Our ancestors often believed in fate, and so do I. It was fate one day that brought me to the Fraunces Tavern in New York City. Fate that day that the waiter overheard me talking to my daughter. Fate that that same waiter told me of the museum on the top floor of the Fraunces Tavern. Fate that allowed me fifteen minutes prior to closing to view the museum.
In those fifteen minutes I scanned the exhibits and discovered a small posting regarding a declaration signed by 547 Loyalists in late November 1776 which declared their loyalty to the Crown and Great Britain. The voices of my ancestors and their friends kept calling to me from that document, asking me to not forget them, and to search out their names and signatures. To discover their lives, beliefs, and reasons for their actions.
After searching and making inquiries through social media, phoning museums and not giving up, two and a half years later I finally found someone, who on February 11, 2015, knew what I was talking and asking about. Charles Casimiro of Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site, New York, informed me the document, the Declaration of Dependence, was housed in the New-York Historical Society. He was even able to provide a transcription.
To the Right Honorable Richard Viscount Howe, of the Kingdom of Ireland, and His Excellency The Honorable William Howe, Esquire, General of His Majesty’s Forces in America, the Kings’ Commissioners for restoring Peace in His Majesty’s Colonies and Plantations in North America &c. &c. &c.
May it please your excellencies.
Impressed with the most grateful sense of the Royal Clemency, manifested I you Proclamation of the 14th. Of July last, whereby His Majesty hath been graciously pleased to declare, “That he is desirous to deliver His American subjects from the calamities of War, and other oppressions, which they now undergo:” and equally affected with sentiments of gratitude for the generous and humane attention to the disposition “to confer with His Majesty’s well affected subjects, upon the means of restoring the public Tranquility, and establishing a permanent union with every Colony as a part of the British Empire.”
We whose names are hereunto subscribed, Inhabitants of the City and County of New-York, beg leave to inform your Excellencies: that altho most of us have subscribed a general Representation with many other of the Inhabitants; yet we wish that our conduct, in maintaining inviolate our loyalty to our Sovereign, against the strong tide of oppression and tyranny, which has almost overwhelmed this Land, may be marked by some line of distinction, which cannot well be drawn from the mode of Representation that has been adopted for the Inhabitants in general.
Influenced by this Principle, and from a regard to our peculiar Situation, we have humbly presumed to trouble your Excellencies with the second application; in which, we flatter ourselves, none participate but those who have ever, with unshaken fidelity, borne true Allegiance to His Majesty, and the most warm and affectionate attachment to his Person and Government. That, notwithstanding the tumult of the times, and the extreme difficulties and losses to which many of us have been exposed, we have always expressed, and do now give this Testimony of our Zeal to preserve and support the Constitutional Supremacy of Great Britain over the Colonies; and do most ardently wish for a speedy restoration of that union between them, which, while it subsisted, proved the unfailing source of their mutual happiness and prosperity.
We cannot help lamenting that the number of Subscribers to this Address is necessarily lessened, by the unhappy circumstance that many of our Fellow-Citizens, who have firmly adhered their loyalty, have been driven from their Habitations, and others sent Prisoners into some of the neighbouring Colonies: and tho’ it would have afforded us the highest satisfaction, could they have been present upon this occasion: yet we conceive it to be the duty we owe to ourselves and our prosperity, whilst this testimony of our Allegiance can be supported by known and recent facts, to declare to your Excellencies; that so far from having given the last countenance or encouragement, to the most unnatural, unprovoked Rebellion, that ever disgraced the annuls of Time; we have on the contrary, steadily and uniformly opposed it, in every stage of its rise and progress, at the risque of our Lives and Fortunes.
The 242-year-old Declaration of Dependence is owned by the New-York Historical Society Library. Having only seen the on line version of this 242-year-old document, I can describe it as a large sheet which has the wishes of the signers written on the top half followed below by eight columns with approximately thirty-five signatures in each column. The left most column has perhaps ten signatures worn away. There follows three smaller pages of signatures, in four columns on each page. The fourth column on the last page has been torn away. What appear to be water marks distort and disfigure other signatures on these three pages.
My curiosity was aroused as to why approximately ten signatures would have been worn away. Perhaps they were erased by persons not wishing to acknowledge that they, or their ancestors, signed this document. Or, the names may have been smudged by accident, possibly from too much handling. Considering that most people are right handed it is natural to pick up the paper with your left hand.
The second page has space for six columns, but only four columns of names appear; the first column is near the middle of the page, leaving blank space to the left. The bottom portion of the first column appears to have water stains, making the last eight or so signatures illegible.
The third page has water stains on the top portion of all four columns. The lower portion of the page also has stains.
The final page of the Declaration appears to be mostly lost due to the large amount of water stains. Below the four columns of signatures is the final sign-off of the Declaration. It reads in part,
We, Richard Hoyt Thomas T . . . ing and Frederick Hudson . . . of New York do hereby certify that we attended the signing . . . and that the subscribers have voluntarily signed their names.
