John Morton

John Morton was an American patriot, who served in the Continental Congress. Morton was the delegate that broke the tie for Pennsylvania and swung the vote in favor of signing the Declaration of Independence. He was also among the 56 men who signed the document. When he scratched his name on this sacred document, he permanently engraved his name in American history.

John Morton, signer of the Declaration of Independence
Public domain image.

Early Life

John Morton was born sometime in the year 1725 in Ridley Township, Pennsylvania. John Morton’s grandfather was from Finland, and had migrated to Sweden with Morton’s father: John Morton, Senior, who then made his way to the American colonies. There, he met Morton’s mother, whose family was also from Finland.

John, Sr. passed away while his wife was pregnant with John, Jr. Several years later, John’s mother married a local farmer. John’s new stepfather schooled him to the best of his ability. When John was 23, he took Ann Justis to be his wife. Ann also had Finnish relatives. Together they had nine children.


In 1756, Morton was elected to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly. In 1757 he was made Justice of the Peace in Pennsylvania. In 1765, he was sent as a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress. In 1766, he returned to Pennsylvania and served as sheriff of Chester County. In 1775, he was elected the speaker of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly. In 1774, Morton had moved up in the political world quite a bit. He was appointed associate justice to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Later that year, Morton was sent as a delegate to the First Continental Congress. The following year, he was sent again to the Second Continental Congress. In the Congress, John Morton pushed very hard to move the other Pennsylvania delegate in favor of independence.

Declaration of Independence

When it was time to vote for the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Pennsylvania vote was slip two and two until July 1, when John Morton voted for Independence. This tipped Pennsylvania’s vote in favor of independence. On August 2, 1776 John Morris scratched his name on the Declaration of Independence. (August 2 is when most of the delegates signed the Declaration.)

Later, John Morton was on the committee writing the Articles of Confederation. Before the Articles were ratified, John Morton died of tuberculosis. He was unable to see the end of this project, however he will always be remembered as a patriot and a great man in American history.

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