Edward Rutledge

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Edward Rutledge

Signer of the Declaration of Independence

EDWARD RUTLEDGE was born in Charleston, South Carolina on November 23, 1749. He was the youngest of the seven children of Dr. John Rutledge who came to South Carolina from the north of Ireland about 1735. After acquiring a classical education, young Ned as he was called, read law with his older brother John, ten years his senior who guided him in his career as a lawyer. He was entered as a student at the Temple, a prestigious school in London England in 1769. He attended the courts of law and the houses of parliament for four years, and on being called to the bar, returned to Charleston and entered into practice.
Rutledge married the wealthy daughter of Henry Middleton, Henrietta, and subsequently built a home across the street from the house of his brothers John and Hugh. Ned was nearly bald despite his age and "inclining toward corpulency", entered into public life in 1774, when he was elected to the First Continental Congress, with the help of his brother John and his father-in-law, who were both respected politicians. Members of the plantation aristocracy entered prominently into public life at an amazingly early age, and young Rutledge was a member of congress before he was twenty-five. However, he did not make too favorable an impression at this first meeting. He excited the scorn of John Adams, never an admirer of the South Carolinians, who wrote in his diary "Young Ned Rutledge is a perfect Bob-o-Lincoln—a swallow, a sparrow, a peacock; excessively vain, excessively weak, and excessively variable and unsteady; jejeune, inane, and puerile."
By June 1776 at the Second Congress, Rutledge, although opposed to independence, gained strength and recognition as one of the more influential members of congress and was selected to sit on the important War and Ordinance Committee. His motions against independence were endless. While he did his best to delay the vote for independence, he is generally held responsible for the postponement of the vote on the resolution of independence, he is also given the major credit for the decision of the South Carolina delegation to go along with the others on July 2 for the sake on unanimity. Edward Rutledge holds the distinction of being the youngest signer of the Declaration.
Rutledge left Congress six months later, in the autumn of 1776 and returned to the low country. He distinguished himself as an officer in the militia and as a representative in the state legislature. Although he was re-elected to Congress, he did not get back to Philadelphia. Along with his brother-in-law Arthur Middleton, Rutledge was captured when Charleston fell and was imprisoned in St. Augustine.
After the war Rutledge was active in the legislature and in state conventions. In his home country he had always been thought a genial and charming gentleman, and no doubt he mellowed with the years. In 1798 he became governor of his state, but he died on January 23, 1800 before completing his term. He was only a few months past fifty. His first wife, Henrietta, bore him three children, but his second marriage, to Mrs. Mary Shubrick Eveleigh, was childless.



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