Categories: Stony Brook Quaker Meeting House Burial Ground, Princeton, New Jersey | Mercer County, New Jersey, Cemeteries | Princeton, New Jersey | American Revolution | American Founding Fathers | Continental Congress | Signers of the United States Declaration of Independence.
Note: Province of New Jersey. Mercer County not formed until 1853.
Richard Stockton was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Richard was born 1 October, 1730, at the family holdings near Princeton, New Jersey, then a part of Somerset County. His father was John Stockton, whose ancestors had settled on this land several generations before. John's wife, Richard's mother was Abigail Phillips, and Richard had younger siblings John, Philip, Samuel , Hannah, Abigail, Susanna and Rebecca. At their father's death, in 1758, Richard was appointed sole executor and guardian of his siblings, who were all still minors at the time
Richard attended the West Nottingham Academy in Maryland, which still exists today some 270 years later. He then went on to the college of New-Jersey, (then in Newark, New Jersey) which would later become Princeton, and graduated with the first class in 1748. He would become a trustee of the college.
Richard married Anice/Annis Boudinot, sister of Elias Boudinot, LL.D. She was an accomplished poet. Richard built a house, in the 1750s on the land granted to his grandfather by William Penn. This first house was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1758. It was named Morven (“big mountain” in Gaelic) by Annis. Morven would later become the New Jersey governor's mansion.
Early in the history of the country, there were no law schools. A person studied with another lawyer, and then was given an examination by established lawyers and admitted to the bar. Richard Stockton studied law with David Ogden, of Newark. He was admitted to the bar in 1754, and to the grade of counsellor in 1758. His law practice was based in Princeton, New Jersey. Accounts are that he was a counsellor and advocate of great distinction.
So outstanding was his reputation that on a visit to England, Scotland and Ireland in 1766 and 1767, he was presented at court by a minister of the king, and was consulted on American affairs by the Marquis of Rockingham and the Earl of Chatham; In Edinburgh, late in May or early June 1767, "the Lord Provost sent him, ... an invitation to a publick dinner; after which the Dean of Guild, by his Lordship's command, presented him with the freedom of the city. He returned to New-York in the summer of 1767. His passage was noted: "Captain Sinclair left Portland Road the 4th of June ... 39 passengers, among whom are ... Richard Stockton, Esq; of the Province of New-Jersey"
Shortly after his return, he was appointed one of the royal judges of the province and a member to the executive council (1768-1774). The council had two roles, one as advisors to the governor, the other as an upper house of the legislature. In 1774, he was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court. He served until 1776.
Richard Stockton had a choice to make. He admired the character of the King, although he believed he was misled by a corrupt ministry. He had received many honors from the crown. However, he could not stand by and allow the British government to tax the American Colonies without granting them representation.
On the twenty-first of June, 1776, Stockton was elected by the provincial congress as a delegate to the general congress in Philadelphia. He at first had doubts about the expediency of the declaration of independence, but was persuaded by John Adams' speech in favor. On July 4, 1776, he signed that famous document.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.
In Sept 1776, he and William Livingston were the first republican candidates for the office of governor. They had an equal number of ballots on the first vote, but Livingston eventually won the vote, at which point Stockton was chosen chief justice of the state, by unanimous vote. He declined.
On September 26th, 1776, he and fellow signer George Clymer of Pennsylvania were sent to Ticonderoga to inspect the northern army. Congress gave them the power to contract for provisions, etc. and report back to Congress on the state of the army. He found, of course, how ill-equipped the army was and wrote home to another signer to send shoes and stockings immediately, among other needed equipment.
The British invaded New Jersey. Stockton hurried home to protect his family, moving them to the home of a friend. Ironically, he was captured there. On the 30th of November a party of refugee royalists, pulled Stockton from his bed, carried him to New York, treated him with indignity, and threw him into a common prison. The congress on hearing of this passed a resolution that General Washington to inquire into the truth of the statement and to request of General Howe if this is now the way he's going to treat all his prisoners.
"After riding on a very cold and windy day to Somerset Court, his lip became so much chapped that a cancerous affection resulted, which terminated his life," despite attempts at surgical intervention.
"He was a man of great coolness and courage. His bodily poweres both in relation to strength and agility, were of a superior order, and he was highly accomplished in all manly exercis peculiar to the priod in which he lived. His skill as a horseman and swordsman was particularly great. His manners were dignified, simple, though highly polished."
Obituary: from The Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia). Sat. 10 Mar 1781. p. 2, col. 3.
"On Wednesday, 28 February last, departed this life, at his seat at Morven, in New Jersey, in the 51st year of his age, Richard Stockton, Esq.;
The ability, dignity and integrity with which this gentle man discharged the duties of the several important offices to which he was called by the voice of his country, are well known.
In the private walk of life he was peculiarly engaging. His manners were easy, and just conversation was at all times embellished with the marks of education, taste, and knowledge of the world.
It pleased God to shew the efficacy of the Christian religion upon the human heart, by the fortitude and pious resignation with which he sustained a disease peculiarly painful and tedious, and by that composure and triumph with which he parted with everything dear in life. His remains were conducted to the college hall, where a sermon, suitable to the occasion, was preached by the reverend Samuel Smith, the professor of divinity; they were afterwards interred with his ancestors, in the friends burying ground near Princeton."
Richard Stockton, of Morven, Somerset Co., counselor-at-law, wrote a will dated 20 May 1780. He added a codicil 21 Feb 1781. It was proved in court 2 March 1781. His wife Annis was left all real and use of the personal estate, while she remained Stockton's widow. She was to support the younger children. To his Eldest child and daughter, Julia Rush, wife of Benjamin Rush, "doctor of physick" in Philadelphia, he left land called Mount Lucas, about 2 miles from Princeton, 1/2 of 500 acres, with the mansion house. To next child, Susanna Stockton, the other half of the land above. Next child Mary Stockton, was left land in Middlesex Co., 200 acres on Assunpink Creek. Next child, oldest son, John Richard Stockton was left the Morven estate etc. Next child, son Lucius Horatio Stockton, received land. The next and youngest child was Abigail Stockton, land known by the name of Sign of the College in Princeton and some other parcels. He left his wife land in Northampton, Pennsylvania, on the Lehi River. Stockton directed that his wife might free what slaves she wishes. Executors: wife Annis; son-in-law, Benjamin Rush; brother-in-law Elias Boudinot; son John Richard. The Codicil mentions that he sold 'Sign of the College.'  He advised his children in his will to remember that "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom"
"Samuel Witham Stockton, Secretary of the American Commission to Vienna and Berlin, and afterward Secretary of State for New Jersey, was the youngest brother of Richard Stockton, member of the Continental Congress and a Signer of the Declaration of Independence"Otherwise not pertinent to this profile.
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