NC Signers of the Constitution

The men from the Old North State that signed the Declaration of Independence are each quite worthy of knowing more about. These men were intricately involved in the swift and most consequential actions for establishing independence and a moral system government.

In total there were three North Carolina signers of the declaration, all born out of state and settling in the First in Freedom State professionally.

Joseph Hewes (1730-1779) was born in Princeton, New Jersey on January 23, 1730, and attended The College of New Jersey (later renamed to Princeton University). He established a shipping business in Edenton, North Carolina in 1760 and, by the time of the American Revolution, had amassed a fortune. He was elected to represent the town of Edenton in the colonial House of Burgesses in 1766 and served there until it was dissolved by Royal Governor Josiah Martin in April of 1775. He was appointed to the Committee of Correspondence, elected to represent the town of Edenton in the First Provincial Congress, and soon thereafter, he was elected to represent North Carolina in the Continental Congress in 1774. He served in the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1777, and again in 1779.

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He was known as a tireless worker in committee and the leading expert on maritime concerns. In 1776, he signed the Declaration of Independence and placed his ships at the service of the Continental Armed Forces. He served the Congress as the Secretary of the Naval Affairs Committee until 1779, when he fell ill. He died at the age of fifty on November 10, 1779.

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William Hooper was born in Boston, Massachusetts on June 28, 1742. He graduated from Harvard College in 1760, continued his studies in the law, and settled in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1767. In 1773, he was elected to represent New Hanover County in the House of Burgesses of North Carolina, and he continued until Royal Governor Josiah Martin prorogued the Assembly in April of 1775.

In the meantime, New Hanover County again elected William Hooper to the First Provincial Congress held from August 25-27, 1774 in New Bern.

He attended the First Continental Congress in 1774. He resigned from the Congress in 1776 and returned home. In 1789, he was appointed to the Federal Bench, but a year later he retired due to failing health. He died on October 14, 1790.

Elected to the House of Burgesses of North Carolina, 1773-1775; Member of the North Carolina First Provincial Congress, 1774; Member of Continental Congress, 1774-1776; Judge of the Federal Court; 1786.

John Penn was born on May 17, 1741 (one source asserts he was born on May 6, 1740), in Caroline County, Virginia, to a family of means. His father died when he was eighteen years old, and though he had received only a rudimentary education at a country school, he had access to the library of his relative Edmund Pendleton. He was licensed to practice law in the state of Virginia at age twenty-two.

In 1774, John Penn moved to Granville County, North Carolina, where he established a law practice and soon became a gentleman member of the political community. He was elected to attend the Third Provincial Congress in 1775 (?) and elected to the Continental Congress that same year to replace Richard Caswell, who returned home. He served there until 1777, participating in committee work. He was again elected in 1779, appointed to the Board of War, where he served until 1780. He declined a judgeship in his native state around that time, due to failing health. In retirement he engaged in his law practice. He died at the age of forty-eight on September 14, 1788.

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