Since it ends up I started this blog on Independence Day I thought I would start with probably the most famous of Finnish American’s in History, John Morton. While some may say he was a minor signer of the Declaration of Independence, I argue that without John Morton there may never have been a United States of America.
John Morton’s Finnish Lineage and Early Life
John Morton was born in 1725 to John Morton Sr. and Mary Archer. Both were descendants of New Sweden Finns. Morton’s Great Grandfather, Martti Marttinen of Rautalampi, Finland, had immigrated to New Sweden on the Eagle in 1654. Some say that Martti was a Varmland Finn, or Forrest Finn. Morton’s father passed away before his birth. Morton’s mom then married John Sketchley, an English farmer who would push John’s education.
Morton early career was such that he built a lot of trust in the community. This led to Morton being elected to Pennsylvania Assembly at the age of 31. He would serve for 10 years before being appointed Sheriff of Chester County. He would be in this role for three years before again returning to the Pennsylvania Assembly.
As a representative to the state assembly Morton was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. He would become Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly. He was voted to be a delegate to the First Continental Congress and was also elected again for the Second Continental Congress.
So Was John Morton Really That Important
Looking back at the debate on independence, several states were on the fence and had not endorsed independence; New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. It was believe that the swing state was Pennsylvania. If Pennsylvania were to sign the others were to follow. Pennsylvania itself as split. Benjamin Franklin first won over James Wilson some point after June 10 to side with independence. Morton surprisingly switched sided and joined with Franklin on July 1st. Still four were opposed to independence. In the end Thomas Willing and Charles Humphreys would vote against independence while John Dickinson and Robert Morris abstained. It is said that Morton’s vote for independence would secure Pennsylvania’s vote without which the adoption of independence would be doubtful.
Morton would sign the Declaration of Independence on August 2nd. He would then take on his last role as Chairman of the Committee of the Whole, with responsibility to draft the Articles of Confederation. Morton would die on April 1, 1777 before seeing completion of the Articles, becoming the first signer to pass away.