George Walton, the Orphaned Signer of the Declaration of Independence

George Walton (ca. 1749-1804) | New Georgia Encyclopedia

George Walton (ca. 1749-1804) | New Georgia Encyclopedia

The exact date of George Walton’s birth is unknown, but scholars say 1740 or 1741 in Virginia. His life was anything but easy. His parents died early on, and Walton was “adopted” by his uncle, who quickly apprenticed him to a man described a selfish as a carpenter. Little else is known of Walton until he appeared in Savannah, Georgia, where he studied law. He was admitted to the Bar in 1774. 

” At the expiration of his apprenticeship, he removed to the province of Georgia, and entered the office of a Mr. Young, with whom he pursued the preparatory studies of the profession of law, and in 1774, he entered upon its duties.

“At this time the British government was in the exercise of full power in Georgia. Both the governor and his council were firm supporters of the British ministry. It was at this period that George Walton, and other kindred spirits, assembled a meeting of the friends of liberty, at the liberty pole, at Tondee’s tavern in Savannah, to take into consideration the means of preserving the constitutional rights and liberties of the people of Georgia, which were endangered by the then recent acts of the British parliament.

“At this meeting, Mr. Walton took a distinguished part. Others, also, entered with great warmth and animation into the debate. It was, at length, determined, to invite the different parishes of the province, to come into a general union and co-operation with the other provinces of America to secure their constitutional rights and liberties.
In opposition to this plan, the royal governor and his council immediately and strongly enlisted themselves, and so far succeeded by their influence, as to induce another meeting, which was held in January, 1775, to content itself with preparing a petition to be presented to the king. Of the committee appointed for this purpose, Mr. Walton was a member. The petition, however, shared the fate of its numerous predecessors.” (Colonial Hall

by Ole Erekson, Engraver, c1876, Library of Congress declaration/signers/ walton.htm

by Ole Erekson, Engraver, c1876, Library of Congress

Early on, Walton served as Secretary to the Georgia provincial Congress and later was elected to the Continental Congress. After signing the Declaration of Independence, “he spent many of the following years engaged in the defense of his state, and in a messy political battle with Button Gwinnett, another signer from Georgia. In 1778 Walton was commissioned a Colonel of the First Regiment of the Georgia Militia. He was injured in Battle and taken prisoner. He gained his freedom in 1779 through a prisoner exchange and was soon after elected Governor of Georgia, an office he held for only two months. Political conflict colored all of Walton’s career. He was allied with General Lachlan McIntosh in a fierce struggle against Gwinnett for political dominance of the state. Walton was dispatched from office on several occasions, indicted for alleged criminal activities on others, in an interminable battle between two factions of the patriot movement in Georgia.

“He was returned to congress in 1780 and stayed through 1781. He remained in Philadelphia until 1783. That year he was censured by the legislature for his involvement in a duel which led to the death Gwinnett by the hand of his rival, commissioned to treat with the Cherokee nation in Tennessee, and appointed Chief Justice of his state. In 1789 he served in the college of Electors and again elected Governor. The government was reorganized under an new constitution in November of that year, at which time Walton stepped down. He was immediately appointed a superior court judge. In 1795 he was sent to fill an unfulfilled term in the US Senate. He was not reelected. He then retired to farming. He died in Augusta in 1804 at the age of 64.” (U. S. History)

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Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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