in an expedition
which he had
projected against East
to command the continental troops and the militia of Georgia himself,
exclusion of General McIntosh from the command even of his own brigade.
Just at this
period, it became necessary to convene the legislature for the purpose
organizing the new government. In consequence of the station which Mr.
held as president of the council, he was prevented from proceeding at
of the expedition destined against East Florida.
The troops, therefore, were by his orders placed under the command of a
subordinate officer of McIntosh's brigade. The expedition entirely
probably contributed to the failure of Mr. Gwinnett's election to the
governor, in May, 1777.
blasted the hopes of Mr. Gwinnett, and brought his political career to
In the disappointment and mortification of his adversary, General
foolishly exulted. The animosity between these two distinguished men,
time, continued to gather strength, until Mr. Gwinnett, unmindful of
offices which he had held, of his obligations to society, and of his
obligations to the author of his being, presented a challenge to
They fought at the distance of only twelve feet. Both were severely
The wound of Mr. Gwinnett proved mortal; and on the 27th of May, 1777,
forty fifth year of his age, he expired.
Thus fell one of
the patriots of the revolution; and though entitled to the gratitude of
country, for the services which he rendered her, her citizens will ever
that he fell a victim to a false ambition, and to a false sense of
circumstances could justify an action so criminal, none can ever
In his person, Mr.
Gwinnett was tall, and of noble and commanding appearance. In his
was irritable; yet in his language he was mild, and in his manners
graceful. Happy had it been for him, had his ambition been tempered
prudence; and probably happy for his country, had his political career
terminated in the prime of life.
Lyman Hall was a
native of Connecticut, where he was born about the
After receiving a collegiate education, and having acquired a competent
knowledge of the theory and practice of medicine, he removed, in 1752,
to South Carolina. He was induced, however, during
year, to remove to Georgia, where he established himself at
in the district of Medway. In this place he continued attending to the
of his profession, until the commencement of the revolutionary contest.
On the arrival of
this important crisis in the history of the colonies, the patriotism of
Hall became greatly excited to the interests and dangers of his
perceived that the approaching storm must necessarily be severe; but
kindred spirits of the north, he was determined to meet it with
firmness and resolution. Having accepted of a situation in the parish
of St. John, which was a frontier
settlement, both his
person and property were exposed to great danger, from his proximity to
Creek Indians and to the royal province of Florida.
The parish of St. John, at an early period of the
with great spirit into the general opposition of the country against Great Britain, while a majority of the
inhabitants of Georgia entertained different
sentiments. So widely
different were the views and feelings of the people of this parish from
of the inhabitants of the province generally, that an almost entire
took place between them.
In July, 1774, the
friends of liberty held a general meeting at Savannah, where Doctor Hall appeared as a
representative of the parish of St. John. The measures, however, adopted
time, fell far short of the wishes both of this patriot and his
In January, 1775, another meeting was held at Savannah, at which it was agreed to
king for a redress of grievances, and for relief from the arbitrary
acts of the
The parish of St. John, dissatisfied with the
of the Savannah convention, in the following
application to the committee of correspondence in Charleston, South Carolina, to form an alliance with them,
their trade and commerce should be conducted on the principles of the
non-importation association. The patriotic views and feelings of this
independent people were highly applauded by the committee, but they
themselves under the necessity, by the rules of the continental
declining the alliance.
Upon receiving this
denial, the inhabitants of St. John agreed to pursue such
independent measures as the patriotic
principles which they had adopted should appear to justify.
resolved not to purchase slaves imported into Savannah, nor to hold any commercial
with that city nor with surrounding parishes, unless for the
life, and these to be purchased by direction of a committee. Having
independent stand, they nest proceeded to choose a representative to
and on counting the votes, it was found that Doctor Hall was
In the following
May, Doctor Hall appeared in the hall of congress, and by that body was
unanimously admitted to « seat. But, as he represented not the
colony of Georgia, but only a parish of the
colony, it was at
the same time resolved to reserve the question as to his right to vote
further deliberation of the congress.
The above question
at length coming before the house, on the occasion of congress taking
opinions of its members by colonies, Doctor Hall expressed his
give vote only in those cases in which the sentiments of congress were
taken by colonies.
Fortunately for the
cause of liberty, on the 15th of July, 1775,; the convention of Georgia
to the general confederacy, and proceeded to the appointment of five
to congress, three of whom attended at the adjourned meeting of that
September 13, 1775.
Among the delegates
thus appointed, Dr. Hall was one. To this station he was annually
until 1780, at the close of which year he finally retired from the
At length Georgia fell temporarily into the power
British. On this event, Doctor Hall removed his family to the north,
suffered the confiscation of all his property by the British government
established in the state. In 1782, he returned to Georgia, and in the following year was
the chief magistracy of the state.
After enjoying this
office for a time, he retired from the cares of public life, and about
sixtieth year of his age, died at his residence in the county of Burke, whither he had removed.
