|39th Governor of South Carolina|
December 18, 1798 - January 23, 1800
|Delegate from South Carolina to the Continental Congress|
1774 - 1776
|Member of the |
South Carolina Senate
November 28, 1796 - December 6, 1798
|Member of the |
South Carolina House of Representatives
January 6, 1783 - November 28, 1796
March 26, 1776 - October 17, 1778
|Born||November 23, 1749|
Charleston, South Carolina, British America
|Died||January 23, 1800 (aged 50)|
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
|Resting place||Saint Philip's Episcopal Church Cemetery, Charleston|
Mary Shubrick Eveleigh
State of South Carolina
|Branch/service||South Carolina militia|
|Years of service||1778-1781|
|Battles/wars||American Revolutionary War|
Edward Rutledge (November 23, 1749 - January 23, 1800) was an American politician, and youngest signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence. He later served as the 39th Governor of South Carolina.
Like his eldest brother John Rutledge, Edward was born in Charleston. He was the youngest of seven children (5 sons and 2 daughters) born to Dr. John Rutledge and Sarah Hext. His father was a physician and colonist of Scots-Irish descent; his mother was born in South Carolina and was of English descent. Following his brothers John and Hugh he studied law in London at the Inns of Court. In 1772 he was admitted to the English bar (Middle Temple), and returned to Charleston to practice. He was married on March 1, 1774 to Henrietta Middleton (17 November 1750 - 22 April 1792), daughter of Henry Middleton. The couple had three children;
During the American Revolution Rutledge served along with his brother John representing South Carolina in the Continental Congress. He worked to have African Americans expelled from the Continental Army. Although a firm supporter of colonial rights, he (as a delegate) was instructed initially to oppose Lee's Resolution of independence; South Carolina's leaders were unsure that the time was "ripe." At age 26 he was the youngest delegate to sign the Declaration of Independence.
He returned home in November 1776 to take a seat in the General Assembly. He served as a captain of artillery in the South Carolina militia, and fought at the Battle of Beaufort in 1779. In May 1780, Rutledge was captured along with his co-signers of the Declaration of Independence, Arthur Middleton and Thomas Heyward during the siege of Charleston. They were released during a prisoner exchange in July 1781.
After his release he returned to the General Assembly, where he served until 1796. He was known as an active legislator and an advocate for the confiscation of Loyalist property. Like John Rutledge, Edward Rutledge opposed the Jay Treaty and the Anglophilic stance he perceived in the Federalist Party. As an elector in the 1796 Presidential Election, Rutledge voted for the two Southern candidates, Republican Thomas Jefferson and Federalist Thomas Pinckney. Rutledge had not been close with the eventual victor John Adams dating back to their days in the Continental Congress, but he approved of Adams's defense policies towards France during the Quasi-War. The opposition afforded Adams's measures by Vice President Jefferson and the Congressional Republicans angered Rutledge because he now saw the Republicans as more partial to France than to American interests, a situation similar to the pro-British feelings he sensed in the Federalists during the Jay Treaty debates. Rutledge thereafter ceased communication with Jefferson. Rutledge served in the state senate for two years, then was elected governor in 1798.
Governor Rutledge, while attending an important meeting in Columbia, had to be sent home because of his gout. He died in Charleston before the end of his term. Some said at the time that he died from apoplexy resulting from hearing the news of George Washington's death.
Rutledge is a prominent character in the musical play 1776. He is depicted as an obstructionist to John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, acting as an accomplice to John Dickinson. Along with Dickinson, he participates in the minuet of "Cool, Cool Considerate Men" as the aforementioned rallies the Congress's conservatives to oppose Adams. However, unlike Dickinson, whose unwavering opposition to independence is partly motivated by financial interests, Rutledge, acting as the voice for all three southern states, is willing to discuss the idea after many demands are met. As part of his signature scene, he sings "Molasses to Rum," in which he bombastically claims that the North is in no position to condemn slavery in the Declaration of Independence due to its large role in and complicity in the triangular trade, reenacting a slave auction to the Congress as part of his demonstration. Rutledge was portrayed by Clifford David in the original Broadway production, and John Cullum in the 1972 film.
1776 claims that Rutledge led the opposition to an anti-slavery clause in the original draft of the Declaration. Rutledge's leadership against the clause is fictitious. According to Jefferson, the clause was opposed by South Carolina and Georgia, plus unspecified "northern brethren"; that is the limit of known information about opposition to the clause. Rutledge was a delegate from South Carolina, but there is no evidence in the historical record that he played any part--much less that of leader--in the opposition to the clause.
In the 2008 miniseries John Adams, Rutledge was portrayed by Clancy O'Connor, where his vote for independence is portrayed as contingent not upon the removal of the clause on slavery from the Declaration, but on the condition that there would be no votes in opposition to the motion on independence, a condition which Adams assures him will be fulfilled.