Carter Braxton, Father of 18 and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

 

braxtonCarter Braxton was born on September 10, 1736, at Newington Plantation in Livingston, Virginia. He was the son of George Braxton, Jr., and of Mary Carter, who died just seven days after giving birth. Carter’s father died when he was in his teens, and he was raised by family friends.

Carter Braxton was a descendant of some of the most distinguished families in Virginia in terms of wealth and influence. His grandfather, George Braxton, Sr., immigrated to Virginia from London about 1690 and lived in an estate called Mantua on the Mattaponi River. The Braxton family in England was of ancient origin and resided in Lancaster County. George Braxton married Elizabeth Paulin and in his will of 1725 left a tract of 578 acres to his daughter. Elizabeth Paulin’s father, Thomas Paulin, was a justice of Old Rappahannock in 1688 and was one of the county officers in King and Queen County.

Carter Braxton’s father, George Braxton, Jr., received large land grants from King George II. He was a frequent member of the House of Burgesses from 1718 to 1734.

Carter Braxton’s mother, Mary Carter, was the daughter of Robert “King” Carter. Robert was called “King” because of his great wealth and prominence. He owned 42 plantations.He was born at his father’s estate, Corotoman. He served in the House of Burgesses, where he was Speaker.. He served as Treasurer of the Colony, member and President of the King’s Council, and as Acting Governor for one year. His estate consisted of 300,000 acres of land and 1,000 slaves. Robert Carter built Christ Church in Lancaster County and served as vestryman of the church.

“King” Carter’s father ( Carter Braxton’s great- grandfather) was Colonel John Carter of England. John Carter was the son of William Carter of Casstown, Hereford County, England and was born in 1620. The Colonel came to the Virginia colony in 1649 and built the ancestral home of Corotoman in Lancaster County. He served in the House of Burgesses, was an influential member of the King’s Council, and was a commander against the Rappahannock Indians in 1654. His descendants included three Signers of the Declaration of Independence: Carter Braxton, Benjamin Harrison and Thomas Nelson.

imgres-1Carter Braxton was educated at the College of William and Mary, and later became a member of its board of visitors. Shortly after graduating, his father died, leaving him the family estate of Newington.

In 1753, Braxton came into possession of the impressive manor house and plantation of Elsing Green. He sold Elsing Green in the early 1760’s but lived there only briefly.

In 1755, Braxton married the wealthy, beautiful and amiable Judith Robinson, the daughter of Christopher and Judith Robinson of Hewick, Middlesex County, Virginia. Judith died shortly after the birth of their second child in 1757 (only a little over two years after their marriage) leaving Braxton devastated with grief (and wealthier because of the marriage settlements he received from Judith’s parents).

Following the death of his first wife, Braxton moved to England in 1757, where he remained for three years. During this time he became familiar with the feelings and designs of the English government. His rank and fortune provided him access to the nobility from whom he obtained much valuable information: for example, Great Britain would support the exchequer by extracting money from the hardy pioneers of America in the form of new taxes. In 1760 Carter Braxton returned from Europe and was elected to the House of Burgesses where he became an active and prominent member. He was quite vocal regarding British ideals. He was to continue in the House until 1775. 

imagesIn 1761 he married Elizabeth Corbin, the daughter of Colonel Richard Corbin and Elizabeth Tayloe.

Elizabeth’s father, Colonel Corbin, was educated in England, and later served in the House of Burgesses, as President of the King’s Council, and receiver general of the colony for nearly 20 years. Elizabeth’s grandfather was Gawin Corbin who came to the Virginia colony in 1650. She was the great- granddaughter of the Honorable Henry Corbin of Hall End, Warwick County, England, who was born in 1594. His wife was a descendant of Sir Gilbert Grosvenor, who came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066.

Braxton settled into colonial life and his estates (Elsing Green and later Chericoke). He had two children with his first wife Judith and another sixteen with his second wife Elizabeth.

In the 1760s Braxton considered investing in the slave trade, exchanging letters with the Brown brothers (John and Moses) in Providence, but the Browns proceeded on their own. The Brown family founded the Ivy League school, Brown University.

From a letter, we know that Braxton wrote to the Browns, “The Gold Coast slaves are esteemed the most valuable and sell best. The prices of Negroes keep up amazingly. They have sold from £30 to £35 sterling a head clear of duty all this summer. I should not doubt of rendering such a sale if the Negroes were well and came easily.”