Twenty Eight day of November in the Seventeenth Year of His Majesty.
King George III became King on October, 25 1760, so the final signatures on the Declaration were made on November 28, 1776.
The Declaration of Dependence was signed by 547 Loyalists from New York and surrounding areas. The signers were merchants, yeomen, freed slaves—basically a mixed representation of people all wishing to remain loyal to the Crown.
The signing of this valuable document took place in Fraunces Tavern, located at 54 Pearl Street at Water Street in Lower Manhattan. The City Hall was situated on the north side of the street. At the time, the tavern sign read “Sign of Queen Charlotte,” or the Queen to King George III. Commonly it was referred to as the “Queen’s Head Tavern.”
The signers are too numerous to list; here are a few of the more prominent:
Frederick Philipse. The house that Frederick Philipse once occupied is now a Historic Site, the Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers, New York. The family lived in luxury. Rent from many tenant farmers who worked their lands helped pay for this lifestyle. As those around Frederick Philipse III began to rebel against Great Britain, he defended the Crown. George Washington did not approve of having such a strong-willed Loyalist at large and ordered Frederick Philipse III arrested in 1776, but he and his family fled to British occupied New York. His signature can be seen prominently in the middle of page one, column five. Frederick Philipse III had a sister Susannah Philipse. She married Col. Bevereley Robinson, a prominent Loyalist officer in whose home Benedict Arnold made his headquarters. From the strong Loyal bonds of this marriage was born Frederick Philipse Robinson, who began his career in the British army as a young officer in the American Revolution and eventually rose to the rank of major general. His portrait is found in the hallway of Queen’s Park, Toronto, Ontario. He was provisional lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada in 1815. Eventually the lands and the Manor of Frederick Philipse III were confiscated and sold at public auction by the New York State Legislature. The last “Lord of the Manor”, died of a broken spirit and poor health in England, 1786.
Samuel Cox. Samuel Cox was a native of Bermuda, described as 5’10” in stature with a brown complexion, light brown hair, and about twenty-five years of age. On June 1, 1776, he set sail from Halifax as the Master of the transport sloop Charlotte, among approximately 130 ships carrying about 10,000 sailors that set sail that day from Halifax under the command of Lord Howe, carrying the British army that would land on Staten Island. On board Charlotte was a cargo of entrenching tools, spikes, Cheveaux-de-Frise, and mantelets, essential components for constructing field fortifications in the upcoming campaign. The American armed sloop Montgomery intercepted Charlotte on June 28, 1776. Samuel Cox was transported as a prisoner and carried to Fire-Island Inlet south of Long Island as a prisoner of war. He was released on parole on July 6, to return to his residence in Bedford Township in Westchester County, New York. He later became a member of a Loyalist regiment, Butler’s Rangers, and settled in the Niagara Region of Ontario.
Samuel Wood. Samuel Wood was fifty-one years old when he signed the Declaration in 1776. Born in 1725 in New York, he married Amy Brundage about 1754 in Westchester County. Together they had fourteen children. After being imprisoned and suffering the loss of his Westchester County farm, his wife Amy refused to follow him when he fled from the United States in 1785. Perhaps she was too old and tired, or perhaps she chose to remain with her other twelve children. Samuel’s daughter Amy Wood Bedford and his son Peter Wood went to Nova Scotia with their father, later to be joined by their sister Rachel Wood Clark. Perhaps Rachel’s husband penned one of the two Clark signatures found on the Declaration. Compensation was granted by the British, and together Samuel Wood and his son Peter built a home on the Maccan River in Nova Scotia. It would appear that he died a broken man as his wife still refused to move to Nova Scotia with their remaining children. Both Wood and his son were buried in the Harrison burial ground, which sadly is now a farmer’s field.
Petition of 547 Loyalists from New York City, commonly referred to as the ‘Loyalist Declaration of Dependence”, New-York Historical Society, www.nyhistory.org/exhibit/petition-0.
Appleton’s Cyclopedia of American Biography, 1600-1889 Vol V: (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1888), attached to ancestry tree www.ancestry.ca/family-tree/person/tree/109676453/person/110078560499/facts.
“Parole of Samuel Cox,” American Archives, Peter Force, ed. (Washington, DC: M. St. Claire Clarke and Peter Force, 1848), 24, books.google.ca/books?id=r2cYAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA23&lpg=RA1-PA23&dq=Samuel+Cox+1776&source=bl&ots=wzIf35eggK&sig=2n9tixBHCcKzgZ2CdzlbctUTqxk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjmnuvqnbHRAhWF34MKHTrbBkgQ6AEIMjAF#v=onepage&q=Samuel%20Cox%201776&f=false.
Find A Grave Memorial# 93590782, www.findagrave.com/memorial/93590782/samuel-wood.