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George Read

Birthplace: Cecil County, Maryland, USA, Cecil County, Maryland, United States
Death: September 21, 1798 (65)
New Castle, New Castle County, Delaware, USA, New Castle, New Castle County, Delaware, United States
Place of Burial: Immanuel Episcopal Churchyard, New Castle, New Castle County, Delaware, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Capt. John Read and Mary Read
Husband of Gertrude Read
Father of George Read, Jr.; William Read; John Read; Isabelle Mariah Porter and Mariah Reed
Brother of James George Read; Mary Bedford and Thomas Read

Occupation: Congress-signer of Declaration and helped frame the Constitution, Signer of Declaraton of Independence
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About George Read

A Patriot of the American Revolution for DELAWARE. DAR Ancestor # A093830

George Read

Some might consider George Read the father of the State of Delaware, for he was the author of her first Constitution in 1776, and of the first edition of her laws. He figured in her Assembly no less than 12 years, was Vice – President of the State, and at one time her acting chief magistrate. He wrote the address from Delaware to the King, which Lord Shelbourne said so impressed George III that he read it over twice. He may be the most conspicuous figure in the Delaware Record, for Thomas McKean and John Dickenson were more closely allied to Pennsylvania than to Delaware; and while Caesar Rodney was prominent in the time of the Declaration and afterwards as President of Delaware, his premature death in 1783 cut short his career. Read was one of the two statesmen, and the only southern statesman, who signed all three of the great State papers on which our country’s history is based: the original Petition to the King of the Congress of 1774, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

In person, Read was tall, slight, graceful, with strong but refined features, and dark brown eyes. His manners were dignified and formal, yet courteous and at times captivating. He dressed with great attention to detail, style and elegance, evidenced by the amethyst studded shoe buckles he wore the day he signed the Declaration of Independence.

Born on September 18th, 1733 on a family estate in Cecil county Maryland, George Read was the eldest son of Colonel John Read of Maryland and Delaware. His father, the Colonel, born in Dublin on January 15, 1688, descends in the Ancient Family of Read back to Sir Thomas Read who was one of the knights who accompanied King Henry the Sixth when he held his Parliament at Reading in 1439. After receiving a classical education under Dr. Francis Allison, he studied law and was called to the bar at age nineteen in Philadelphia, eventually moving to New Castle, Delaware in 1754. On January 11th, 1763 Read married Gertrude Ross, daughter of the Rev. George Ross rector of the Emmanuel Church of New Castle, a vigorous pillar of the Established Church in America. The marriage was a powerful union, as the Ross family was prominent and esteemed in the community: beyond the position of her father, Gertrude’s brother John had been attorney-general under the crown, her brother the Rev. Aeneas Ross was celebrated for his patriotic sermons during the revolution; while still another brother George Ross was an eminent judge and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Having been appointed attorney general under the crown at the early age of twenty-nine, Mr. Read felt it to be his duty, and perhaps a nod to advance diplomacy, to warn the British government of the danger of attempting to tax the colonies without giving them direct representation in Parliament; and in his correspondence with his friend Sir Richard Neave, afterwards governor of the Bank of England, he gave utterance, eleven years before the Declaration of Independence, to the remarkable prophecy that a continuance in this mistaken policy would lead to independence and eventually to the colonies surpassing England in her staple industries. Finding no indication of change in the crown’s position to the colonies, he resigned the position of attorney-general and accepted a seat in the First Congress, which met at Philadelphia in 1774. A diplomat at heart, Read still hoped for reconciliation, and voted against the initial motion for independence, however, he finally signed the Declaration of Independence when he concluded there was no hope for reconciliation with the crown; and from that point on was a constant originator and ardent supporter of measures on behalf of the national cause. An indication of his commitment to the cause, Read subsequently introduced this resolution to congress: “...that anyone who shall willfully break this agreement (The Declaration) shall have his name published in the Public Newspapers as a betrayer of the civil rights of America and forever be deemed infamous and a traitor”. Like most principled individuals who committed themselves to the cause of independence, Read’s actions were not without consequence. During the war Read’s home was confiscated by the enemy, his wife was taken captive and he driven from place to place to avoid capture for six years.

