John Morton

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Founding Fathers
John Morton
State Pennsylvania
Religion Christian- Episcopalian [1]
Founding Documents Declaration of Independence

John Morton (1724 – April 1, 1777) is a founding father of America, had an extensive legal career as a jurist, and presided in the Stamp Act Congress. He was chairman of the committee which reported the Articles of Confederation[2] and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Noted for his intelligence and hard work.

Early life

John was born in Ridley, Chester County Pennsylvania, now called Delaware County. He was the great-grandson of Swedish immigrants. At a young age, John's father died and after his mother Mary Archer remarried he was raised by his English stepfather John Sketchley. John Morton was raised a farm boy and started out in surveying. In 1748 he married Ann Justis and they had eight children: Aaron, Sketchley, John, Mary, Sarah, Lydia, Ann and Elizabeth


Morton was elected in 1756 to the Provincial Assembly, serving for a decade, sometimes as Speaker. He filled numerous civil offices in Pennsylvania such as Justice of the Peace, High Sheriff, Presiding Judge in County Court and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.[3] In 1774, Morton was elected to the Continental Congress. While there, he supported independence and signed the Declaration of Independence. The Congress also helped Pennsylvania to move toward the adoption of a new Constitution. After a state convention was convened and the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 was finalized, Morton became a vocal opponent of it.

He helped draft the Articles of Confederation with the Continental Congress but died before their final ratification.


Before signing, his sympathies were with the British. When he changed his mind for independence his friends, relatives, neighbors turned against him and it affected his health. Just eight short months after signing the Declaration he was dead. His last spoken words on his deathbed were, "Tell them they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge my signing of the Declaration of Independence to have been the most glorious service that I ever rendered my country."

John Morton was the first of the Signers to die[4] and was buried in St. Paul's Church Burial Ground in Chester, Pennsylvania.[5] His grave went unmarked until 1845 when his descendants erected an obelisk to mark the location.[6]

The John Morton Center for North American Studies at the University of Turku is named in his honor.[7]

See also