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Pierce Butler - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Friday, December 20, 2019

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Birth: July 11, 1744
Death: February 15, 1822 (age 77)
Colony: South Carolina
Occupation: Plantation Owner, Soldier, Politician
Significance: Signed the United States Constitution (at the age of 43); and served as United States Senator from South Carolina (1789-1796)

Pierce Butler Statue in Signers' Hall at the National Constitution Center

Pierce Butler was one of seven immigrants (who were not native to the American Colonies) to sign the United States Constitution. Butler was born in Garryhundon, Ireland and served in the British Army before he resigned and moved to South Carolina in 1773. Due to Butler's experience in the British Army, in 1779, he was tasked by John Rutledge, the Governor of South Carolina, with taking control of the South Carolina's defensive forces.  Butler ended up taking a leading role in the American opposition to Britain's Southern Campaign.  

It is a testament to the respect for Butler's service in the Revolutionary War that Butler, a former Royal officer in the British Army, was named as a representative of South Carolina at the Constitutional Convention which met in Philadelphia in the Summer of 1787. At the Constitutional Convention, Butler was one of the strongest proponents of slavery. It was Butler who proposed the Fugitive Slave Clause, which meant that the United States Constitution would protect the institution of slavery until a Civil War was fought to correct this horrible decision. 

After he signed the Constitution of the United States, Butler returned to South Carolina where he was elected as a United States Senator. As a further stain on Butler's present day reputation, he allowed Vice President Aaron Burr to hide on his plantation after he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Burr was wanted for murder by the states of New York and New Jersey at this time.  

After Butler lost his senate seat, Butler moved to Philadelphia in 1805, and he spent much of his last years in the city. After his death in 1822, Butler was buried in the North Garden of Christ Church (before the establishment of Christ Church Burial Ground in 1719, Christ Church buried the earliest members of the congregation in the churchyard) in Philadelphia.

Pierce Butler in Philadelphia

Pierce Butler first lived in Philadelphia when he helped to write the Constitution of the United States as a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. During the Constitutional Convention, Butler worked at Independence Hall. He later lived in Philadelphia and worked in Congress Hall as a U.S. Senator when Philadelphia was the Capital city.  Butler also lived primarily in Philadelphia in his later years, and he is today buried at Christ Church. Today, you can also see a statue commemorating Butler for his role in the creation of the United States Constitution in the Signers' Hall exhibit of the National Constitution Center. Signers' Garden pays tribute to the Founding Fathers, including those such as Butler who signed the Constitution of the United States. The National Constitution Center, Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Christ Church and Signers' Garden are stops visited along The Constitutional Walking Tour!

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