New York Today: New Yorkers on the Declaration of Independence


John Trumbull’s “Declaration of Independence” painting in the Capitol Rotunda.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call, via Associated Press

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The Declaration of Independence was signed on this day in 1776.

(One of the biggest misconceptions about the document, according to our National Archives, is that it was signed on July 4, the day we celebrate our independence.)

Four delegates to the Continental Congress, out of a total of 56, signed the handwritten document on behalf of New York State — Philip Livingston, Lewis Morris, Francis Lewis and William Floyd.

Each had close ties to our city.

Philip Livingston was born in Albany and became a successful merchant after graduating from Yale (though he later helped found King’s College, now Columbia University). During the Revolutionary War, the British used Mr. Livingston’s townhouse on Duke Street in Lower Manhattan — now part of the Stone Street Historic District — as barracks, and his estate in Brooklyn Heights was used as a hospital. Mr. Livingston died before the war ended.

Lewis Morris was born in what is now the Bronx, in Morrisania, N.Y. (which was then Westchester County). He also graduated from Yale and spent much of his time tending to the family farm in Morrisania and working as a judge before the war. When he died at the turn of the 19th century, he was buried at St. Ann’s Church in the South Bronx. The church, still standing, is considered a patriotic site and national shrine.

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Francis Lewis was our only delegate who was not a New York native; he was born in Wales and spent much of his life in London before coming to the United States in the 1730s. During the war, while he was living in what is now part of Flushing, Queens, the British destroyed his home and took his wife prisoner. She died shortly after being released.

And William…

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