Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Thomas Stone (1743-1787)
MSA SC 3520-1202

Signer of the Declaration of Independence

The following essay is taken from "In grateful remembrance..." An Exhibition of Portraits Commemorating the Founding of State and Nation, 1770 - 1788.  Maryland Commission on Artistic Property, Annapolis, MD, 1976:

"Thomas Stone received his legal training in the office of Thomas Johnson in Annapolis and was admitted to the bar in 1764.  In 1774 Stone was elected a delegate to the first Maryland Convention from Charles County and in 1775, was appointed to, but did not serve on, the first Council of Safety.  As a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, Stone was conservative on the question of independence.  As late as April, 1776, he wrote to Daniel of St.Thomas Jenifer, President of the Council of Safety, of his hopes:  'I wish to conduct affairs so that a just and honorable reconciliation should take place, or that we should be pretty unanimous in a resolution to fight it out for Independence.  The proper way to effect this is not to move too quick . . . . You know my hearty wishes for peace on terms of security and justice to America.  But war, anything is preferable to surrender of our rights.'

When the unanimity of the Convention was finally achieved, Stone, John Rogers, and William Paca were in Philadelphia to cast their votes for independence.  With Paca, Chase and Carroll, he signed the engrossed Declaration on August 2, 1776.  Whether his vote for independence signified his deepest feelings cannot be known, for Stone seldom spoke out in public, and most of his correspondence has been lost.  In September, 1776, he favored peace negotiations with Admiral Lord Howe, who had been sent to America as Peace Commissioner by the British government.  Perhaps for this reason, an attempt was made by William Fitzhugh in the Maryland Convention to prevent his re-appointment to Congress.  Mentioning no names, Fitzhugh moved that only members of the Convention, which at the time Stone was not, be eligible for Congress, arguing that the selection of non-members might 'introduce and intrude men unworthy of confidence into the most important and highest trusts, dangerous to the safety and welfare of America.'  Fitzhugh’s motion was shelved, but another motion introduced by William Paca specifically including Stone in the Maryland delegation was defeated and his re-appointment temporarily blocked.  Four days later, at the urging of Johnson, Paca and Carroll, the Convention relented and directed 'that the deputies appointed . . . immediately repair to Congress, and in conjunction with Thomas Stone, esq. represent this State.'  As a delegate to Congress in 1777, Stone served on the Committee of Thirteen, formed to prepare the Articles of Confederation.  He served in the State Senate from 1776 until 1787, and briefly in the Congress of the Confederation in 1784.  Overcome by grief at the death of his wife in 1787, he abandoned his public career and prepared to remove to England, but died before he could carry out his plan."

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