The Signers Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison
Charles Willson Peale
National Portrait Gallery
Smithsonian Institution
gift of the A.W. Mellon Educational
and Charitable Trust, 1942.

Benjamin Harrison


Born at ‘Berkeley', his father's estate in Charles City County, Virginia, Benjamin Harrison was the fifth of that name in direct line. He continuously held a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1749 to its dissolution in 1775 and represented Virginia in the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1778. Not only did Harrison sign the Declaration, but he chaired the debates of it in Congress.

Known for his sense of humor, Harrison remarked after signing the Declaration, "I shall have a great advantage over you, Mr. [Elbridge] Gerry, when we are all hung for what we are now doing. From the size and weight of my body I shall die in a few minutes, but from the lightness of your body you will dance in the air an hour or two before you are dead."

His great house on the James River was plundered by soldiers under the command of Benedict Arnold in late 1780. As a a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, he fled into the Blue Ridge Mountains with Patrick Henry and John Tyler when Cornwallis attacked Charlottesville.

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