Thomas Lynch, Jr., Signer of the Declaration from South Carolina
- Document signed in full ("Thomas Lynch Junr"), on behalf of his father, Thomas Lynch, Sr., then a South Carolina delegate to the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia
- Paper, Ink
N.B. The two Lynch documents deaccessioned by the South Carolina State Archives were sold to help fund the construction and equipping of the state's World War I Memorial Building, which from 1935 to 1959 housed South Carolina's Historical Commission and Archives Department. The Gilder Lehrman Collection retains the example South Carolina sold in 1929.
Thomas Lynch, Jr. (1749–1779) was the only son of a prosperous rice planter, who sent him to England to receive a classical education; Lynch was the only Signer to attend Eton and Cambridge. He assembled a small gentleman's library, and his ownership signatures in his books have provided the bulk of the known examples of his autograph. In Joseph Fields's census, forty-eight of the eighty-one examples are clipped signatures, the majority removed from title-pages or fly-leaves of his books. Five examples are signatures on full title-pages excised from books, while fourteen other signatures appear within still-complete volumes. Two autograph letters signed, one autograph document, and one signed book cover are recorded, as are ten documents signed, including the present. With the possible exception of Fields's no. 81 (then located at the Reredel Corporation, New York), all other of the recorded documents signed by Lynch are in institutional collections.
At the time this document was signed by his son, Thomas Lynch, Sr., was a South Carolina delegate to the Continental Congress, and the funds recorded here were likely the stipend provided to him for his congressional service. But in late February, 1776, the elder Lynch was felled by a stroke that left him all but incapacitated. In March, the South Carolina legislature elected Thomas Lynch, Jr., to serve in Congress as well, presumably to act on his father’s behalf.
In 1775, while his father attended Congress, the junior Lynch accepted a captaincy in the newly-formed First South Carolina Regiment. On a recruiting trip, however, he was stricken with a violent fever that left him permanently debilitated. Despite his own failing health, Lynch, Jr. accepted the congressional seat and traveled to Philadelphia. He attended sessions from 16 May to early November 1776, during which time he voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence.
Both Lynches departed Philadelphia for Charleston in November 1776, but Thomas, Sr., died during the journey, and the health of his son was further reduced. The drowning of Thomas Lynch, Jr., some three years later, as he and his wife were sailing for the West Indies in an effort to regain his health, contributed to his signature being one of the two rarest of all the Signers of the Declaration. Indeed, although Button Gwinnett is a more familiar name to collectors and the general public alike, if clipped signatures are excluded their respective censuses, the holograph of Lynch is much less common than that of Gwinnett.