MORTON was born in 1724 in Ridley, in a part of Chester County that is
now Delaware County, Pennsylvania.His
roots can be traced back to his great grandfather, who in 1654 was among the
first Swedish emigrants to this country. They settled in what are now the
suburbs of Philadelphia.His father
died in John's youth, and his stepfather, John Sketchley, an Englishman,
supervised his education.
John Morton was reared on a farm, yet with the help of his stepfather, he
became a surveyor before he entered into politics.He
married Ann Justice (or Justis) who was also of Delaware Swedish decent.They
had three sons and five daughters.
Morton was elected to the provincial assembly in 1756 while in his
thirties and would serve there almost continuously for a decade.After
losing his seat, Morton was appointed high sheriff of Chester County by the
governor of Pennsylvania.He held
this position until he gained his way back into the provincial assembly, where
he was frequently speaker of the house.
John Morton was a Pennsylvania
delegate at both the First and Second Continental Congresses, who initially
refused to favor independence.In a
letter to a friend in England, he wrote:"We
are preparing for the worst that can happen, viz., a civil war.I
sincerely wish reconciliation; the contest is horrid.Parents
against children, and children against parents.The
longer the wound is left in the present state the worse it will be to heal at
When the British would not
accept offers at reconciliation by he spring of 1776, Morton supported the vote
for independence.Thomas Morton gave
the casting affirmative vote of Pennsylvania on the question of adopting the
Declaration of Independence.He was
chairman of the committee of the whole on the adoption of the system of
confederation, which was the committee that adopted the Articles of
Confederation, ratified after his death.
At the close of his
life he was abandon by many of his friends whose political sentiments differed
from his own.On his deathbed he
said "Tell them they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge
my signing of the Declaration of Independence to have been the most glorious
service that I ever rendered my country."John
Morton was the first of the Signers to die.He
passed away quietly in Chester, Pennsylvania on April 1, 1777.
Document requiring William Archer to appear before the General Court on the last
Tuesday of the present month. dated February 12, 1774 and signed "John
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