John Morton

1724–April 1, 1777

John Morton, Jr. was a well-known representative, law enforcement officer, and judge from Pennsylvania. He participated in key events that shaped the American Revolution, including the Stamp Act Congress, First Continental Congress, and Second Continental Congress. He also signed the Declaration of Independence and helped write the Articles of Confederation.

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Early Life

  • Morton was born in 1724 in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
  • His father was John Morton, Sr., and his mother was Mary Archer.
  • His father died before he was born.
  • When Morton was seven years old, his mother married John Sketchley.

Education

  • Morton’s stepfather oversaw his education.

Family

  • In 1748, Morton married Ann Justis. They had eight children together.

Political Career

  • In 1756, Morton was elected to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly.
  • In 1757, he was elected Justice of the Peace. He held that office until 1764.
  • In 1765, he represented Pennsylvania at the Stamp Act Congress.
  • In 1766, he resigned from the Provincial Assembly and became the Sheriff of Chester County.
  • In 1769, he was re-elected to the Provincial Assembly.
  • In 1774, he was appointed as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
  • In 1774, he attended the First Continental Congress.
  • In 1775, he attended the Second Continental Congress.
  • In 1775, he was elected as Speaker of the Provincial Assembly.

Delegate to the Stamp Act Congress

On March 22, 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which required a stamp to be placed on all legal documents and many printed materials in the colonies.

In May, news of the new law reached the colonies. There was immediate opposition, including riots in Boston, Massachusetts, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Savannah, Georgia.

On June 8, 1765, the Massachusetts Assembly sent a circular letter to the legislatures of the other colonies, inviting them to send delegates to a congress in New York to discuss a unified response to the Stamp Act. The precedent for such a meeting had been set by the Albany Congress in 1754.

Nine of the 13 colonies, including Pennsylvania, chose to send delegates to the meeting, which was held in New York City. Morton was elected as a delegate from Pennsylvania, along with George Bryan and John Dickinson.

The Stamp Act Congress convened on October 7, 1765. On October 19, the Stamp Act Congress issued a Declaration of Rights and Grievances. Congress sent petitions to the King and both houses of Parliament and asked for the Stamp Act to be repealed.

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Morton signed his name to the official documents of the Stamp Act Congress.

On November 1, 1765, the Stamp Act took effect, but there were no stamp masters available to distribute the stamps. They had resigned or refused to perform their job due to violence and intimidation against them.

On March 18, 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, primarily due to protest from British merchants who believed it would damage their prospects of doing business in the colonies. However, on that same day, Parliament passed the Declaratory Act, which declared it had the “full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.”

First Continental Congress

  • In 1774, Morton represented Pennsylvania as a delegate to the First Continental Congress.

Second Continental Congress

  • In 1775, Morton represented Pennsylvania as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress.
  • In 1776, he cast the deciding vote from Pennsylvania to adopt the Declaration of Independence.

Declaration of Independence

  • In June 1776, When the Second Continental Congress debated the Declaration of Independence, the Pennsylvania delegation was divided. Benjamin Franklin and James Wilson were in favor, and John Dickinson and Robert Morris were opposed.
  • On July 1, Morton decided to vote for independence.
  • On July 2, when the final vote was taken, Morton voted in favor of the Declaration, along with Franklin and Wilson. Dickinson and Morris abstained.
  • On August 2, 1776, Morton signed the Declaration of Independence.

Articles of Confederation

Death

  • On April 1, 1777, he died from tuberculosis at the age of 53.
  • He was the first signer of the Declaration of Independence to die.

Significance

John Morton is important because he is a Founding Father, and participated in so many key events that shaped the nation, including the Stamp Act Congress, First Continental Congress, and Second Continental Congress. He signed the Declaration of Independence and helped write the Articles of Confederation.

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Founding Father

John Morton is considered a Founding Father of the United States because he signed the Declaration of Independence and was involved in writing the Articles of Confederation.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title John Morton
  • Coverage 1724–April 1, 1777
  • Author
  • Keywords Stamp Act, Stamp Act Congress, First Continental Congress, Second Continental Congress, Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date September 24, 2022
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 12, 2022