Thomas Lynch, Sr. was a successful planter from Charleston, South Carolina. He is important because he participated in many key events that shaped the American Revolution, including the Stamp Act Congress, First Continental Congress, and Second Continental Congress.
- Lynch was born in St. James Santee Parish in Berkeley County, South Carolina around 1727.
- His father was a wealthy rice planter with several plantations along the Santee River, and he was the first to cultivate rice on lands that are flooded by the tidewaters.
- In 1745, he married Elizabeth Allston. They had three children together.
- On March 6, 1755, he married Hannah Motte. They had one daughter together.
- Lynch inherited a large estate from his father on North Santee River and South Santee River and was a successful rice and indigo planter.
- Lynch had significant influence because of his prominence as a planter, which led to his involvement in politics.
- From 1752 to 1775, he was elected to the Commons House of Assembly as a representative from Prince Frederick Parish, St. James Santee Parish, and Prince George Winyah Parish.
- In 1765, he represented South Carolina at the Stamp Act Congress.
- In 1773, Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts visited South Carolina. Quincy referred to Lynch as “a man of sense, and a patriot.”
- In 1774, he attended the First Continental Congress.
- In 1775, he attended the Second Continental Congress.
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 South Carolina, chose to send delegates to the meeting, which was held in New York City. Lynch was elected as a delegate from South Carolina, along with John Rutledge and Christopher Gadsden.
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.
Lynch did not believe Parliament had the power to tax the colonies, and disagreed with sending petitions, however, he served as Chairman of the committee that drafted the memorial and petition to the House of Commons. The other members of the committee were James Otis and Thomas McKean.
Lynch voted in favor of the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, however, the delegates from South Carolina were not authorized to sign their names 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, Parliament passed five laws known collectively as the Coercive Acts. Four of them were intended to punish Boston and Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party and opposition to British policy.
- The Virginia Committee of Correspondence called for another Congress to discuss how the colonies would respond. 12 of the 13 colonies, including South Carolina, chose to send delegates to the meeting.
- Lynch was elected as a delegate from South Carolina, along with Henry Middleton, Christopher Gadsden, John Rutledge, and Edward Rutledge.
- On October 14, the Congress sent the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress to the King.
- Before adjourning, Congress agreed to meet again in the spring of 1775 if Great Britain had not adequately addressed their complaints.
South Carolina Provincial Congress
- In 1775, Lynch was elected by St. James Santee Parish to the Second Provincial Congress.
Second Continental Congress
- On March 30, 1775, Parliament passed the New England Restraining Act, which did not address the concerns of the First Continental Congress, so the Second Continental Congress moved forward. 12 of the 13 colonies, including South Carolina, chose to send delegates to the meeting. Later on, Georgia sent delegates, so all 13 colonies were represented.
- Lynch was elected as a delegate from South Carolina, along with Christopher Gadsden, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge, and John Rutledge.
- The Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia on May 10. 1775, less than a month after the American Revolutionary War began.
- Lynch played a key role in helping convince Congress to select George Washington as Commander-In-Chief of the American Army.
- He also supported the concept that the Legislative Branch of Congress should have two houses. One to represent the area, and the other to represent the population.
- He suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to continue his participation.
- His son, Thomas Lynch, Jr. was selected by the South Carolina Provincial Congress to assist him.
George Washington’s Navy
- During the Second Continental Congress, Lynch was part of a committee that went to Cambridge, Massachusetts to meet with General George Washington to discuss effective ways for the Congress to support the Continental Army.
- The other members of the committee were Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Harrison.
- Washington informed them of his plan to use armed ships to attack British supply lines.
- Lynch and the others approved, which provided the initial support needed to establish the first organized naval force for the colonies.
Declaration of Independence
- On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution declaring independence.
- On July 4, 1776, Congress approved the formal Declaration of Independence.
- Lynch was unable to sign the Declaration of Independence due to his health.
- As a sign of respect, Congress left a blank space where his signature would have been.
South Carolina General Assembly
- In 1776, Lynch was elected to the first South Carolina General Assembly but did not participate.
- In December 1776, Lynch left Philadelphia to return to South Carolina. His son, Thomas Lynch, Jr., accompanied him.
- He suffered a second stroke during the trip, in Annapolis, Maryland.
- He died in Annapolis and was buried in St. Anne’s Churchyard.
- Lynch’s plantations were worked by enslaved people.
Thomas Lynch, Sr. is important because he represented South Carolina in many of the most important political events that shaped the American Revolution, including the Stamp Act Congress, First Continental Congress, and Second Continental Congress. However, like many other Founding Fathers from the southern colonies, his legacy is tarnished due to his involvement in slavery.