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George Taylor Irish Born Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Updated on January 27, 2022
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A lifelong lover of history, I enjoy writing articles about the past and interesting political topics, especially when the two intersect.

An Ulster Irishman by Birth

George Taylor of Pennsylvania is one of three signers, along with Matthew Thornton and James Smith, of the Declaration of Independence who were born in Ireland.

Not much is known about him as he focused his life on family and work and did not appear in the public eye until his country needed his services and he answered its call to duty.

Most accounts of his life agree that he was born in 1716 in Ireland and came to America at the age of twenty in 1736. Many accounts place his origins in Ulster in Northern Ireland and generally agree that he was of Scot Irish ancestry.

Some accounts indicated that his father was a clergyman and this is probably correct as George did have an education despite his not being able to afford passage from Ireland to Pennsylvania.

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Paid for His Passage from Ireland With Commitment to Work

The Presbyterian Historical Society claims George Taylor as a Presbyterian. Given that he emigrated to Pennsylvania and ended up in the inland area settled mainly by Irish and German Protestants and that most accounts, while differing on the specific graveyard, all put his original burial in the cemetery of one of the German Protestant churches, it is probably safe to assume that George Taylor was an Ulster Protestant.

Why George Taylor chose to leave Ireland and emigrate to the colonies is unclear. Many accounts have him coming to the colonies as a redemptioner or indentured servant, a practice by which individuals who could not afford the price of passage would travel for free.

Upon their arrival in the colonies their passage paid for by a local citizen. In exchange for the cost of the passage and room and board, the redemptioner would work for that person for free for a fixed number of years (usually seven).

Petty criminals were also often given the option of prison or being transported to the colonies as indentured servants.

He Married His Boss'es Widow

Upon arrival in Philadelphia, George Taylor went to work or was most likely indentured to a Mr. Savage, the owner of an iron forge in Chester county Pennsylvania.

He appears to have started work for Mr. Savage as a laborer but was soon promoted to clerk and responsible for keeping the company's books.

Following his indenture, he continued working at the forge and, upon the death of Mr. Savage, George Taylor married his widow, Anne in 1742 and remained in the iron business all of his life. He was a good businessman and was very successful financially.

At the age of forty-seven he was a wealthy man and able to retire. Following his retirement he moved to nearby Northampton County where he acquired an estate along the Lehigh River.

Active in Revolutionary Politics

It was during this period that he became involved in local politics. He was elected to the Colonial Assembly five times before being defeated for election in 1770. He remained active in politics and eventually became involved with the growing revolutionary movement.

In 1775 he was again elected to the colonial assembly where he obtained a seat on the committee of safety which oversaw the colony’s war efforts.

As independence grew near he became a member of the committee appointed to draw up the instructions for Pennsylvania’s delegates to the Second Continental Congress.

Despite the fact that Benjamin Franklin, who was to become one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, was on the delegation, the committee originally instructed the delegates not to vote for independence.

But, as support for independence grew, these instructions were revoked in June of 1776. Hesitating to take such a drastic and unprecented action, five of the members of the delegation balked at the new instructions and, on July 20th, were replaced in the delegation. George Taylor was among the five chosen as replacements.

Wasting no time, George Taylor immediately traveled across town to Independence Hall and took his seat in the Second Continental Congress the same day, July 20, 1776, he was appointed to the post. When the Declaration was presented to him shortly after he boldly signed it.

Following the publication of the Declaration of Independence, George Taylor continued to work for victory.

He traveled back to Northampton County and negotiated treaties on behalf of Congress with Indian tribes in the area thereby helping to secure the frontier and allowing the local militia to focus on fighting the British. He was also appointed Colonel of a local militia but his unit never saw action in the war.

George Taylor Died Just Before End of American Revolution

Illness in 1777 forced him to retire from public service and retire to his estate on the Lehigh River where he lived out the remainder of his life as a country squire.

George Taylor died on February 23, 1781, a little less than six months before George Washington accepted the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19th which effectively ended the armed conflict, leaving the details of the peace to be worked out by the diplomats meeting in Paris.

George Taylor was buried in the cemetery of a neighboring German Protestant church, accounts differ as to which one, but his remains were later removed to the Easton Cemetery in Easton, Pennsylvania where he rests to this day.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Chuck Nugent


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