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William Henry Drayton - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Thursday, December 24, 2020

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Birth: September 1742
Death: September 3, 1779 (approximately 37)
Colony: South Carolina
Occupation: Plantation Owner, Lawyer, Politician
Significance: Signed The Articles of Confederation (at the age of 35); served as Chief Justice of South Carolina (1776-1778); served in the Continental Congress (1778-1779)

William Henry Drayton

William Henry Drayton was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Drayton was born on the expansive plantation known as Drayton Hall, which was owned by his father and his mother Charlotta Bull Drayton, who was the daughter of the Governor of South Carolina, William Bull.

Drayton grew up very wealthy and at the age of eight, he was sent to England to attend Westminster, an elite London boarding school. After his time Westminster, Drayton attended Oxford University where he studied law. After 14 years in England, Drayton returned to South Carolina in 1764 and began practicing law.

Initially Drayton supported England in the growing dispute between England and its American Colonies. In recognition of his support, Drayton was appointed to the British government of South Carolina, the Colonial Council in 1772. However, by 1774, Drayton's views had changed, and his public support of the the First Continental Congress which met in Philadelphia led to his expulsion from the British government of South Carolina. 

Drayton subsequently joined the South Carolina Committee of Safety and 1775, and he grew more outspoken in his support of securing American rights by any means necessary. In 1776, Drayton was appointed the Chief Justice of South Carolina, and he held that position until 1778 when he was elected to serve in the Second Continental Congress. While in the Continental Congress, Drayton was among the first first to sign the Articles of Confederation on July 9, 1778 after the Articles were ratified by his Colony of South Carolina. 

Drayton died in Philadelphia of typhus while serving in the Continental Congress in September of 1779, and he was buried in Christ Church Burial Ground. His grave was unmarked, and unfortunately its exact location has been lost to time.

William Henry Drayton in Philadelphia

William Henry Drayton traveled to Philadelphia in 1778 to serve as a member of the Second Continental Congress. While in the Continental Congress, Drayton worked at Independence Hall, where he signed The Articles of Confederation. Following his sudden death from typhus in Philadelphia, Drayton was interred in the historic Christ Church Burial Ground.

Today, Independence Hall and Christ Church Burial Ground are some of the stops visited along The Constitutional Walking Tour!

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