Do You Know About Arthur Middleton?

Do you know that today is the 275th birthday of Arthur Middleton? Arthur Middleton was from South Carolina and signed the Declaration of Independence.

Middleton was elected to the Second Continental Congress after his father had served in the First Continental Congress, and when he arrives, in Philadelphia, he shares a home with Hancock.  They are comparable in wealth, position and taste, which puts to rest any regional jealousies that may have occurred.  Together, they would host the important visitors to the city.  During his tenure, he refuses to sit on the Committee of Accounts, because he did not understand accounts nor did he like business.  He was a very active and engaging speaker when it comes time to debate the Declaration.  Dr. Rush would note he was, “a man of cynical temper, but of upright intentions towards his country…He spoke frequently, and always with asperity or personality.”[1]  However, John Adams did not feel the same way, and wrote, “He had little information and less argument; in rudeness and sarcasm his fore lay, and he played of his artillery without reserve.”[2] Middleton votes for independence and signs the engrossed copy, on August 2, 1776.  He would serve until the end of his term in 1777, and then declines re-election.

Upon his return to South Carolina, he rejects the governorship, when it was offered to him and returns to his plantation.  He was re-elected to the Continental Congress in 1779 but does not attend.  His plantation had been ravaged, by the British, and he was focused on taking care of it and his family.  The buildings on the property were spared, but the British took everything of value, including livestock, and destroyed what they could not carry away.  The family would escape to Charleston, prior to the Battle of Charleston, and his wife was able to retrieve some of their property because she pled her case to the British Commissioners.  Some members of her family were loyalists and this may have helped her case.

From 1779 until 1871, Middleton served in the South Carolina militia.  He was at the Battle of Charleston when he was captured and sent to St. Augustine’s, with his fellow signers, Edward Rutledge, and Thomas Heyward Jr.  There is some evidence, he may have served some time on the Jersey but the information is scant.  All three men were treated reasonably well and are released, following a prisoner exchange in 1781.

Arthur Middleton died in 1787 after catching a fever and is buried in a vault on Middleton Place.

[1] Kiernan, Denise, and Joseph D’Agnese. Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of The Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence 210

[2] Kiernan, Denise, and Joseph D’Agnese. Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of The Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence. 210