Button Gwinnett

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Founding Fathers
Button Gwinnett
State Georgia
Religion Christian- Episcopalian; Congregationalist [1]
Founding Documents Declaration of Independence
Georgia's Constitution

Button Gwinnett (b. circa 1732-1735 [2] - d. May 19, 1777) was a delegate to the Continental Congress who helped draft the Articles of Confederation and signed the Declaration of Independence. Gwinnett was president of Georgia's Revolutionary Council of Safety, developed Georgia's Constitution which was ratified. He led a failed invasion of British East Florida. He was killed in a duel with his arch-enemy Colonel Lachlan McIntosh.

Early life

Button Gwinnett was born in Down Hatherley, Gloucestershire, England[3] to Samuel and Ann Gwinnett.[4] Not much is known of his early life other than he was baptized on April 10, 1735,[5] and as a young man he became a merchant. Some time after his marriage to Ann Bourne[6] in England he moved to Charleston, South Carolina. Shortly thereafter, he became a landowner in Georgia through his purchase of St. Catherine's Island in 1765.[7] Gwinnett staked his personal fortune in the welfare of the colonies.


Button Gwinnett's first foray into government was his election victory for Commons House of Assembly in 1769. In 1776, he was elected by the general assembly congress in Savannah, Georgia,[8] where he met Lyman Hall[9] who remained a life-long friend. Also in 1776, he was appointed commander of Georgia's continental militia. This action was hotly contested by Colonel Lachlan McIntosh, brigadier general of the continental brigade. Subsequently, Gwinnett resigned and represented the Continental Congress where he voted in favor of Independence and signed the Declaration.

When he returned home, Gwinnett was elected president in Georgia. Once again, he took control of the continental militia and the rivalry with McIntosh ensued. With the assumption of great power, he relieved General McIntosh of his troops. Gwinnett led an expedition force against British East Florida. His actions failed miserably and it was thwarted by Lachlan McIntosh and his brother George. Gwinnett was charged with malfeasance but acquitted. Subsequently, the public soured on him, Gwinnett would lose election for Governor.


As fate would have it, a duel over personal honor was proposed outside of Savannah. On May 16, 1777, both men were shot in the duel, only Gwinnett failed to recover and he would die three days later.


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