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American History: William Ellery 1727 – 1780

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William Ellery was a passionate signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1727 and spent most of his life dedicated to public service.

Ellery comes to the Second Continental Congress after the death of his political ally, Samuel Ward. Once arriving he quickly made himself known when he said, “You must exert yourself. To be ruled by Tories, when we may be ruled by Sons of Liberty – how debasing. You must rouse up all that is Roman in Providence. There is liberty and fire enough; it only requires the application of the bellows. Blow, then, a blast that will shake this country.” He would overcome his diffidence and deliver fiery speeches and become an effective debater. These strong opinions would make him many enemies in his younger years, but as he grew older he mellowed somewhat and did not allow everything to bother him.

Ellery signed the Declaration of Independence at the age of 48. He would serve in Congress throughout the war. George Washington would appoint him at as the collector of customs in the Newport, Rhode Island district.

American History: William Ellery 1727   1780

Ellery would live until he was 92 years, an age that only the signer Charles Carrol would beat. (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and a few others died after Ellery, but they were younger at the signing). Ellery was known for his wit, strong opinions, and sense of humor.

It is said that he aged slowly and was able to keep up with the day to day demands of his job. He never retired from being a collector of customs. He died while reading Tully’s offices in Latin.