Carter Braxton — Signer of the Declaration of Independence

September 10, 1736–October 10, 1797

Carter Braxton was a Founding Father from Virginia. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and played a key role in the Virginia Gunpower Incident of 1775.

Carter Braxton, Founding Father, Illustration, NYPL

Carter Braxton. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Who was Carter Braxton?

Carter Braxton was a merchant and politician from Virginia. He was a member of the House of Burgesses and rose to prominence during the American Revolution. He was present when Patrick Henry delivered his famous speech against the Stamp Act. Braxton was also a member of the Virginia Convention in 1774, which convened in response to the Intolerable Acts. He is the one who suggested a “general congress of the colonies,” which became the First Continental Congress. At the outbreak of the war, he played a key role in helping resolve the Virginia Gunpowder Incident, which was caused by Lord Dunmore’s removal of military supplies from the magazine in Williamsburg. Afterward, Braxton replaced Peyton Randolph as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. During his short stay in Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence.

Carter Braxton Facts

  • Born: Carter Braxton was born on September 10, 1736, in King and Queen County, Virginia.
  • Died: He died on October 10, 1797, in Richmond, Virginia.
  • Buried: Braxton is buried at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
  • Fun Fact: Carter Braxton signed the Declaration of Independence.

Carter Braxton Biography

This biography of Carter Braxton is based on historian Benson J. Lossing’s biographical sketch. It was published in 1858 as part of Lossing’s Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Please note that section headings have been added and some text updates have been made in order to improve the readability of the text and correct errors.

Early Life and Career of Carter Braxton

Carter Braxton was born at Newington, in King and Queen’s County, Virginia, on September 10, 1736. His father, George Braxton, was a wealthy farmer, and highly esteemed among the planters of Virginia. His mother was the daughter of Robert Carter, who, for a time, was president of the royal council for that State. They both died while Carter and his brother George were quite young.

Braxton was educated at the College of William and Mary, and at the age of 19 years, on leaving that institution, he was married to Judith Robinson the daughter of a wealthy planter in Middlesex County.  

Carter’s own large fortune was considerably augmented by this marriage, and he was considered one of the wealthiest men in his native county. Unfortunately, Judith died during the birth of their second child, when she was not quite 21 years old.

Marriage to Elizabeth Corbin

In 1757, following the death of his wife, Braxton went to England, for the purpose of self-improvement, personal gratification, and to mourn for his wife. He returned to America in 1760, and soon afterward married, Elizabeth Corbin, the daughter of Richard Corbin, a British Customs official in Virginia.

Due to his social position, and aristocratic connections, it would have been natural for Braxton to avoid the Patriot Cause. However, he was one of the early supporters of the opposition to British tax policies.

Carter Braxton and the American Revolution

Carter Braxton and the Stamp Act Crisis

In 1765 he was a member of the House of Burgesses. How much earlier he appeared in public life is not certainly known. He was present when Patrick Henry introduced his resolutions against the Stamp Act and was one of those who, inspired by Henry, voted in support of them.

Patrick Henry, Founding Father, Illustration
Patrick Henry. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

The eloquence of Henry on that occasion fell like successive thunderbolts on the ears of the timid Assembly. “It was in the midst of the magnificent debate on those resolutions,” says Mr. Wirt,” while he was descanting on the tyranny of the obnoxious Act, that he exclaimed, in a voice of thunder, and with the look of a God: “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell and George the Third…”

“Treason!” cried the Speaker.

“Treason, treason,” echoed from every part of the House. 

It was one of those trying moments that are decisive of character. Henry faltered not for an instant but rising to a loftier altitude and fixing on the Speaker an eye of the most determined fire, he finished the sentence with the firmest emphasis:

“…and George the Third may profit by their example. If that be treason make the most of it.”

Braxton and the Virginia Non-Importation Resolutions of 1769

Braxton was a member of the House of Burgesses in 1769, when Lord Botetourt, the Royal Governor, suddenly dissolved it, in consequence of some acts therein which he deemed treasonable. 

Braxton was one of the members who immediately retired to a private room and signed the Virginia Non-Iimportation Resolutions on May 17, 1769.

The Arrival of Lord Dunmore

Lord Botetourt died toward the close of 1770 and was succeeded by Lord Dunmore.

During the interval between the death of Botetourt and the arrival of Dunmore, Braxton held the office of high sheriff of the county where he resided, but he refused to hold it under the new governor. 

John Murray, Earl of Dunmore
John Murray, Earl of Dunmore. Image Source: Wikipedia.

First Virginia Convention Elects Delegates to the First Continental Congress

Braxton Carter was one of the members of the House of Burgesses who, on the dissolution thereof by Governor Dunmore, in the summer of 1774, recommended a general convention of the people of Virginia, to meet at Williamsburg. The meeting, known as the First Virginia Convention, was held on August 1, 1774, and elected delegates to attend the First Continental Congress.

Carter Braxton and the American Revolutionary War

Braxton and the Virginia Gunpower Incident

When, in 1775, the attempt of Lord Dunmore to take the ammunition from the public magazines on board the Fowey, then lying off Williamsburg, excited the people to the highest pitch, and threatened open rebellion and armed resistance.

Patrick Henry put himself at the head of a military company, and marched toward Williamsburg, to demand from Lord Dunmore the return of the powder His company rapidly augmented in numbers as he approached the town, and he entered it at the head of an overwhelming force. 

Braxton, by a wise and prudent course, succeeded in quelling the disturbance, and in bringing about such an arrangement as quite satisfied the people, and probably saved the town from destruction.

The governor, finding resistance rain, finally agreed to pay for the powder, and was then allowed quietly to retire with his family on board the Fowey in the river.

Flight of Lord Dunmore from Williamsburg
This illustration depicts Lord Dunmore and other passengers in a rowboat as they row to the man-of-war ship “Fowey.” Image Source: Library of Congress.

Braxton Replaces Peyton Randolph and Signs the Declaration of Independence

In December 1775, he was chosen as a delegate to the Continental Congress to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of Peyton Randolph. He took an active part in favor of independence and voted for and signed the Declaration

Peyton Randolph, Illustration
Peyton Randolph, the 2-time President of the Continental Congress, was in Philadephia at the time of his death. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

He remained in Congress during only one session and then resumed his seat in the Virginia Legislature, where he continued with but little interruption, until 1785. 

During the war, he loaned £10,000 sterling to support the war effort. He had also used his wealth to sponsor shipping and privateering. However, he suffered financial losses that left him in debt. He was often involved in lawsuits related to his inability to pay his debts and was forced to leave the country estate he inherited for a smaller home in Richmond

In 1786, he was appointed a member of the council of the State and held that station until 1791. He was elected to the same office in 1794, where he continued until within four days of his death. 

This event, which was occasioned by paralysis, occurred on the tenth day of October 1797, when he was in the sixty-first year of his age.

Why is Carter Braxton important?

Carter Braxton is important to the history of the United States because he is a Founding Father, who helped shape the foundation of the United States by signing the Declaration of Independence. He also played an important role in the development of the state of Virginia.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Carter Braxton — Signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • Date September 10, 1736–October 10, 1797
  • Author
  • Keywords Carter Braxton, Founding Father, Virginia Gunpower Incident, Second Continental Congress, Signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 15, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update May 16, 2024