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Edward Rutledge


   The general esteem in which be was held, was evinced in 1774, by his appointment to the distinguished congress which assembled at Philadelphia in that year. He was at this time but twenty-five years of age. It was a high honor for so young a man to be called to serve in the national council, with men of exalted powers and pre-eminent experience. It furnished unquestionable proof of the estimation in which he, was held, and strong presumptive evidence that this estimation of his talents and moral worth was not unjust. As the proceedings of the congress of 1774 were conducted with closed doors, and an injunction of secrecy laid upon its members, it is impossible, at this day, to ascertain the precise share of influence which the individual members exerted, on all the measures which they advocated. Mr. Rutledge was, however, with the other delegates of South Carolina, formally thanked by the provincial congress, for the spirited and independent course he had pursued, and was again elected to the important station which he held.

   In the congress of 1776, he took an active part in the discussions which preceded the declaration of independence. He is said to have proposed some alterations in the original draught of that celebrated instrument: but the precise nature of them it is now impossible to ascertain. The merit of the instrument doubtless wholly belongs to Mr. Jefferson. Some alterations, indeed, were made in it; but they were chiefly verbal, while the spirit and texture remained untouched.

   At a subsequent date, Mr. Rutledge was appointed, with Dr. Franklin and John Adams, as commissioners to wait upon Lord Howe, who had requested congress to appoint such a committee to enter with him into negotiations for peace. In a former page we had occasion to allude to the appointment of these commissioners, and to state that the conference was productive of no beneficial results.

   On the breaking up of the conference, Lord Howe dispatched his own barge to convey the commissioners from Long Island to New York. A little before reaching the shore, Doctor Franklin, putting his hand in his pocket, began chinking some gold and silver coin. This, when about leaving the boat, he offered to the sailors, who had rowed it. The British officer, however, who commanded the boat, prohibited the sailors accepting it. After the departure of the boat, one of the commissioners inquired why he had offered money to the sailors. "Why," said the doctor, in reply, "the British think we have no hard money in the colonies, and I thought I would show them to the contrary. I risked nothing," added he, "for I knew that the sailors would not be permitted to accept it."

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Last modified January 1, 2004