In the growing dispute with Great Britain, Carter Braxton was loyal to Virginia, but held the more conservative views of the Tidewater leaders. He was present in the House of Burgesses (which was a group sanctioned by the King and the royal governor of Williamsburg) when Patrick Henry’s resolutions condemned the Stamp Act. Patrick Henry purported the idea that only the Burgesses could tax Virginians. Braxton supported the rights of Virginians (but not necessarily a break from Great Britain).

In 1769, along with Washington, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Peyton Randolph, and others he signed the Virginia Resolves, which declared that the House of Burgesses had the sole right to tax the inhabitants of the colony. Braxton also signed the Virginia Association, a non-importation agreement.

The day after the first hostilities at Lexington and Concord in 1775, Braxton became a member of the Virginia Colonial Convention. He then played a key role in the confrontation with Royal Governor Lord Dunmore.

Lord Dunmore confiscated the gunpowder stored in the Williamsburg magazine and placed it on a British warship. Militia units were eager to retaliate, but they were calmed by Peyton Randolph and George Washington. Patrick Henry, however, refused to be pacified, and led a militia unit into Williamsburg to demand the return of the gunpowder. Before hostilities broke out, Carter Braxton, speaking for Patrick Henry, convinced his father-in-law, Richard Corbin, who was receiver general of the Colony, to pay for the gunpowder, thus averting an open conflict. Braxton was successful in diffusing the conflict because he was both Corbin’s son-in-law, as well as a member of America’s “landed aristocracy” and a man who still held Britain in great reverence. He was on cordial terms with the Radical elements in the House of Burgesses. 

When Peyton Randolph died suddenly in October, 1775, Carter Braxton was chosen to replace him in the Continental Congress. He was hesitant at first to support the growing sentiment for independence, and argued strongly against it. In April 1776, he wrote, “Independence is in truth an elusive bait which men inconsiderably catch at, without knowing the hook to which it is affixed.” Some believe Braxton was chosen to represent Virginia because he would stand against the Radical views of John and Samuel Adams. Braxton believed without a powerful navy that the colonies could not think of independence.

Braxton pointed out that one republic after another had come to an unhappy ending. The Netherlands, he claimed, became “as unhappy and despotick as the one of which we complain,” and Venice “is now governed by one of the worst of despotisms.” He concluded that “the principle contended for is ideal, and a mere creature of a warm imagination.” The advantages of republics “existed only in theory and were never confirmed by the experience, even of those who recommend them.”

During the debate following Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence on June 7, Braxton continued to argue against separation. But by early July he had changed his mind, voting for independence on July 2, the Declaration on July 4, and signing the Declaration on August 2. Braxton, however, was not reappointed to the Continental Congress, when he opposed a more democratic form of government desired by the delegates in the Virginia convention.

Braxton invested a great deal of his wealth in the American Revolution. He loaned money to the cause and funded shipping and privateering. Unfortunately, the British destroyed many of his ships, and ravaged several of his plantations and land holdings. He accumulated a great deal of debt and was forced to leave his estate at Chericoke in 1786 and move to a smaller residence in Richmond.

 

A large granite monument in the Hollywood Cemetery at Richmond, Virginia, honors many of Braxton’s descendants and ancestors, including George Braxton, Sr., the immigrant. In Washington, D.C., near the Washington Monument, there is a small park dedicated to the fifty-six Signers of of the Declaration. Alongside his fellow Virginians, Carter Braxton’s signature is engraved in gold. Carter Braxton died in Richmond in 1797 and is buried in an unmarked grave at Chericoke.

Much of the information above comes from The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.

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Chericoke, King William County Va. Home of Carter Braxton as it looks today. Added by: Shelley Horsley Cruz 7/02/2003 http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=2803&PIpi=534822

Other Resources: 

The American Revolutionary War

Colonial Hall

Encyclopedia Virginia

The History Junkie 

U. S. History 

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
This entry was posted in American History, British history, Declaration of Independence, Georgian England and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Carter Braxton, Father of 18 and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

  1. ‘In 1753, Braxton came into possession of the impressive manor house and plantation of Elsing Green. He sold Elsing Green in the early 1760’s but never lived there.’

    ‘Braxton settled into colonial life and his estates (Elsing Green and later Chericoke). He had two children with his first wife Judith and another sixteen with his second wife Elizabeth’

    I’m not sure whether he lived there or not, seems to be conflicting statements.

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