Did you know… Samuel Huntington?

posted in: History Makers | 0

One of the lesser known founding fathers, Samuel Huntington was early proof of the fact that in America, a man with ambition willing to work hard can achieve almost anything.

Samuel was not born rich or privileged, like so many of the other signers. Instead, he was born to a poor but hard-working farmer on July 16, 1731, in what was then Windham, Connecticut. As the eldest of nine children, his work was required on the farm. He attended a basic local grammar school to become literate but had none of the educational advantages of his peers in the Continental Congress.

He was a frequent visitor to the library of his pastor, Ebenezer Devotion, and ultimately, to the pastor’s daughter, Martha Devotion. He taught himself Latin, and by dint of self-study, the law. He worked on the farm until the age of sixteen, when he was apprenticed to a cooper(barrel maker). Samuel was much more fond of intellectual pursuits and used every available moment to study. At age twenty-two, he devoted himself full time to the study and practice of law. He moved to Norwich, which seemed to have more opportunities in 1754, and was admitted to the bar.

In Norwich, his steadfast integrity and legal acumen gained him a steady living, and by 1761 he acquired a stable practice and the means to support a family. He married Martha Devotion, age twenty-two, the daughter of his former mentor. The couple was unable to have children, but shortly after their marriage, Samuel’s brother died, leaving a boy and a girl ass orphans. Samuel and Martha adopted them and treated them as their own.

Samuel’s political career began shortly thereafter. He was elected selectman, then to the colonial legislature, and finally to the Continental Congress, along with Roger Sherman. As a member of the Congress, Samuel was outspoken in his views espousing independence. He came across as a reasonable, temperate man, not like the fiery oration of a Patrick Henry. A delegate described him as: “His Excellency Samuel Huntington President is a Man of a Mild, Steady & firm Conduct and of Sound & Methodical Judgment though not a Man of Many Words or very Shining abilities. But upon the Whole is better Suited to Preside than any other Member Now in Congress. In his Dress & Manners, he is very plain, very gentlemanly and truly republican. He is from Connecticut.

This reputation led to his being elected President of the Congress when it was deemed necessary for John Jay to go to Spain as a special envoy. Jay’s intervention led to Spain’s aid in the war, including the use of the Spanish fleet to prevent the reinforcement of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

Samuel voted for the Declaration and signed with the others. He served in the Congress for three more years, during some of the most difficult periods. As president, he dealt with the decline of the value of US currency, and the court-martial of Benedict Arnold. Declining health led him in and out of Congress and the Connecticut Supreme court until 1785. He served as governor of Connecticut, a post he held until his death, January 5, 1796. Martha preceded him in death by about two years, dying June 4, 1794.

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