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Thomas Nelson, Jr. - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2019

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Birth: December 26, 1738
Death: January 4, 1789 (age 50)
Colony: Virginia
Occupation: Plantation Owner, Soldier, Politician
Significance: Signed The Declaration of Independence (at the age of 37); served as the Governor of Virginia (June 12, 1781 to November 22, 1781)

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Thomas Nelson, Jr. was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Born in Virginia to a wealthy family which owned a large plantation, Nelson was sent to England as a child for his schooling. Nelson also attended college in England, graduating from Cambridge in 1760. After the completion of his studies, Nelson returned to Virginia where he helped to manage his family's plantation before he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1761.

In 1774, the Virginia House of Burgesses was dissolved as tensions exploded following the Boston Tea Party. Nelson became a leading patriot voice in Yorktown, Virginia, and he helped to organize the Yorktown Tea Party in response. Nelson was elected to serve in Second Continental Congress in 1776, replacing Patrick Henry who had just been elected Governor of Virginia. Nelson voted for Independence, and he signed The Declaration of Independence. After signing The Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776, Nelson continued to serve in the Second Continental Congress until 1777 when he was forced to resign due to failing health.

Upon leaving the Second Continental Congress, Nelson returned to Virginia and his health improved. In 1781, Nelson was elected Governor of the Virginia, replacing Thomas Jefferson. It was a precarious time to be Governor of Virginia since the Virginia Government had been pushed out of the statehouse by British forces. Nelson also served in the Virginia militia during this time, participating in pivotal Battle of Yorktown which took place in his hometown. A return of poor health caused Nelson to resign as Governor of Virginia in 1781. With his fortune destroyed by the American Revolution, Nelson was forced to move in with his son, who helped care for him until Nelson died 1789 at the age of 50.

Thomas Nelson, Jr. in Philadelphia

Nelson arrived in Philadelphia as a Delegate to the Second Continental Congress in 1776. While serving as a member of the Second Continental Congress, Nelson worked at Independence Hall, and he signed The Declaration of Independence. A plaque commemorating Nelson for signing The Declaration of Independence can be found on Signers' Walk on the 600 block of Chestnut Street (between 5th and 6th Streets). 


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