Edward Rutledge

Family Life

American Founding Father Edward Rutledge, the youngest brother of John Rutledge, was born to Dr. John Rutledge and Sarah Hext Rutledge in Christ Church Parish on November 23, 1749. His father was an Irish immigrant and one of the first to practice medicine in the parish. His mother was a member of the prestigious Boone family. Thus, Edward Rutledge was a great grandson of Major John Boone and Elizabeth Patey Boone who founded Boone Hall Plantation. His parents lived on a plantation in the vicinity of today’s Laurel Hill Plantation on Route 41 in Mount Pleasant.


Rutledge received his early classical education from his father and under the tutelage of David Smith. He read law under his brother John and then studied law in England at Oxford University. Rutledge was admitted to England’s bar on July 3, 1772. On January 10, 1773, he was back in Charleston. Rutledge entered into law practice with Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and he distinguished himself as a gifted orator and talented attorney. As a wealthy plantation and slave owner, Rutledge was a member of South Carolina’s elite planter class. He married Henrietta Middleton on March 1, 1774, and together they had three children. Henrietta died on April 22, 1792 and Rutledge remarried.

Founding Father Edward Rutledge
Founding Father Edward Rutledge Signature

Professional Life

Like his oldest brother John, Rutledge was a trusted and gifted public official. Most notably, at 26 years of age he was the youngest delegate to sign the Declaration of Independence. He proved himself a persuasive force within the South Carolina delegation. Rutledge was esteemed and rose to prominence just as political elders such as Henry Middleton, Christopher Gadsden, and Thomas Lynch Sr. were retiring. Prior to the revolution, he was invited along with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to discuss peace with British Admiral Lord Richard Howe on Staten Island, New York. 


Rutledge’s offices included: 1774-1776 delegate to Continental Congress; 1775-1776 delegate to first and second provincial congress; 1776, 1781-1796 South Carolina Assembly; 1779 Captain of Artillery, South Carolina Militia and, in 1779, fought in Battle of Beaufort (captured in Charleston in May 1780, and imprisoned until July 1781); 1790 state constitutional convention; 1796-1798 State Senator; 1788, 1792, 1796 College of Electors; 1798-1800 South Carolina governor. Rutledge, 50, suffered from gout and died from complications before the completion of his term as governor. He is buried at St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church.

Bibliographic Summary: National Park Service, Signers of the Declaration: Biographical Sketches, <www.nps.gov>, s.v. “Thomas Lynch Jr.” (accessed 06/ 10/11); Rev. Charles A. Goodrich, Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence (New York: William Reed & Co., 1856), 443-447, available at Colonial Hall, <www.colonial.com>, (accessed 06/ 05/11).