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Orphan, Immigrant, Patriot: Francis Lewis and the Declaration of Independence

Francis Lewis (March 21, 1713 – December 31, 1803) was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence, representing New York. His life was marked by remarkable achievements and profound sacrifices in service to his adopted homeland.

Early Life and Education:

Francis Lewis was born in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales, in 1713. His parents passed away when he was young, leaving him orphaned. He was raised by relatives in Wales, receiving his early education there. He later attended Westminster School in England, where he developed into a skilled classical scholar.

Merchant Ventures:

As a young man, Lewis embarked on a career in mercantile pursuits. He began working in a London counting house and gained valuable experience in the world of commerce. At the age of 21, he collected his inheritance, converted it into merchandise, and set sail for the American colonies. In 1735, he arrived in New York, where he would establish himself as a successful merchant.

Military Service and Captivity:

During his time in the American colonies, Lewis not only thrived as a merchant but also became involved in military service. He served as a military aide to the British Commander of Fort Oswego during the French and Indian War. In 1756, during the war, he was captured by the French and their Indian allies. His quick thinking, knowledge of languages, and ability to communicate with the Indians played a crucial role in saving his life. After imprisonment in France, he was eventually released in 1763 when the war ended and received a land grant of 5,000 acres from the British government as recognition for his services.

Advocacy for Independence:

As tensions between the American colonies and Britain grew, Francis Lewis became an ardent advocate for independence. He joined groups like the "Sons of Liberty" and actively participated in protests against British policies, including the Stamp Act.

Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence

: In 1775, Lewis was elected to represent New York in the Continental Congress. He continued in this role through 1776. His involvement in Congress led to a pivotal moment in American history. He was among the signers of the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776. This act of courage and commitment to the cause of American independence marked a significant turning point in the nation's history.

Personal Sacrifices

: During the American Revolutionary War, Francis Lewis faced personal hardships. His home on Long Island was destroyed by British forces, and his wife, Elizabeth Lewis, was taken captive. Her captivity was marked by severe suffering, inadequate provisions, and even the loss of their home and property.


Francis Lewis spent most of his life's savings to support the American Army, contributing significantly to the cause of independence. After the war, he retired from Congress in 1781 and lived with his two sons. He passed away on December 31, 1803, at the age of 90, leaving behind a legacy of unwavering commitment to American independence.

In conclusion, Francis Lewis's journey from Wales to becoming a signer of the Declaration of Independence embodies the spirit of the Founding Fathers. His dedication to liberty, sacrifices during the war, and contributions to the nation's birth are a testament to the enduring ideals of freedom and self-determination. Francis Lewis remains an essential figure in the American story of independence.

Submitted by: Raymond E. Foster


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