The Religious Affiliation of
a Signer of the American Declaration of Independence
Joseph Hewes is regarded as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was a delegate from North Carolina.
Joseph Hewes was a Quaker and an Episcopalian.
He was identified as an Episcopalian by the North Carolina State Library. (Source: Ian Dorion, "Table of the Religious Affiliations of American Founders", 1997).
From: B. J. Lossing, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, George F. Cooledge & Brother: New York (1848) [reprinted in Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, WallBuilder Press: Aledo, Texas (1995)], pages 205-207:
The parents of Joseph Hewes were natives of Connecticut, and belonged to the Society of Friends, or Quakers. Immediately after their marriage they moved to New Jersey, and purchased a small farm at Kingston, within a short distance of Princeton. It was there that Joseph was born, in the year 1730. He was educated at the college in Princeton, and at the close of his studies he was apprenticed to a merchant in Philadelphia, to qualify him for a commercial life. On the termination of his apprenticeship, his father furnished him with a little money capital, to which he added the less fleeting capital of a good reputation, and he commenced mercantile business on his own account. His business education had been thorough, and he pursued the labors of commerce with such skill and success, that in a few years he amassed an ample fortune.
At the age of thirty years, Mr. Hewes moved to North Carolina, and settled in Edenton, which became his home for life. He entered into business there, and his uprightness and honorable dealings soon won for him the profound esteem of the people. While yet a comparative stranger among them they evinced their appreciation of his character, by electing him a member of the legislature of North Carolina, in 1763, and so faithfully did he discharge his duties, that they re-elected him several consecutive years.
Mr. Hewes was among the earliest of the decided patriots of North Carolina, and used his influence in bringing about a Convention of the people of the State, to second the call of Massachusetts for a General Congress. The convention that met in the summer of 1774, elected him one of the delegates for that State, in the Continental Congress that met at Philadelphia in September following. He took his seat on the fourteenth of the month, to draw up a Declaration of Rights. During that session he was actively engaged in maturing a plan for a general non-importation agreement throughout the Colonies, and he voted for and signed it. In this act his devoted patriotism was manifest, for it struck a deadly blow at the business in which he was engaged. It was a great sacrifice for him to make, yet he cheerfully laid it upon the altar of Freedom.
Mr. Hewes was again elected a delegate to Congress in 1775, and took his seat at the opening, on the tenth of May. He seldom engaged in debate, but as an unwearied committee-man, he performed signal service there. He was at the head of the naval committee, and was in effect the first Secretary of the Navy of the United States. He was also a member of the "Secret Committee," to which we have before alluded in these memoirs.
Mr. Hewes was a member of Congress for 1776, and North Carolina having early taken a decided stand in favor of independence, his own views upon this question were fully sustained by his instructions, and he voted for, and signed the Declaration thereof. As soon, thereafter as the business of the session would admit, he returned home, for the troubles there demanded his presence, and his private affairs needed his attention to serve his fortune from being scattered to the winds. He remained at home until July, 1779, when he resumed his seat in Congress. But his constitution, naturally weak, could not support the arduous labors of his station, and his health failed so rapidly, that he was obliged to resign his seat. He left it on the twenty-ninth of October, 1779, and being too unwell to travel, he remained in Philadelphia. But he only lived eleven days after he left his seat in Congress. He died on the tenth of November following, in the fiftieht year of his age. He was the first and only one of all the signers of the Declaration, who died at the seat of Government, while attending to public duty, and his remains were followed to the grave by Congress in a body, and a large concourse of the citizens of Philadelphia.
From: Robert G. Ferris (editor), Signers of the Declaration: Historic Places Commemorating the Signing of the Declaration of Independence, published by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service: Washington, D.C. (revised edition 1975), pages 73-75:
Born in 1730 at Maybury Hill, an estate on the outskirts of Princeton, N.J., Hewes awas the son of a pious and well-to-do Quaker farmer. He received a strict religious upbringing, and studied at a local school. after learning trade from a Philadelphia merchant, he entered business for himself...
As a member of the North Carolina assembly (1766-75), the committee of corespondence (1773), and the provincial assemblies (1774-75), Hewes helped the Whigs overthrow the royal government. Elected to the Continental Congress in 1774, he vigorously supported nonimportation measures even though it meant personal financial loss. By the time of the outbreak of the War for Independence, the next year, anathema to the pacifistic Quakers, he had rejected the faith altogether--culminating a trend that had been evolving because of his love of dancing and other social pleasures, as well as his Revolutionary activities.
...In 1777 Hewes lost his bid for reelection to Congress, one of the few failures of his life, and in 1778-79 he found solace in the State legislature. In the latter years, despite health problems,he accepted reelection to the Continental Congress. A few months after arriving back in Philadelphia and not long before his 50th birthday, overworked and fatigued, he died. His grave is in Christ Church Burial Ground there.
Portrait: from Robert G. Ferris (editor), Signers of the Declaration: Historic Places Commemorating the Signing of the Declaration of Independence, published by the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service: Washington, D.C. (revised edition 1975).
Webpage created 13 November 2005. Last modified 22 November 2005.
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