The 56 People Who Signed the Declaration of Independence

Print Email

Source: Courtesy of THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY DIGITAL COLLECTIONS

William Whipple (1730-1785)
> State: New Hampshire

Born in Maine, Whipple became a seaman, earning the position of ship’s master — in effect a captain — at the age of 21. Eight years later, he landed at Portsmouth on the New Hampshire coast and established a business as a merchant. He became politically active and served in the Continental Congress until taking a leave to serve as brigadier general in the New Hampshire Militia during the Revolutionary War.

Source: Courtesy of THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY DIGITAL COLLECTIONS

William Williams (1731-1811)
> State: Connecticut

A Harvard-educated merchant, Williams held the post of town clerk in Lebanon, Connecticut, for 44 years, also serving as selectman and becoming speaker of the house in the colonial legislature. Brought in to replace another Continental Congress member, Oliver Wolcott, who had fallen ill, he arrived too late to vote for independence, but in time to sign the Declaration.

Source: Courtesy of THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY DIGITAL COLLECTIONS

James Wilson (1742-1798)
> State: Pennsylvania

Born and educated in Scotland, Wilson emigrated to America in 1766, studying law and being admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar. In 1774, he wrote a pamphlet arguing that the British Parliament had no legal authority over the colonies. It was influential on members of the Continental Congress, to which he was subsequently elected. He later served as a director of the Bank of North America, a member of the Constitutional Convention, and an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Source: mrgarethm / Flickr

John Witherspoon (1723-1794)
> State: New Jersey

Born and educated in Scotland, Witherspoon was brought to America to serve as president of the College of New Jersey — now Princeton University — under the auspices of two other signers, Richard Stockton and Benjamin Rush. When another delegate to the Constitutional Convention suggested that the colonies weren’t yet ripe for independence, he famously replied that they were “not only ripe for the measure, but in danger of rotting for the want of it.”

Source: Courtesy of THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY DIGITAL COLLECTIONS

Oliver Wolcott (1726-1797)
> State: Connecticut

The youngest of the 14 children of colonial Connecticut governor Roger Wolcott, Wolcott was educated at Yale, raised a militia to fight in the French and Indian War, and was appointed sheriff of Connecticut’s Litchfield County. Returning to military life, he became a colonel in the Connecticut Militia and later brigadier general of Connecticut forces in the Continental Armies. Though too ill to attend the Continental Congress and sign the Declaration of Independence in August of 1776, he added his signature in the fall of that year.