Doctor Hall, in his
person, was tall and well proportioned. In his manners he was easy, and
deportment dignified and courteous. He was by nature characterized for
and enthusiastic disposition, which, however, was under the guidance of
discretion. His mind was active and discriminating. Ardent in his own
he possessed the power of exciting others to action; and though in
acted not so conspicuous a part as many others, yet his example and his
exertions, especially in connection with those of the inhabitants of
circumscribed parish of St. John, powerfully contributed to the final
of the whole colony of Georgia to the confederacy; thus presenting in
against the mother country the whole number of her American colonies.
George Walton, the
last of the Georgia delegation, who signed the
Declaration of Independence,
and with an account of whom we shall conclude these biographical
born in the county of Frederick, Virginia, about the year 1740.
early apprenticed to a carpenter, who being a man of selfish and
views, not only kept him closely at labor during the day, but refused
privilege of a candle, by which to read at night.
possessed a mind by nature strong in its powers, and though
having enjoyed even the advantages of a good scholastic education, he
ardently bent on the acquisition of knowledge; so bent, that during the
his leisure moments, he would collect light wood, which served him at
instead of a candle. His application was close and indefatigable; his
acquisitions rapid and valuable.
At the expiration
of his apprenticeship, he removed to the province of Georgia, and entered the office of a Mr.
with whom he pursued the preparatory studies of the profession of law,
1774, he entered upon its duties.
At this time the
British government was in the exercise of full power in Georgia. Both the governor and his
firm supporters of the British ministry. It was at this period that
Walton, and other kindred spirits, assembled a meeting of the friends
liberty, at the liberty pole, at Tondee's tavern in Savannah, to take into consideration the
preserving the constitutional rights and liberties of the people of Georgia, which were endangered by the
acts of the British parliament.
At this meeting,
Mr. Walton took a distinguished part. Others, also, entered with great
and animation into the debate. It was, at length, determined, to invite
parishes of the province, to come into a general union and co-operation
the other provinces of America to secure their constitutional rights
In opposition to
this plan, the royal governor and his council immediately and strongly
themselves, and so far succeeded by their influence, as to induce
meeting, which was held in January, 1775, to content itself with
petition to be presented to the king. Of the committee appointed for
purpose, Mr. Walton was a member. The petition, however, shared the
fate of its
In February, 1775,
the committee of safety met at Savannah. But notwithstanding that
several of the
members advocated strong and decisive measures, a majority were for
for the present, a temporizing policy. Accordingly, the committee
without concerting any plan for the appointment of delegates to the
congress. This induced the people of the parish of St. John, as noticed in the preceding
separate, in a degree, from the provincial government, and to appoint
a delegate to represent them in the national legislature.
In the month of
July, 1775, the convention of Georgia acceded to the general
five delegates, Lyman Hall, Archibald Bullock, John Houston, John J.
Noble W. Jones, were elected to represent the state in congress.
In the month of
February, 1776, Mr. Walton was elected to the same honorable station,
the following month of October, was re-elected. From this time, until
1781, he continued to represent the state of Georgia at the seat of government, where
displayed much zeal and intelligence, in the discharge of the various
which were assigned him. He was particularly useful on a committee, of
Robert Morris and George Clymer were his associates, appointed to
continental business in Philadelphia, during the time that congress
to retire from that city.
In December, 1778,
Mr. Walton received a colonel's commission in the militia, and was
the surrender of Savannah to the British arms. During the
defense of that place, Colonel Walton was wounded in the thigh, in
of which he fell from his horse, and was made a prisoner by the British
A brigadier-general was demanded in exchange for him; but in September,
he was exchanged-for a captain of the navy.
In the following
month, Colonel Walton was appointed governor of the state; and in the
succeeding January, was elected a member of congress for two years.
The subsequent life
of Mr. Walton was filled up in the discharge of the most respectable
within the gift of the state. In what manner he was appreciated by the
of Georgia, may be learnt from the fact that he was at six different
elected a representative to congress; twice appointed governor of the
once a senator of the United States; and at four different periods a
the superior courts, which last office he held for fifteen years, and
time of his death.
It may be gathered
from the preceding pages, respecting Mr. Walton, that he was no
He rose into distinction by the force of his native powers. In his
he was ardent, and by means of his enthusiasm in the great cause of
rose to higher eminence, and secured a greater share of public favor
confidence, than he would otherwise have done.
Mr. Walton was not
without his faults and weaknesses. He was accused of a degree of
sometimes indulged his satirical powers beyond the strict rules of
He was perhaps, also, too contemptuous of public opinion, especially
opinion varied from his own.
The death of Mr.
Walton occurred on the second day of February, 1804. During the latter
his life, he suffered intensely from frequent and long continued
attacks of the
gout, which probably tended to undermine his constitution, and to
event of his dissolution. He had attained however to a good age, and
life, happy in having contributed his full share towards the measure of
of the signers to the Declaration of
independence; By Charles Augustus Goodrich; Publ. 1829; Pages 452-461;
Transcribed and submitted by Andrea Stawski Pack]