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Edward Rutledge
39th Governor of South Carolina

In office
December 18, 1798 – January 23, 1800
Lieutenant John Drayton
Preceded by Charles Pinckney
Succeeded by John Drayton
Member of the South Carolina Senate from Charleston

In office
November 28, 1796 – December 6, 1798
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from the St. Phillip's and St. Michael's Parish

In office
January 6, 1783 – November 28, 1796
Member of the South Carolina General Assembly from St. Phillip's and St. Michael's Parish

In office
March 26, 1776 – October 17, 1778
Delegate from South Carolina to the Continental Congress

In office
1774 – 1776
Personal details
Born (1749-11-23)November 23, 1749
Charleston, South Carolina
Died January 23, 1800(1800-01-23) (aged 50)
Charleston, South Carolina
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Henrietta Middleton
Mary Shubrick Eveleigh
Religion Anglican

Episcopal Church

Military service
Service/branch South Carolina militia
Years of service 1778 – 1781
Rank Captain
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War
*Battle of Beaufort
*Siege of Charleston

Edward Rutledge (November 23, 1749 – January 23, 1800) was an American politician and youngest signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. He later served as the 39th Governor of South Carolina.

Early years and career[edit | edit source]

Like his eldest brother John Rutledge, Edward was born in Charleston. He was the youngest of seven children (5 sons and 2 daughters) born to Dr. John Rutledge and Sarah Hext. His father was a physician and immigrant of Scots-Irish descent; his mother was born in South Carolina and was of English descent. Following his brothers John and Hugh he studied law in London at the Inns of Court. In 1772 he was admitted to the English bar (Middle Temple)[citation needed], and returned to Charleston to practice. He was married on 1 March 1774 to Henrietta Middleton (17 November 1750 – 22 April 1792), daughter of Henry Middleton. The couple had three children;

  • Maj. Henry Middleton Rutledge (5 April 1775 – 20 January 1844)
  • Edward Rutledge (20 March 1778 – 1780)
  • Sarah Rutledge (1782–1855)

Rutledge had a successful law practice with his partner, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. He became a leading citizen of Charleston, and owned more than 50 slaves.[1]

American Revolution[edit | edit source]

Along with his brother John, Rutledge represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress. He worked to have African Americans expelled from the Continental Army.[1] Although a firm supporter of colonial rights, he (as a delegate) was instructed initially to oppose Lee's Resolution of independence; South Carolina's leaders were unsure that the time was "ripe."[2] By early July, 1776, he was instructed to vote in favor. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no evidence that he opposed the anti-slavery clause in the Declaration[citation needed]. At age 26 he was the youngest to sign the Declaration of Independence. He returned home in November 1776 to take a seat in the South Carolina Assembly. He served as a captain of artillery in the South Carolina militia, and fought at the Battle of Beaufort in 1779. The next year he was captured by the British in the fall of Charleston, and held prisoner until July 1781.

Rutledge is standing on the far right in John Trumbull's famous painting The Declaration of Independence.

Later life and legacy[edit | edit source]

After his release he returned to the state assembly, where he served until 1796. He was known as an active member and an advocate for the confiscation of Loyalist property. He served in the state senate for two years, then was elected governor in 1798. He had to go to an important meeting in Columbia. While there he had to be sent home because of his gout. He died in Charleston before the end of his term. Some said at the time that he died from apoplexy resulting from hearing the news of George Washington's death.[1]

The Edward Rutledge House in Charleston

In popular culture[edit | edit source]

Rutledge was a main character in the musical play 1776, in which he sings the song "Molasses to Rum" about slavery and the Triangle Trade. He is depicted as the secondary antagonist in the play in obstructing John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Rutledge was portrayed by Clifford David in the original Broadway production, and John Cullum in the 1972 film. 1776 claims that Rutledge led the opposition to an anti-slavery clause in the original draft of the Declaration. Rutledge's leadership against the clause is fictional. According to Jefferson, the clause was opposed by South Carolina and Georgia, plus unspecified "northern brethren";[3] that is the limit of known information about opposition to the clause. Rutledge was a delegate from South Carolina, but there is no evidence in the historical record that he played any part—much less that of leader—in the opposition to the clause.[4]

In the 2008 miniseries John Adams, Rutledge was portrayed by Clancy O'Connor.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

Actress Goldie Hawn is a direct descendant of Rutledge through her father.[5]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Williams, American National Biography.
  2. The Rise of the Republic of the United States (1881) by Richard Frothingham, p. 515; The Story of Philadelphia (1900) by Lillian Ione Rhoades MacDowell, p. 169; The Constitutional Review, Volume 6 (1922), article by Henry Campbell Black, p. 162; Revolutionary America, 1763-1815: A Political History (2008) by Francis D. Cogliano, p. 91.
  3. The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia: a Comprehensive Collection of the Views of Thomas Jefferson (1900) by Thomas Jefferson, edited by John P. Foley, p. 246
  4. In the 19th Century, Rutledge was routinely included in volumes of biographies of American statesmen. Invariably, each capsule biography of Rutledge points out that nothing is known of what he said or did during the Continental Congress, due to the fact that the Congress was conducted in closed session and its members had made a pact of secrecy. The 19th Century biographers pointed to no letters or memoirs in which Rutledge's participation was specified. See, e.g. (there are many others), Lives of the Presidents of the United States by Robert W. Lincoln (1836), p. 390; Sanderson's Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (1846) by John Sanderson and Robert Taylor Conrad, p. 351; The United States Manual of Biography and History by James V. Marshall (1856), p. 115; An Outline of the Political and Social Life of George Washington, Volume 2 (1895) by James Tyson, p. 339.
  5. Stated in Hawn interview on Inside the Actors Studio, 2008

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • Williams, Patrick G.. "Rutledge, Edward". American National Biography Online, February 2000.

External links[edit | edit source]

Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Pinckney
Governor of South Carolina
1798– 1800
Succeeded by
John Drayton

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