William Hooper, one of the Founding Fathers of America, was a lawyer and politician who signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence on behalf of North Carolina. The son of a clergyman, he was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps but instead he chose to pursue a career in law. He became a highly successful and prosperous lawyer who gained the respect of his clients and peers alike. He was appointed as the Deputy Attorney of the Salisbury District soon moving on to the rank of Deputy Attorney General of North Carolina. Initially he was a loyalist and supported the British colonial government, but a few incidents changed his mind and he became a strong supporter of the independence movement. He always had an interest in politics though he formally got involved in political issues when he represented the Scots settlement of Cambelltown in the Provincial Congress Assembly. His deep knowledge about the legislature and legal proceedings were of immense value to the Congress, and he even utilized his personal fortunes in support of the independence cause. Hooper was a patriot in the truest sense; he did not change his ideologies even after the British destroyed his home and properties. He continued serving the North Carolina Assembly for many years after independence.
Childhood & Early Life
William Hooper was born to Congregational minister, whose name was also William Hooper, and Mary Dennie. He was eldest of the five children.
He acquired his early education at the Boston Latin School, under the headmaster John Lovel.
He enrolled at Harvard College in 1757 and earned his B.A degree in 1760. He received his M.A in theology in 1763.
His father expected his son to become an Episcopal minister, but young William wanted to become a lawyer. He began studying law under the tutelage of the fiercely patriotic lawyer James Otis who is believed to have influenced his beliefs regarding the freedom movement.
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He moved to North Carolina in 1764 to begin practicing law as there was already an abundance of lawyers in his hometown. He became a lawyer in the circuit court of Cape Fear.
He soon became a well respected lawyer and was elected the recorder of the borough in 1766.
British Governor William Tyron appointed Hooper as the Deputy Attorney General for the King in the Salisbury District Court in 1769. He was a loyalist in the beginning and fully supported the British rule.
His appointment did not find favour with the regulators who dragged Hooper through the streets during the Hillsborough riots in 1770.
Hooper participated in the Battle of Alamance in 1771 as a part of the Governor’s militia. This battle was considered to be the first battle of the American Revolution.
His views regarding the British rule began to change by this period and he was eager to join the American patriotic movement. Initially he was viewed with skepticism due to his prior loyalty to the British, but eventually he was accepted.
In 1773, he was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly as a representative for the Scots settlement of Cambeltown. There he met many prominent personalities like Allen Jones, Samuel Johnston, and John Harvey.
Hooper, along with John Penn and Joseph Hewes were selected to represent North Carolina in the Continental Congress.
The First Continental Congress was assembled in Philadelphia in September 1774. The members decided to adopt the Continental Association and formed committees in each county for enforcing the provisions of the Association.
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The Wilmington Committee of Safety was formed in November 1774 to carry out the provisions of the Continental Association, and Hooper was one of its eight members. The committee served till 1776.
He attended the Philadelphia Congress in 1775 and chaired several committees. By 1776, he had attended several meetings of the Continental Congress and the Provincial Congress.
He could not attend the vote of independence or the declaration on 4 July 1776, but he was present to sign the Declaration of Independence on 2 August 1776 along with most of the other signers.
He was appointed the chairman of the committee to devise a Great Seal for the new state of North Carolina in December 1776. Joseph Hewes and Thomas Burke were two other significant members of the committee.
He became ill with malaria in 1777 and resigned from the U.S. Congress.
He resumed his law practice at Wilmington and continued attending the General Assembly as a member of the borough of Wilmington and served on various committees.
William Hooper is well-known for being one of the Founding Fathers of America who signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776. He was one of those signers who had to endure many mental, physical, and financial hardships because of his devotion to the cause of independence.
Personal Life & Legacy
William Hooper married Anne Clark on 16 August 1767. Anne belonged to an affluent family. The couple had several children of whom only three survived to adulthood.
In 1781, the British burned his house and estate forcing Hooper to seek refuge with his friends while his wife took the children to her brother’s house. The family was reunited after a year in 1782.
He suffered from poor health during his later years and died at the age of 48.
He was a fair and kind man who found it easy to forgive even those who had harmed him.
He was well known for being a generous host who lavishly entertained his guests.