Samuel Ward (American statesman)
|31st and 33rd Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations|
|Preceded by||Stephen Hopkins|
|Succeeded by||Stephen Hopkins|
|Preceded by||Stephen Hopkins|
|Succeeded by||Stephen Hopkins|
|7th Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court|
May 1761 – May 1762
|Preceded by||John Gardner|
|Succeeded by||Jeremiah Niles|
|Born||May 25, 1725
Newport, Rhode Island
|Died||March 26, 1776 (aged 50)
|Resting place||Common Burying Ground, Newport|
|Parents||Richard Ward, Mary Tillinghast|
|Occupation||Farmer, politician, chief justice, governor|
|Religion||Seventh Day Baptist|
Samuel Ward (May 25, 1725 – March 26, 1776) was an American farmer, politician, Supreme Court Justice, Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and a delegate to the Continental Congress. He was the son of earlier Rhode Island governor Richard Ward, was well educated, and grew up in a large Newport, Rhode Island family. After marrying, he and his wife received property in Westerly, Rhode Island from his father-in-law and, upon settling there, he took up farming. He entered politics as a fairly young man and soon took sides in the hard-money vs. paper-money controversy, favoring hard money, or specie. His primary rival over the money issue was Providence politician Stephen Hopkins, and the two men became bitter rivals, alternating as governors of the colony for several terms.
During this time of political activity, Ward became a founder and trustee of Rhode Island's first college, Brown University. The most contentious issue that he faced during his three years as governor involved the Stamp Act, which had been passed by the British Parliament just before he took office for the second time. The Stamp Act placed a tax on all official documents and newspapers, infuriating the American colonists by being done without their consent. Representatives of the colonies met to discuss the act but, when it came time for the colonial governors to take a position, Ward was the only one who stood firm against the act, threatening his position but bringing him recognition as a great patriot.
Ward's final term as governor ended in 1767, after which he retired to work on his farm in Westerly. However, he was called back into service in 1774 as a delegate to the Continental Congress. War was looming with the England, and to this end he devoted all of his energy. After hostilities began, Ward stated, "'Heaven save my country,' is my first, my last, and almost my only prayer." He died of smallpox during a meeting of the Congress in Philadelphia, slightly more than three months before the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, and was buried in a local cemetery. His remains were later re-interred in the Common Burying Ground in Newport.
Ancestry and early life
Ward was born in Newport in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1725, the son of Rhode Island colonial governor Richard Ward. Samuel Ward's mother Mary Tillinghast was the daughter of John Tillinghast and Isabel Sayles, and a granddaughter of Pardon Tillinghast who had come from Seven Cliffs, Sussex, England. She was also a granddaughter of John Sayles and Mary Williams, and a great granddaughter of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, making Ward the great great grandson of the colony's founder. Ward's great grandfather John Ward was born in Gloucester, England and had been an officer in Cromwell's Army, but he came to the American colonies following the accession of King Charles II to the English throne.
Ward was the ninth of 14 children. He grew up in a home of liberal tastes and cultivated manners, and he was trained under the discipline and instruction of a celebrated grammar school in his home town. He may also have been tutored by his older brother Thomas, who had graduated from Harvard College in 1733. As a young man, Ward married Anne Ray, the daughter of a well-to-do farmer on Block Island, from whom the couple received land in Westerly, and they settled there as farmers. He devoted much effort to improving the breeds of domestic animals, and he raised a breed of racehorse known as the Narraganset pacer.
Family and legacy
Samuel and Anna Ward had eleven children. Their second son Samuel Ward, Jr. served as a lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army. A great-granddaughter was Julia Ward Howe who composed the "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Ward's aunt Mary Ward married Sion Arnold, a grandson of Governor Benedict Arnold.
In 1937, the Town of Westerly, Rhode Island honored Governor Ward's memory by dedicating its new high school to him. The road that formerly fronted the main building of the current high school campus was also named Ward Avenue for his family. The large Georgian-style building has served the town's students faithfully since 1939 and is currently part of a larger high school campus formed in 2005. The school is made up of two buildings, the Ward Building and Babcock Hall (the former junior high school, built at the same time). Ward High School was officially renamed Westerly High School in the late 20th century, following the path of other school districts, but keeping its letters WHS. But the high school's main auditorium was given the former governor's name, in keeping with the spirit of the original dedication, and a large brass plaque now greets visitors at the space's public entry.
Ward first became active in politics in 1756 when he was elected as a Deputy from Westerly. The divisive political issue of the day was the use of hard money (or specie) versus the use of paper money, and Ward sided with the former group. His chief rival was Stephen Hopkins of Providence who sided with the paper money view. So bitter was the animosity between these two men that Hopkins commenced an action for slander against Ward. The case was moved to Massachusetts for a fair trial, and the judgment went against Hopkins by default in 1759.
