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William Ellery - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Thursday, December 12, 2019

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Birth: December 22, 1727
Death: February 15, 1820 (age 92)
Colony: Rhode Island
Occupation: Merchant, Lawyer, Politician, Judge
Significance: Signed The Declaration of Independence (at the age of 48); served as a judge on the Supreme Court of Rhode Island

William Ellery

William Ellery was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Born in Rhode Island, Ellery attended Harvard and graduated in 1747. After Harvard, Ellery returned to Newport, Rhode Island and worked as a merchant before he started to practice law in 1770. Around the same time, Ellery became politically active and joined the Rhode Island Sons of Liberty.

In 1776, after the death of Samuel Ward, Ellery was elected to replace him and served in the Second Continental Congress. Ellery voted for Independence, and he signed The Declaration of Independence. After signing The Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776, Ellery continued to serve in the Continental Congress (Congress of the Confederation) until 1785, after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.  

Upon leaving the Continental Congress, Ellery returned to Rhode Island and served as a judge on the Supreme Court of Rhode Island. Ellery was also appointed the first customs collector of the Port of Newport, a job he held until his death in 1820 at the age of 92.

William Ellery in Philadelphia

Ellery arrived in Philadelphia in 1776 as a Delegate to the Second Continental Congress. While serving as a member of the Second Continental Congress, Ellery worked at Independence Hall, and he signed The Declaration of Independence. All told, Ellery lived in Philadelphia for many years as a member of the Continental Congress. A plaque commemorating Ellery 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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