Samuel Huntington

Samuel Huntington
Samuel Huntington
1st President of the United States
in Congress Assembled
March 1, 1781 to July 6, 1781
Signer of the Declaration of Independence

President of the Continental Congress
September 28, 1779 to February 28, 1781

By: Stanley L. Klos

 

 

 

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON was born on July 16, 1731 at Scotland, Connecticut, the son of a Puritan farmer. The date of July 16th differs from the official Congressional Biography as during the restoration of the tomb a 207 year old plaque was discovered with the bodies stating:

His Excellency
Samuel Huntington Esq.
Governor of the State of Connecticut
was born July 16th AD 1731
and died January 5th AD 1796
aged 64 years

Both Martha and Samuel Huntington were re-interred on November 24, 2003 Old Norwichtown Cemetery, Norwich, New London County, Connecticut (see editorial below).

President Huntington was a self-educated man who at age sixteen, was apprenticed to a cooper. He taught himself Latin at night and devoured every book on law he could find. At twenty-seven he was admitted to the bar, then moved to Norwich, a larger town offering more opportunity. After a year, however, he married Martha Devotion the local minister’s daughter, and set up what would eventually become a most lucrative law practice.

In 1764, Huntington was elected to the provincial assembly, and in quick succession became a justice of the peace, the king’s attorney for Connecticut, and a member of the colony’s council. He was elected and served in the second Continental Congress of the United Colonies of America representing Connecticut at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Huntington worked hard and long for independence, however quietly. A fellow delegate wrote:

He is a man of mild, steady, and firm conduct and of sound methodical judgment, tho’ not a man of many words or very shining abilities. But upon the whole is better suited to preside than any other member now in Congress.

After signing the Declaration, Huntington served in the Continental Congress for three more years when, on September 28, 1779, he was elected President. Huntington presided over the Confederation Congress during a critical period in the War for Independence. His commitment to Independence and his Presidency is renowned among scholars as his unwavering leadership held our nation together during a succession of military losses, sedition and defections:

October 10th, 1779 – American attempt to recapture Savannah, GA fails.

Winter of 1779-80 – was the coldest of the war and provisions for Washington and his army were scarce Morristown, NJ. causing a mutiny.

May 12, 1780 – British capture Charleston, SC.

May 1780 – Former Continental Congress President Henry Middleton pledges his allegiance to the crown after the Fall of Charleston.

May 29, 1780 – British crush Americans at Waxhaw Creek.

August 16, 1780 – British rout Americans at Camden, SC.

September 25, 1780 – Major General Benedict Arnold’s plans to cede West Point to the British discovered.

January 1, 1781 – Mutiny of unpaid Pennsylvania soldiers. J

January 14, 1781 – Benedict Arnold burns Richmond.

March 15, 1781 – British win costly victory at Guilford Courthouse, NC.

April 25, 1781 – General Greene defeated at Hobkirk’s Hill, SC.

May 15, 1781 – Cornwallis clashed with Greene at Guilford Courthouse, NC.

June 6, 1781 – British hold off Americans at Ninety Six, SC .

July 6, 1781 – General Anthony Wayne repulsed at Green Springs Farm, VA

By the fall of 1780 three years had elapsed since Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga. The fortunes of the Americans, instead of improving, had grown worse to the point of desperation. France’s aid had thus far proved to be quite minor, the southern army had been annihilated, US paper money, the Continental had become worthless, US credit abroad hinged on the dwindling fortunes of patriots like Robert Morris and Haym Salomon. The founding Articles of Confederation which were to form the perpetual Union of the United States of America, after four years, had yet to be ratified. Legally, the nation that sought foreign recognition and aid was not a united country as its own “constitution” was no ratified by all 13 states. Prospects of the United States’s survival were far past bleak as the country had never been formed!

The army, clothed in rags, half-starved and not paid, was ripe for the mutiny and desertions to the British lines averaged more than 100 a month. Samuel Huntington’s Presidential Predecessor, former Continental Congress President Henry Middleton betrayed his fellow patriots and declared a renewed loyalty to King George III. Even George Washington wrote that “he had almost ceased to hope.”

In the summer of 1780 the spirit of desertion now seized Washington’s greatest General, Benedict Arnold, with whom the British commander had for some time tampered through the mediation of John Andre and an American loyalist, Beverley Robinson. Stung by the injustice he had suffered, and influenced by history surroundings, Arnold made up his mind to play a part like that which General Monk had played in the restoration of Charles II to the British throne. By putting the British in possession of the Hudson river at West Point, Arnold would deliver the British all that they had sought to obtain by the campaigns of 1776-’77. Once West Point was secured the American cause would thus become so hopeless that an occasion would be offered for negotiation.