Religious Convictions of America’s Founders: George Read

"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."  Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 

George Read: Delaware.  Read was the only signer of the Declaration of Independence who voted against it on July 2, 1776.  He and Thomas McKean were deadlocked on the vote for independence. To break the deadlock, Caesar Rodney rode the 80-mile journey to Philadelphia thereby allowing Delaware to join 11 other states voting in favor of the resolution of independence.  Read was not unfriendly to the liberties of his country, nor cowardly or selfish.  He simply thought the move to be premature and unwise. Ultimately, he rejoiced that his fears were groundless and affixed his signature to the Declaration, alongside Thomas McKean and Caesar Rodney.  

Read was one of only two statesmen who signed all three of the great State papers on which the country’s history is based: the original Petition to the King of the Congress of 1774, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.  (Roger Sherman of Connecticut was the other.)  

When John McKinley, the president (governor) of Delaware, was captured by the British, George Read assumed the presidency.  Enroute from Philadelphia to Dover, he narrowly escaped capture himself.   

Read’s wife, Gertrude Ross Till, was the daughter of the Rev. George Ross, the Anglican rector of Immanuel Church in New Castle.  During the Revolution, the enemy, constantly on the maritime borders of Delaware, kept the State in perpetual alarm by predatory incursions.  The British army at different periods occupied parts of her territory or marched through it.  Frequent change of habitation was not one of the least evils which accompanied the war of the Revolution.  Mrs. Read was often compelled to fly from her abode, at a moment’s warning, with a large and infant famly.  But she never desponded.  Instead of adding to the heavy burden of her husband statesman’s cares by her complaints, she animated his fortitude by her firmness." See Life and Correspondence of George Read.  During the war Read’s home was confiscated by the enemy, his wife was taken captive and he driven from place to place to avoid capture for six years.    

George Read became the president of the Delaware constitutional convention and helped direct the Delaware Constitution of 1776. The following is one of the requirements for public officials.

“Everyone appointed to public office must say: ‘I do profess faith in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God & blessed forevermore. And I do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be given by divine inspiration.’”

"His patriotism and integrity were of too pure a character to be influenced by worldly preferment, or pecuniary reward.  The question with him was not, what a worldly policy might dictate, but what reason and justice and religion would approve."  See George Read of Delaware: State Official and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Both Read and his wife were members of the Immanuel Episcopal Church, where he is buried.

See Also:

Religious Convictions of America’s Founders: Caesar Rodney

Religious Convictions of America’s Founders: Thomas McKean

Religious Convictions of America’s Founders: John Hancock