Founding Fathers Black Hills

Stockton and Clark victorious; Harrison or Ellery?


This week, you’ll find Benjamin Harrison of Virginia and William Ellery of Rhode Island at the Founding Fathers Ballot Box if you stop by on your Black Hills vacation. It’s a great way to cast your vote and a fun thing to do while in Rapid City.
The two signers, Harrison and Ellery, couldn’t have been more different in temperament and personality,

but a humorous moment in time ties them together in Declaration history. As they were signing the document during the official Aug. 2 signing ceremony, the rotund, heavy-set Harrison, who was sometimes called the “Falstaff” of the 2nd Continental Congress, is alleged to have joked that the smaller and lighter delegates, such as Ellery and Elbridge Gerry, would take much longer to die when the British got around to hanging them all than he would, since his girth would insure a quick snap of his neck. A little “gallows humor,” no doubt.
Richard Stockton, a New Jersey signer who was imprisoned by the British for putting his signature on the Declaration of Independence, and Abraham Clark, also from New Jersey, emerged victorious in the two most recent competitions for the Founding Fathers crown.
Stockton defeated Thomas McKean of Delaware by a single vote while Clark won easily over William Paca of Maryland by a nearly two-to-one margin.
Stockton and McKean are two signers with interesting side notes to the history of the Declaration of Independence.
Stockton was among the five signers who were imprisoned during the Revolutionary War by the British, but he was the only signer who we know for certain was put in jail precisely because he signed the Declaration. The other four men — George Walton, Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton and Thomas Heyward — were fighting as military combatants when they were taken prisoner. Stockton, on the other hand, was pulled from his bed in the middle of the night and thrown in a New York prison for two months before Gen. George Washington was able to arrange for his release in a prisoner swap. Kept in chains under brutal winter conditions, he nearly froze to death and nearly starved
McKean is of interest to historians as the last man to affix his signature to the famous document. Most experts agree that he signed it sometime in late 1776 or early 1777, but others say it may have been several years later that he signed. Either way, we have McKean to thank for convincing his fellow Delaware delegate, Caesar Rodney, to ride all night in a rainstorm from Delaware to Philadelphia to be there for the vote on independence. Without McKean’s intervention and Rodney’s vote that day, the Delaware delegation would have split 1-1 on the question of independence.