George Read was President of the Constitutional Convention in 1776, and the author of the first Constitution of Delaware and of the first edition of her laws. In 1782 he was appointed by Congress a judge in the National Court of Appeals in Admiralty. Three years later Congress made him one of the commissioners of a federal court to determine an important controversy in relation to territory between New York and Massachusetts. In 1786 he was a delegate to the convention which met at Annapolis, Maryland, and he took part in those proceedings which culminated in the calling together in 1787, of the convention in Philadelphia which framed the Constitution of the United States. In this august body he was a prominent figure, in particular with regard to the rights of smaller States to a proper representation in the Senate. Read again represented Delaware. Quoting from Wright & Morris in their Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution, "Read immediately argued for a new national government under a new Constitution, saying 'to amend the Article was “simply putting old cloth on a new garment.” He was a leader in the fight for a strong central government, advocating, at one time, the abolition of the states altogether and the consolidation of the country under one powerful national government. 'Let no one fear the states, the people are with us;' he declared to a Convention shocked by this radical proposal. With no one to support his motion, he settled for protecting the rights of the small states against the infringements of their larger, more populous neighbors who, he feared, would 'probably combine to swallow up the smaller ones by addition, division or impoverishment.' He warned that Delaware 'would become at once a cipher in the union' if the principle of equal representation embodied in the New Jersey (small-state) Plan was not adopted and if the method of amendment in the Article was not retained. He favored giving Congress the right to vote state laws, making the federal legislature immune to popular whims by having senators hold office for nine years or during good behavior, and granting the U.S. President broad appointive powers. Outspoken and backed by his constituency, he threatened to lead the Delaware delegation out of the Convention if the rights of the small states were not specifically guaranteed in the new Constitution. Immediately after the adoption of the Constitution, which Delaware, largely under his direction, was the first to ratify, he was elected to the Senate of the United States. At the expiration of his first term he was re-elected to a second then resigned in 1793 to accept the office of chief justice of Delaware which he filled until his death on September 21st, 1798.

Chief Justice Read commanded public confidence, not only from his profound legal knowledge, sound judgment and impartial decisions, but from his integrity and estimable private character. Those who differed from him in opinion believed that he was acting from a sense of duty, and declared that there was not a dishonest fiber in his heart nor an element of meanness in his soul. He left three distinguished sons, George Read, second, for thirty years United States district attorney of Delaware; William Read, consul-general of the Kingdom of Naples, and John Read, Senator of Pennsylvania; and one daughter Mary Read, who married Colonel Mathew Pearce, of Poplar Neck, Cecil county Maryland. George Read , the signer, was an ardent member of the Church of England and afterwards of the American Episcopal Communion, and for many years was one of the wardens of Emmanuel Church, New Castle; he lies in that beautiful quite graveyard, where seven generations of the Read family repose.

Elected offices: Senator, Respresentative, Delegate, President, Vice President

A delegate and a senator from Delaware: born near North East, Cecil County, Md, Sept 18, 1733; completed preparatory studies, studied law, admitted to the bar and began practice in New Castle, Delaware. In 1752, attorney general for lower Delaware 1763-1744; member provincial assembly 1765-1777. Member of the Continental Congress 1774-1777; a signer of the Declaration of Independence, President o the State Constitutional convention in 1776; Vice President of the State under this constitution; member State House of representatives 1779-1780, judge of the united states court of appeals in admiralty cases 1782, representative at the Annapolis Convention 1786, delegate from Delaware to the Federal Constitutional Convention, elected to the United States Senate in 1789, reelected in 1790, and served from March 4, 1789 to Sept 18, 1793 when he resigned having been appointed chief justice of Delaward.
Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Delaware, and representative of Delaware at the US Constitution Convention; he was one of only six men to sign both documents. Born in town of North East, Maryland, he was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774, and again for the Second Continental Congress in 1775, continuing to serve until 1777. Initially, he was against the idea of independence, preferring reconciliation with Great Britain, but as the debate reached a climax, he voted with the majority of delegates for independence, and signed the Declaration of Independence as a member of the Delaware delegation. During the Revolutionary War, he served as President of Delaware, and oversaw the relocation of the state capital from New Castle to its present location, Dover, as a move to protect the capital of Delaware from the British Army after they had captured and occupied nearby Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1777. After the war, he served on the committee to write the United States Constitution, and would serve as a Senator from Delaware to the United States Senate from 1789 to 1793. Leaving the Senate, he became Chief Justice of Delaware, serving from 1793 until his death in 1798 in New Castle, Delaware.* Reference: Find A Grave Memorial - SmartCopy: Jan 4 2023, 12:23:48 UTC

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George Read's Timeline

September 18, 1733
Cecil County, Maryland, USA, Cecil County, Maryland, United States
August 29, 1765
New Castle, New Castle County, Delaware
October 10, 1767
New Castle County, Delaware
July 7, 1769
New Castle, Delaware, United States
September 1770
New Castle, DE, United States
South Carolina, USA