First Reading of the Declaration of Independence

In part of the backup for the historical landmark designation for the White Horse Tavern, I found reference to this interesting tidbit. Skip Miller had mentioned this rumor, but this was the first I found it in writing, albeit not a primary source:

Having been a polling place, Provincial Records indicate the Declaration of Independence was first read there in that locality.

— Letter from Doris Powell, representing the East Whiteland Historical Commission, to Mr. William Watson, Supervisor, Historic Site Survey, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, June 28th, 1976

A signer of the Declaration was John Morton of Chester County…perhaps a search of local papers around July and August of 1776 might have a reference to a reading.  Here are Morton’s background and travels to sign for our independence:

As the Chester County representative to the Pennsylvania Assembly John Morton served in a variety of position. In 1765 John Morton was one of three delegates appointed by the Pennsylvania Assembly to attend the Stamp Act Congress and it was he who brought that report back. In 1774, while serving as Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, he was voted to be a delegate to the First Continental Congress held in Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia. On November 4, 1775 he was elected to the Second Continental Congress which was held in the State House, later renamed Independence Hall. The delegation to the Second Continental Congress, with Robert Morris and John Dickenson, absenting themselves and with Willing and Humphreys voting nay and with Franklin and James Wilson voting aye, it fell upon John Morton to cast the deciding vote for independence and he did so on July 4, 1776. He returned to the statehouse on August 2, to affix his name to the Declaration of Independence. It is said that Pennsylvania, because of John Morton’s deciding vote is nicknamed the “Keystone State”. For without Pennsylvania’s vote for independence the probability of it being adopted was doubtful. In 1776 and 1777 John Morton became Chairman of the Committee of the Whole and was heavily involved in writing the Articles of Confederation, the new nation’s first form of government. Unfortunately, he did not live to see his efforts realized.


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