Bow Tie Tours pays homage on a daily basis to Signer’s Walk,a stretch of sidewalk that very few Philadelphians notice or are aware of. This, Philly’s own “Walk of Fame,” is a favorite destination of visitors.
Today we look at the life of Thomas Lynch Jr. Lynch was from South Carolina, which is part of the reasons he is not one of the luminaries that are immediately recognizable to most Americans. While South Carolina was happy enough to oppose Great Britain, they were not so sure that they needed or wanted help in doing so. If they were to join up in a large federal union, would not the new government be as onerous as the old? When they became the first state to declare secession prior to the Civil War, many people felt that they were doing so less over any recent conflicts but more over the fact that they’d been waiting for an excuse to do so since the inception of the country. “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum,” was how James Pettigrew put it in 1860. (No doubt, South Carolinians are every bit as tired of hearing that quote as Philadelphians are tired of hearing about throwing snow balls at Santa, but we all have our particular crosses to bear.)
Which brings us back to Thomas Lynch, a twenty-six year old who – according to Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese in their entertaining book about the Signer’s , Signing Their Lives Away – was considered an “overprivileged dandy.” When Lynch’s father, Thomas Sr., suffered a stroke during his service in the congress, Lynch Jr. was one of the young men South Carolina sent out to take his place. South Carolina was busy working on a new constitution, and wanted their best minds at home doing that. Lynch Jr. would attend the sessions and tell his father what was going on. Ultimately it was the son, not the father, who signed the document.
At the age of 30, in 1779, Lynch Jr. became seriously ill and decided, upon the advise of doctors, to take a trip through the West Indies to France. It was en-route that he and his beautiful wife disappeared forever, most probably in a storm. This made him the youngest of all fifty-six men who signed the Declaration to die.