Founding Fathers - Arthur Middleton
Born: June 26, 1742 (Charleston, SC)
Died: January 1, 1787 (Charleston, SC)
This week we'll look at the story behind one of South Carolina's Founding Fathers, Arthur Middleton. As the oldest child of wealthy English parents, Henry and Mary Middleton, young Arthur was privately tutored until being sent to England at the age of 12 to study. He received his education at the best schools, including Harrow, Westminster, and St. John's College (Cambridge), before pursuing legal training at London's Middle Temple. He traveled throughout Europe before returning home to South Carolina in 1763 at the age of 21. The following year he married Mary Izard and settled into his family's home along Charleston's Ashley River, known as Middleton Place. They would eventually have nine children together.
Given his wealth, Arthur Middleton was free to pursue politics early in life. Both his father, Henry Middleton, as well as Mary's father, Walter Izard, had served as justice of the peace, which is the position that Arthur attained just one year after his marriage. He served in South Carolina's colonial legislature from 1765-68, after which he left with his wife for a three-year journey throughout Europe. Despite spending so much time abroad, including having his first child born in London during their voyage, Middleton's loyalties remained firmly with his home. Upon his return to South Carolina he was quickly elected once again to the colonial legislature, where his radical views led to frequent conflict with his more moderate father. While the elder Middleton was participating in the First Continental Congress, his son was chosen to participate in the Council of Safety to help prepare for the struggle for independence. When Henry declined to continue serving in Congress, Arthur was elected to replace him in 1776.
Arthur Middleton was active during his brief time in the Second Continental Congress, and he signed the Declaration of Independence shortly after turning 34. Soon thereafter, he returned to Charleston to help lead the militia in the defense of South Carolina's most important city. When the British captured the town in 1780, however, Middleton was one of several signers to be arrested and imprisoned. Along with Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward, he was moved to Saint Augustine, Florida, where he remained for nearly a year until they were freed in a prisoner exchange. He served in Congress for two years before returning to South Carolina to tend to his family holdings. While his home had survived the British occupation of Charleston, most of his belongings had been stolen or destroyed. He served two additional years in the state assembly and acted briefly as one of the original trustees for the College of Charleston before retiring for good in 1786. He died at home in 1787 on New Year's Day, at the age of just 44, and was survived by his wife and eight of his children.
The signature of Arthur Middleton can be found as the seventh and final name on the second column beneath the Declaration of Independence.