Thomas Lynch, Jr. (August 5, 1749 – 1779) was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of South Carolina. Of the 56 Signers, only fellow South Carolinian Edward Rutledge was younger than Thomas Lynch, Jr., just three months younger. Both were 27 years old.
Lynch, Jr. was a third generation public servant in South Carolina. His grandfather, Thomas Lynch (1675-1738) served in the First Royal Assembly (1721-1724) and his father Thomas Lynch (1727-1776) served more than 15 years in the Royal Assembly. His father was elected to the First and Second Continental Congresses. During the Second Continental Congress, both father and son served at the same time.
Illness almost prevented both Lynch delegates from signing the Declaration of Independence. The elder Lynch suffered a stroke that prevented him from signing, but his son, who was suffering from the effects of bilious fever was able to vote for and sign the Declaration.
His grandfather emigrated from Ireland to South Carolina in the 1670s. In 1697, he obtained a warrant for 100 acres in Craven County. He would come to own seven plantations. Lynch, Jr.'s father, as the only surviving son, inherited most of his grandfather's large estate. He would go on to acquire grants for 10,512 acres in Craven County and operate three plantations. He also invested some of his wealth in shipping and was part-owner of three trading vessels.
Thomas Lynch, Jr., the only son of Thomas Lynch and Elizabeth Allston, was born at Prince George Parish, Winyah, in what is now Georgetown County, South Carolina. He was schooled at the Indigo Society School in Georgetown before being sent to England, where he studied at Eton College and at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge University. He studied law in London at the Middle Temple, returning to America in 1772.
Instead of practicing law when he returned to South Carolina he decided to devote himself to the Peach Tree Plantation on the Santee River in St. James Parish. He married Elizabeth Shubrick on May 14, 1772.
As the son of a wealthy and influential father he was soon called on to serve in many important public positions. He was elected to the First Provincial Congress from his parish in 1774 and reelected in 1775. In 1776, he was selected to be on the committee of 11 who would prepare a constitution for South Carolina. He was also elected to the first state General Assembly in 1776, and was chosen as a delegate to Second Continental Congress.
In 1775, the provincial congress elected him to be one of the Captains of the 1st South Carolina Regiment. Having received his commission, he soon enlisted his quota of men, but in his recruiting travels he came down with bilious fever, which made him a partial invalid for the remainder of his life.
In February 1776, Lynch, Sr. was paralyzed by a cerebral hemorrhage while in Philadelphia serving on the First Continental Congress. Lynch, Jr. requested leave to join his ailing father. The request was denied but the South Carolina Second Provincial Congress selected him as a delegate to join his father in Philadelphia. Thus, Thomas Lynch Sr. and Thomas Lynch Jr. became the only father and son team to serve at the Continental Congress.
Unfortunately the elder Lynch was unable to attend when the Declaration of Independence was signed, but a space was left for his name between the signatures of Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward, Jr.. Lynch, Jr., even though his health was declining as well, was present and voted when the Declaration was adopted and was thus able to sign it.
By the end of 1776, neither Lynch was well enough to remain in Philadelphia and they began their trip home. Lynch, Sr. suffered a stroke en route and died in Annapolis, Maryland. Lynch, Jr., did not seek reelection and retired to his home in South Carolina.
Late in 1779, he and his wife embarked on a voyage to the south of France in an attempt to regain his health. They first sailed for St. Eustatius in the West Indies, where they expected to take passage in a neutral ship for the south of France. Their ship never made it to the West Indies; it was lost at sea.
Before he departed for his ill-fated voyage, he made a will. Since he had no children the will stipulated that heirs of his sister or female relatives must change their surname to Lynch in order to inherit the family estate. His sister, Sabina followed his wishes and she and her husband, John Bowman, owned and managed the place until their son came of age. Their son became John Bowman Lynch and when he married he had three sons. However, all three sons died in the American Civil War.
The family estate, Hopsewee, still stands in South Carolina.
At the age of 30, Thomas Lynch, Jr,. was the youngest Signer of the Declaration of Independence to die. Because of this, and the fact that he had served in Congress less than a year and was ill most of the time, his autograph is extremely rare. Dr. Joseph E. Fields, a founder and first President of the Manuscript Society, wrote in Manuscripts: The First Twenty Years (Greenwood Press: Westport, 1984) that examples of Lynch's handwriting "are among the rarest in the entire field of Americana … Disregarding signatures," Dr. Fields continues, "there are about four times as many [Button] Gwinnett autographs as there are Lynch autographs." In 1994, Dr. Fields sold collector William Hongach the original wills of Thomas Lynch, Sr. and Thomas Lynch, Jr. Hongach is a noted collector of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and had assembled three complete sets of the Signers.
Current prices for Lynch, Jr. or Gwinnett range from $2,000 to $10,000. There are only 36 complete sets of the Signers which are valued at up to $200,000.
Hopsewee Plantation, where Lynch, Jr. was born, became South Carolina ’s first National Historic Landmark in 1972. Hopsewee is a preservation rather than a restoration and has never been allowed to fall into decay. 0nly five families have owned it, although it was built almost 40 years before the Revolutionary War. The house, still a private residence, is a typical coastal rice plantation dwelling. Constructed on a brick foundation which is covered by scored tabby, the house is built of black cypress, which probably accounts for the fact that it is basically the same house the Lynches built almost 270 years ago.
In March 2008, the gold mourning ring worn by Thomas Lynch after his wife and the mother of Lynch, Jr. died, came up for sale. Elizabeth Allston Lynch died when Lynch, Jr. was only about a year old. It sold within two hours after the Charleston International Antiques show opened.
The buyer remained anonymous and did not reveal the purchase price. It is reported that the buyer took the ring to Hopsewee Plantation and planned to leave it in South Carolina. It was reported that the bidding was the $20,000 range.
All links retrieved December 7, 2008.
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