For ten years, the two men went back and forth as governor of the colony, each at the head of a powerful party. Josias Lyndon was elected as a compromise candidate in 1768, and the constant butting heads stopped. Hopkins won the election as governor in 1758, and beat Ward again in the following three elections. In 1761, the Assembly named Ward to the office of Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, but he only served in this capacity for a year, finally being elected governor in 1762. During this first year in office, the plan was discussed of founding a college in the Rhode Island colony, and it received Ward's hearty support. He took an active part in the establishment of "Rhode island College," later Brown University. When the school was incorporated in 1765, he was one of the trustees and one of its most generous supporters.
In 1763 Hopkins once again beat out Ward in the election for governor, serving for the next two years. However, in 1765 Ward for the second time won the contest between the two men. During this term one of the most contentious issues of the age arose, uniting the divided elements into a common cause. Two months before Ward's election the Stamp Act was passed by both houses of the Parliament of Great Britain. This act was a scheme for taxing the colonies, directing that all commercial and legal documents, to be valid in a court of law, must be written on stamped paper sold at fixed prices by governmental officers, and also directing that a duty be applied to newspapers. Parliament, assuming the right to tax the colonies put additional duties on sugar, coffee and other articles. The government also required that lumber and iron from the colonies only be exported to England.
The news of the act infuriated the colonists. Samuel Adams of Massachusetts invited all the colonies to a congress of delegates to meet in New York to discuss relief from the unjust taxes. In August 1765 the Rhode Island General Assembly passed resolutions following the lead of Patrick Henry of Virginia. Rhode Island's appointed stamp distributor, Attorney General Augustus Johnson, refused to execute his office "against the will of our Sovereign Lord the People." The Rhode Island General Assembly met again at East Greenwich in September 1765, choosing delegates to the New York congress, and appointing a committee to consider the Stamp Act. The committee reported six resolutions that pointed to the absolution of allegiance to the British Crown unless the grievances were removed.
The day before the act was to become effective, all of the royal governors took an oath to sustain it. Among the colonial governors only Samuel Ward of Rhode Island refused the act. In so doing, he forteited his position, and was threatened with a huge fine, but this did not deter him. Ultimately, the act was repealed, with news reaching the colonies in May 1766 to public rejoicing. The conflict for independence was delayed, but not abandoned.
In the 1767 election Ward once again lost to his nemesis, but Hopkins would not seek re-election after 1768. Eventually, friendly relations between the two great rivals was established. The famous controversy was replaced by a more momentous struggle soon to involve the colony. Governor Ward retired to his estate in Westerly, but became active again in 1774. At a town meeting in May of that year, the freemen of Providence formally proposed a Continental Congress for the union of the colonies, the first such act in favor of this measure, though the idea had already been circulating in several of the colonies. As plans solidified, the General Assembly met the following month in Newport and elected Samuel Ward and Stephen Hopkins as delegates to congress.
Ward served on several important committees, including the Committee on Secrets and frequently sat in the chair when the Congress met as a committee of the whole. He devoted all of his energy to the Continental Congress, until his untimely death from smallpox at a meeting of the convention in Philadelphia. Ward died a little more than three months before the Declaration of Independence was signed. He was originally buried in Philadelphia, but in 1860 was reinterred in the Common Burying Ground in Newport, Rhode Island.
|Ancestors of Samuel Ward (American statesman)|
- Stamp Act Congress
- List of delegates to the Continental Congress
- List of colonial governors of Rhode Island
- List of lieutenant governors of Rhode Island
- List of Chief Justices of the Rhode Island Supreme Court
- Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
- Arnold, Samuel Greene (1894). History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Vol.2. Providence: Preston and Rounds.
- Austin, John Osborne (1887). Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island. Albany, New York: J. Munsell's Sons. ISBN 978-0-8063-0006-1.
- Bicknell, Thomas Williams (1920). The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Vol.3. New York: The American Historical Society. pp. 1073–8.
- "The History of Westerly / Ward Senior High School". Westerly High School. Retrieved March 14, 2009. The material used in this article has been removed from the website.
- Smith, Joseph Jencks (1900). Civil and Military List of Rhode Island, 1647-1800. Providence, RI: Preston and Rounds, Co.
- Biographic sketch at U.S. Congress website
- The Library of Congress American Memory Collection, Letters of the Delegates to Congress - Volumes 1-3 contain his letters to his children and the diaries he kept of events at the Congress; these tell Ward's story poignantly.
- Brown University Charter
- Chronological list of Rhode Island leaders
- Samuel Ward at Find a Grave