Occupations of the Declaration of Independence Signers

The signing of the Declaration of Independence was a defining moment in US history. Just who were these men though? By looking at the occupations of the Declaration of Independence signers, you can get a glimpse of just that.

Before the Declaration of Independence the Americas were a colonial possession of England. This meant the colonists were subject to all English laws.

The problem with that is that the colonies had no sitting representation in English Parliament. They essentially had no say in what happened on their homeland and could not represent themselves when new laws or taxes were proposed.

For instance, in the two decades before the American Revolution, English Parliament passed several acts increasing taxes on the colonists. These taxes were meant to help pay for the protection of the colonies, though there was little support for them in the colonies.

These acts didn’t sit well with the colonists. A common phrase popularized by James Otis was “taxation without representation is tyranny”, and many took this to heart.

After years of tension and turmoil, the Americas were a powder keg just waiting to be set off. After the “shot heard round the world” in Lexington, the wheels were set in motion for the breakup between the American colonies and King George III.

Occupations of the Declaration of Independence Signers

Occupations of Declaration of Independence Signers chart

There were 56 men who signed this all important document. This act was considered treason at the time, and had the war turned out differently, they liked all would have been hanged.

They were literally putting their lives on the line for what they believed in.

These men ranged from age 26 (Edward Rutledge) to 70 (Ben Franklin), though the average age was 44. The median age just so happens to be about 44 as well. Despite this, over a dozen were 35 years old or younger. We tend to view the founders as old, wise men, but many of them were quite young comparatively!

Taking a look at their occupations, you’ll notice that many of these individuals were just regular people. Lawyers and merchants were the most likely occupations. There were also several Plantation Owners and Physicians.

The Dual Occupation signers tended to be some combination of a Lawyer or Merchant along with another profession.

They weren’t politicians or people who were necessarily born to lead. Nor were they military commanders who had the backing of an army.

These men stood up for what they believed in and as a result, a great nation was born.


Source: National Archives

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