Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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ROSS, George, signer of the Declaration of Independence, born in Newcastle, Delaware, in 1730; died in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in July, 1779. His father, George (1676-1754), left the Presbyterian ministry for that of the Church of England and came from Scotland to Delaware about 1703. He very soon rose to prominence, becoming one of the pillars of the Episcopal church in the American colonies, and acting as chaplain to several of the proprietary governors of Pennsylvania. The son at the age of eighteen began the study of tile law, and on his admission to the bar, in 1751, settled in Lancaster, Pa He was a member of the Pennsylvania assembly in 1768-'70, and appointed by the convention that assembled, after the dissolution of the proprietary government, to prepare a declaration of rights. Mr. Ross was elected to the 1st general congress at Philadelphia in 1774, and continued to represent his state until June, 1777, when, through falling health, he resigned his seat. On this occasion, the citizens of Lancaster having voted him a piece of plate worth £150, he declined the gift on the ground that " it was the duty of every man, especially of every representative of the people, to contribute by every means within his power to the welfare of his country without expecting pecuniary rewards." On first entering congress he was appointed by the legislature to report to that body a set of instructions by which his conduct and that of his colleagues were to be guided. He was among the foremost leaders in the provincial legislature in espousing measures for the defence of the community against British aggression, and in 1775 drew up a reply to a message of Governor Penn that deprecated any defensive measures on the part of the colonies, He was also the author of the report urging vigorous action for putting the city of Philadelphia in a state of defence. On 14 April, 1779, he was appointed judge of the court of admiralty for Pennsylvania, which post he filled until his death three months later. Judge Ross possessed a benevolent disposition, which often led him to espouse the cause of the Indians and to save that people from the consequences of the frauds that were practised on them by the whites. As a lawyer he was early classed among the first of the profession, and as a judge he was learned and upright, and remarkable for the ease and rapidity with which he despatched business. He was the last man of the Pennsylvania delegation to sign the Declaration of Independence.--His half-brother, John, lawyer, born in New Castle, Delaware, in 1714 ; died in Philadelphia, 8 May, 1776, was admitted to the bar of the supreme court of Pennsylvania, 27 August, 1735, and so rapidly rose in his profession that in 1743 he was the chief rival of Andrew Hamilton before the courts. In 1744 he engaged in the manufacture of pig-iron in Berks county with John Lesher, and he continued his interest in the same until his death. In 1759, with others, he was consulted by the governor and council in relation to a law for recording warrants and surveys, and thus render the title to real estate more secure. In 1760 he took part in the organization of St. Paul's Episcopal church, and was its first warden. Alexander Graydon says: " Mr. John Ross, who loved ease and madeira much better than liberty and strife, declared for neutrality, saying that, ' let who would be king, he well knew that he should be subject'"; and John Adam, s writes of him in his diary, 25 September, 1775, as "a lawyer of great eloquence and heretofore of extensive practice, a great Tory, but now they say beginning to be converted." He was a friend and correspondent of Benjamin Franklin, and an early member of the American philosophical society.
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