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John Morton

Signer of the Declaration of Independence

JOHN MORTON was born in 1724 in Ridley, in a part of Chester County that is now Delaware County, Pennsylvania. His roots can be traced back to his great grandfather, who in 1654 was among the first Swedish emigrants to this country. They settled in what are now the suburbs of Philadelphia. His father died in John's youth, and his stepfather, John Sketchley, an Englishman, supervised his education.

John Morton was reared on a farm, yet with the help of his stepfather, he became a surveyor before he entered into politics. He married Ann Justice (or Justis) who was also of Delaware Swedish decent. They had three sons and five daughters.

 Morton was elected to the provincial assembly in 1756 while in his thirties and would serve there almost continuously for a decade. After losing his seat, Morton was appointed high sheriff of Chester County by the governor of Pennsylvania. He held this position until he gained his way back into the provincial assembly, where he was frequently speaker of the house.

 John Morton was a Pennsylvania delegate at both the First and Second Continental Congresses, who initially refused to favor independence. In a letter to a friend in England, he wrote: "We are preparing for the worst that can happen, viz., a civil war. I sincerely wish reconciliation; the contest is horrid. Parents against children, and children against parents. The longer the wound is left in the present state the worse it will be to heal at last."

 When the British would not accept offers at reconciliation by he spring of 1776, Morton supported the vote for independence. Thomas Morton gave the casting affirmative vote of Pennsylvania on the question of adopting the Declaration of Independence. He was chairman of the committee of the whole on the adoption of the system of confederation, which was the committee that adopted the Articles of Confederation, ratified after his death.

   At the close of his life he was abandon by many of his friends whose political sentiments differed from his own. On his deathbed he said "Tell them they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge my signing of the Declaration of Independence to have been the most glorious service that I ever rendered my country." John Morton was the first of the Signers to die. He passed away quietly in Chester, Pennsylvania on April 1, 1777.

  

Court Document requiring William Archer to appear before the General Court on the lastTuesday of the present month. dated February 12, 1774 and signed "John Morton"   



Source: Centennial Book of Signers

 

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We invite you to read a transcription of the complete text of the Declaration as presented by the National Archives.

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The article "The Declaration of Independence: A History," which provides a detailed account of the Declaration, from its drafting through its preservation today at the National Archives.  

   

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