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Carter Braxton
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

 

CARTER BRAXTON was born on his father's successful tobacco plantation in Newington, Virginia on September 10, 1736. He was educated at William and Mary College and, while still in his teens, inherited the large family estate upon the death of his father. At the age of nineteen he married a wealthy heiress named Judith Robinson, who died two years later, leaving two daughters.

After the death of his wife, Braxton spent three years in England and upon his return home, he in 1761 he married Elizabeth Corbin, the daughter of a British colonel who was the Receiver of Customs in Virginia for the King. He lived in great splendor in richly furnished mansions on two of his plantations and he produced a total of sixteen children, though only ten of these survived infancy.

Braxton entered the House of Burgess about that time and in 1765 he supported Patrick Henry's Stamp Act Resolutions with vigor as the imposition of import taxes were adversely affecting his own business interests. Braxton was elected in 1774 to the convention that met in Williamsburg after Lord Dunmore's dissolution of the assembly, and it was in that body he recommended a general congress of the colonies. The convention agreed to make a common cause with Boston and to break off commercial association with Britain. 

The Virginia convention upon reassembling in March 1775, adopted measures for the defense of the country, and for the encouragement of domestic production of textiles, iron and gunpowder. On April 20, 1775 Lord Dunmore had taken powder belonging to Virginia to a British vessel in the James River. Patrick Henry, a leader of the militia, flew to arms and refused to disband his troops and insisted upon making reprisals on the King's property in an amount sufficient to cover the value of the powder. Braxton interceded and obtained from his father-in-law, the receiver general of customs, a bill on Philadelphia for the amount of Patrick Henry's demand. Henry dismissed his men and bloodshed was for the time averted.

However, Braxton did not share the same zeal for freedom from England as did his colleagues. He was convinced that a possible civil war was far more dangerous than democracy. Braxton was chosen on December 15, 1775 to succeed Peyton Randolph as delegate to the Continental congress when Randolph died in October 1775, and took his seat in February 1776. Eloquently, he took to the floor of Congress to air his opposition to a hasty and complete break from England. No record exists on how Braxton actually voted. However, he signed the document on August 2, 1776. Nine days later he returned to Virginia where he took his former seat in the state legislature. He served there in various capacities until his death. 

The great fortune that Braxton inherited he risked in extensive commercial enterprises. During the Revolutionary War, just about every shipping vessel in which he held an interest was either sunk or captured by the British. He fell deeper and deeper in debt and was forced to sell off his vast land holdings and the debts due him became worthless on account of the depreciation of the currency. 

Carter Braxton died of a stroke on October 10, 1797 at the age of sixty-one.


 


 


 


 

BRAXTON, Carter, signer of the Declaration of Independence, born in Newington, King and Queen county, Virginia, 10 September, 1736; died in Richmond, Virginia, 10 October, 1797. He inherited a large estate in land and slaves from his father and grandfather, was educated at William and Mary College, and married, at the age of nineteen, a wealthy heiress named Judith Robinson, who died two years later, leaving two daughters. After spending two or three years in England he married Elizabeth Corbin, daughter of the king's receiver-general of customs, and lived in great splendor in richly furnished mansions on two of his plantations.

He entered the House of Burgesses about 1761, and in 1765 supported Patrick Henry's stamp-act resolutions with vigor. He was a member of the subsequent legislatures that were dissolved by the governor, and of the Virginia convention of 1769. In the assembly elected ill place of the one dissolved by Lord Botetourt in 1769, Mr. Braxton was appointed on three of the six standing committees. After its dissolution by Lord Dunmore, 12 October, 1771, he sufficient to cover the value of the powder, Mr. Braxton interceded and obtained from his father-in-law, the receiver-general, a bill on Philadelphia for the amount of Henry's demand, whereupon the latter dismissed his men, and bloodshed was for the time averted. Braxton was chosen a member of the last House of Burgesses, which was elected immediately after the dissolution in May, 1774, and convened on 1 June, 1775. He was a member of the general convention that, after the flight of the governor on 7 June, was convened in Richmond on 17 July, 1775, and, assuming the powers of the executive and the legislature, passed acts for the organization of the militia and minute-men. He was one of the eleven members of the committee of safety appointed by that body.

Peyton Randolph, delegate to the continental congress from Virginia, and the first president of that body, died in October, 1775, and when the convention reassembled, on 1 December, in Richmond, and afterward in Williamsburg, Mr. Braxton was chosen, on 15 December, 1775, to succeed the deceased representative. He affixed his name to the Declaration of Independence on 4 July, 1776, but, in consequence of a resolve passed by the Virginia convention on 20 June, 1776, reducing the number of delegates from Virginia in the general congress from seven to five, he ceased, on 11 August, 1776, to be a member of the congress. His "Address to the Convention of Virginia on the Subject of Government" (Philadelphia, 1776) contained sentiments not relished by the more eager patriots. His popularity was, however, not so much impaired but that he was elected to succeed William Aylett (who resigned to join the army) in the general convention, and in virtue of that election he became a member of the first House of Delegates under the constitution. He was chairman of the committee of religion, made the reports of the committee of grievances and propositions, and was a member of the committee of trade, and of important special committees. He was a member of the House of Delegates in 1777, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1783, and 1785.

In the latter year he supported Jefferson's act for the freedom of religion. In January, 1786, he was appointed a member of the Privy Council, or council of state, and remained in that office till 30 March, 1791. He then returned to the legislature as member for Henrico County, having removed to Richmond in 1786. In 1793 he was again appointed by the general assembly a member of the executive council, and continued to serve until his death. The great fortune that he inherited he risked in extensive commercial enterprises, and during the revolutionary war his vessels were captured by the enemy, the debts due him became worthless on account of the depreciation of the currency, and he was involved in endless litigation and interminable pecuniary embarrassments, into which his sons-in-law and other friends were also drawn.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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