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Born: Virginia - late 1749 or early 1750
George Walton moved to Savannah, Georgia in 1769 to study law, and developed a very successful practice. But soon he became involved in greater matters, as he was a leader in the movement opposing British policies toward the American colonies. In July of 1775 he was elected secretary of the provincial assembly, then in December was chosen President of the Council of Safety. The assembly chose Walton as a delegate to the Continental Congress in January, 1776. Walton, however, did not arrive in Philadelphia until late June, taking his seat in the Congress on July 1, as the historic vote for independence was approaching. Being only twenty-six years old, Walton was the youngest signer of the Declaration.
Walton continued to serve in the Continental Congress until October, 1777. His involvement in political and military affairs did not end upon his return to Georgia. His militia was involved in the attack on Florida in early 1778, and in defending Georgia's borders. When the British attacked Savannah in December of 1778, Walton was wounded and taken prisoner. He recovered and was exchanged in October, 1779. Upon his release he toured the Georgia back country encouraging citizens to keep up the fight.
When a new state assembly was convened in November, 1779, it selected Walton as governor. His term was marked by bitter disputes between his followers and those of Lachlan McIntosh, who Walton had requested be removed as Brigadier General by the Continental Congress. Walton himself returned to the Congress in early 1780 and served through September, 1781 - although he remained in Philadelphia until the end of the war. Returning to Georgia in 1783 he still faced criticism over his previous actions against McIntosh, yet the assembly still chose him as chief justice of the new state. As chief justice he defended himself against McIntosh's accusations and gained political support statewide. His attempts at rice planting were much less successful, however, and left him in financial trouble. He sold his lands in Chatham County and moved to Richmond County.
He was elected governor again in 1789, serving until a new government
was begun under the new state constitution in November of that year. Under
the new government Walton was appointed a superior court judge. In 1795 he
was appointed to fill the unexpired United States Senate seat of James Jackson.
He became involved in a political feud with Jackson over the Yazoo land fraud
case. Jackson was the main opponent of the land sales, and largely because
of Walton's rumored support of them - he was not returned to the Senate.
He returned home to Georgia, where he again attempted farming on his Richmond
County lands. He died in Augusta on February 2, 1804. In 1848 his remains
were removed from their burial site and placed with a monument honoring Georgia's
signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Born: Wallingford, Connecticut - April 12, 1724
Lyman Hall moved from Connecticut to Charleston, SC in 1756 or 1757, where he began a medical career. In 1760 he established a plantation in Georgia, but continued to administer to the sick and injured of the area. He returned to South Carolina in 1762, still practicing medicine, but by 1774 was back in Georgia and heavily involved in Revolutionary politics. For his actions he received an angry rebuke from royal governor James Wright, but caught the attention of Georgia's provincial assembly, which sent him as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776.
Hall did not participate in the Congressional debates usually, but was a tireless committee worker - especially in procuring medicine and clothing for soldiers. He was reelected to the Congress to serve through 1780, but decided to return home in February, 1777. He wanted to be on hand to help defend the state, and was also involved in the partisan political feuds within Georgia itself. Hall was a longtime friend of Button Gwinnett, one of his fellow delegates to the Congress. Hall supported Gwinnett in his famous feud with Lachlan McIntosh, which eventually led to the duel that cost Gwinnett his life. Hall was executor of Gwinnett's estate.
When the British captured Savannah, both of Hall's homes were torched and he was accused of high treason. He fled to Charleston, which subsequently also came under British attack. Hall fled again, probably to Connecticut to stay with relatives. When the fighting ended he began reclaiming his lands in Georgia. Elected as delegate to the House of Assembly in 1783, that legislature then elected him governor. The executive at the time had little authority, but Hall worked diligently addressing the new state's many problems - such as defense, Indians, meager food supply, and chaotic finances. He suggested to the assembly that they set aside tracts of lands to establish educational academies in the future. This suggestion, continued by another transplanted man from Connecticut - Abraham Baldwin - was instrumental in the chartering of the University of Georgia. As one of his final acts as governor, Hall was able to announce the signing of the Treaty of Paris which officially ended the war.
Hall followed his year as governor with another year in the assembly,
then with a year as a judge, before retiring from the political scene. He
stayed active on his plantation however, and in 1789 he and a group of other
prominent Georgians formed a society to help promote more successful agriculture
in the state. In 1790 Hall moved to a plantation along the Savannah River
in Burke County, where he died within a few months. "Intelligent and spirited
men, who make a powerful addition to our phalanx" is how John Adams remembered
Hall and his fellow Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Baptized: Gloucester, England - April 10, 1735
Button Gwinnett came to Georgia in 1765. He had little success as either a merchant or a planter, but became intricately involved and quite adept at Revolutionary politics. His political battles were as much with the Whig factions within Georgia as they were with the British. Gwinnett represented the group trying to wrest power away from the "city" party, dominated by the Christ Church parish centered in Savannah. His success was evidenced by his selection as leader of Georgia's Continental battalion in early 1776. But many of his political rivals opposed his selection. To avoid excessive controversy, Gwinnett gave up this post, instead accepting election to the Continental Congress.
He arrived in Philadelphia on May 20, 1776. He was heavily involved in committee work, but took no recorded part in the debate over independence. His support for the cause was clear though, as he voted to separate from England on July 2, voted for the Declaration itself on July 4, and signed the actual document on August 2. Soon thereafter he left Philadelphia to return to Georgia.
Gwinnett hoped to again be named leader of the Georgia forces, but that appointment went to Lachlan McIntosh, a longtime political rival. Gwinnett turned his attention to the legislature, where his faction won control. He and his followers set out to purge the military of all those ostensibly not devoted to the Revolutionary cause. But most of those purged were supporters of McIntosh. The legislature adjourned in February, 1777 - leaving the government in the hands of the Council of Safety. The Council's President - Archibald Bulloch - died within a month and the Council selected Button Gwinnett to take his place. The only negative vote was cast by George McIntosh - Lachlan's brother.
Gwinnett proposed invading Florida and taking St. Augustine - to guarantee protection of Georgia's southern boundary. But McIntosh and his followers believed the plan was politically, not militarily, motivated and refused to aid the effort. Gwinnett had George McIntosh arrested for treason, while Lachlan immediately came to his brother's defense. Meanwhile the expedition to Florida was begun, but soon halted. Gwinnett requested aid from McIntosh, but by now cooperation between the two was impossible. The Council called Gwinnett back to Savannah, where the tensions between the two factions and the two men continued to mount.
In May, 1777 a new assembly convened. Gwinnett was defeated in a bid for
the governorship, but was cleared of any wrongdoing in the Florida expedition.
An angry Lachlan McIntosh publicly declared that Gwinnett was "a scoundrell
and lying rascal." The very next day Gwinnett challenged McIntosh to a duel.
The two met outside Savannah on May 16, 1777. Both were wounded in the ensuing
duel; McIntosh recovered, Gwinnett did not. He died three days later. His
death so soon after the fact has made Button Gwinnett's signature a rare
and valuable item. He subsequently became the most famous of Georgia's three
signers of the Declaration of Independence.
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