Carter Braxton Biography
Carter Braxton was the son of George Braxton, a wealthy planter of Newington, in the county of King and Queen, in Virginia, where he was born on the tenth of September, 1736. His mother was the daughter of Robert Carter, who was for some time a member, and the president of the king's council.
Carter Braxton was liberally educated, at the college of William and Mary. About the time that he left college, it is supposed that his father died. although this is not well ascertained. On this event, he became possessed of a considerable fortune, consisting chiefly of land and slaves. His estate was much increased, by his marriage, at the early age of nineteen years, with the daughter of Mr. Christopher Robinson, a wealthy planter of the county of Middlesex.
He had the misfortune to lose his wife within a few years of his marriage, soon after which he embarked for England, for the purpose of improving his mind and manners. He returned to America in 1760; and, in the following year, was married to the eldest daughter of Richard Corbin, of Lanneville, by whom he had sixteen children. The life of Mrs. Braxton was continued until the year 1814. Of her numerous children, one only, a daughter, it is believed, is still living .
The ample fortune of Mr. Braxton rendering the study of a profession unnecessary, he became a gentleman planter. He lived in considerable splendour, according to the fashion of the landed aristocracy at that day. Yet, it is said, that his fortune was not impaired by it.
Upon his return from a voyage to England, he was called to a seat in the house of burgesses; and in 1765, particularly distinguished himself at the time that Patrick Henry brought forward his celebrated resolutions on the stamp act.
From this date, until 1776, the political career of Mr. Braxton corresponded, in general, with that of the other delegates from Virginia, of whom we have given a more particular and circumstantial account. It will be unnecessary therefore, to observe in this place more than that Mr. Braxton was, during this period, for the most part, a member of the house of burgesses, and a member of the first convention which ever met in Virginia. Nor is it necessary to speak particularly of the patriotic zeal and firmness which characterized him, in all the duties which he was called upon to discharge.
On the twenty-second of October, 1775, the distinguished Peyton Randolph died at Philadelphia, while presiding over congress. In the following month, the convention of Virginia proceeded to appoint his successor, upon which Mr. Braxton was elected. In that body he soon after took his seat, and was present on the occasion which gave birth to thc declaration of independence.
In June. 1776, the convention of Virginia reduced the number of their delegates in congress to five, any three of whom, it was directed, should be sufficient. In consequence of this resolution, Mr. Harrison and Mr. Braxton were omitted.
In the month of October, 1776, the first general assembly, under the republican constitution, assembled at Williamsburg. Of this assembly Mr. Braxton was a member, and soon after taking his seat, he had the pleasure of receiving, in connection with Thomas Jefferson, an expression of the public thanks in the following language:
Saturday, Octobober 12th, 1776.
"Resolved, unanimously, that the thanks of this house are justify due to Thomas Jefferson and Carter Braxton, Esquires, for the diligence, ability, and integrity, with which they executed the important trust reposed in them, as two of the delegates for this county in the general congress."
Of the above first session of the legislature of Virginia, Mr. Braxton was an active member. This session, as might be supposed, was interesting and important, from the circumstance that being the first, it was called upon to accommodate the government to the great change which the people had undergone in their political condition. From this time, he continued to be a delegate in the house for several years, where he proved himself to be faithful to his constituents, and a zealous advocate for civil and religious liberty.
In 1786, he received an appointment as a member of the council of state of the commonwealth, which office he continued to execute until the thirtieth of March, 1791. After an interval of a few years, during which he occupied a seat in the house of delegates, he was again elected into the executive council, where he continued until October, 1797, on the tenth of which month he was removed to another world, by means of an attack of paralysis.
Mr. Braxton was a gentleman of cultivated mind, and respectable talents. Although not distinguished by the impressive eloquence of Henry and Lee, his oratory was easy and flowing. In his manners, he was peculiarly agreeable, and the language of his conversation and eloquence was smooth and flowing.
The latter days of Mr. Braxton were embittered by several unfortunate commercial speculations, which involved him in pecuniary embarrassments, from which he found it impossible to extricate himself. Several vexatious law-suits, in which he became engaged, contributed still farther to diminish his property, and unfortunately led him unintentionally to injure several of his friends, who were his sureties. The morning of his days was indeed bright; but, like many a morning which appears in the natural world without clouds, his was followed, towards the close of the day, by clouds and darkness, under which he sunk, imparting an impressive lesson of the passing nature of the form and fashion of the present world.
SOURCE: Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, 1829
by Rev. Charles A. Goodrich