12 July 2010

Meet the Signers - George Read of Delaware

Delegation leader, George Read was born 18 Sep 1733 in Cecil Co., MD to John Read and Mary Howell. John emigrated from Dublin, Ireland after the death of his fiancĂ© and was one of the founders of Charlestown, Maryland. Mary’s family emigrated from Wales to Delaware. John and Mary moved their family to New Castle, New Castle Co., Delaware while George was still a boy.

Read was educated at Chester, Pennsylvania and the Rev. Francis Alism’s Academy in New London, also in Pennsylvania. Read went to Philadelphia, studied law under John Moland, and was admitted to the bar in 1753. Not long after being admitted to the bar, Read returned to New Castle.

One author describes him, “In person, he was tall and slender with a finely moulded head and features, which while refined, were yet expressive of strength, and eyes that were brown and lustrous. In manner he was dignified, and though very reserved, courteous and agreeable. In dress he observed the nicest punctilio of a day nicer than our own in matters of attire [Conrad, History of the State of Delaware, p. 946]”.

On January 11, 1763 he married Gertrude Ross Till, a widow. Gertrude was the daughter of the Rev. George Ross, rector of Immanuel Episcopal Church, one of the oldest Episcopal churches in America and sister to Declaration of Independence signer, George Till. Their children included four sons and a daughter.

Read was a career politician. He served as Delaware’s District Attorney, was member of the first and second Continental Congresses, presided over Delaware’s constitution convention in 1776, and was on the Delaware legislature council, among other posts. Read signed the Declaration of Independence although he opposed it.

In 1782 Read was appointed Judge of the Court of Appeals in Admiralty by the Confederation Congress. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1789, but resigned his seat in 1793 to accept the post of Chief Justice of Delaware, a position he held until his death on September 21, 1798. Read is buried at the Immanuel Episcopal Church in New Castle.

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