William Ellery | Independence Declaration Signer

william ellery

The birth of William Ellery occurred on December 22d, 1727 in Newport, Rhode Island. His father, a graduate of Harvard University, tutored his own son. When Ellery was sixteen, he attended Harvard University. After graduation, Ellery studied law and practiced law for twenty years.

Pre-revolution Incidents

Rhode Island was a strong proponent of the American Revolution. Two incidents occurred in Narraganset Bay. First, the armed sloop, HMS Liberty, seized Joseph Packwood’s ship and towed it to Newport harbor on July 19, 1769. In retaliation, Rhode Islanders scuttled the ship at Goat Island. Second, the British customs schooner, HMS Gaspee, ran aground while chasing another ship to enforce Britain’s tax laws on June 9, 1772. Rhode Islanders attacked, boarded, and torched the ship. The Gaspee Affair occurred one year prior to the Boston Tea Party.

William Ellery Service Record

Firstly, in the election for delegates to the Continental Congress of 1776, Ellery was a successful candidate. Ellery took his seat on May 17. Ellery joined the other congressional representatives in signing the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776.

Secondly, William Ellery served in the Continental Congress until 1785. After his return to Rhode Island, he continued to serve in several roles. He served as the chief justice of the state supreme court. Later, General Washington appointed him as tax collector for the new nation in Newport.


Finally, William Ellery died on February 15, 1820 at age 92. He died reading Cicero in Latin.

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