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Death of William Henry Drayton

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

September 4.—This morning, the Congress being informed that Mr. William Henry Drayton, one of the delegates of the State of South Carolina, died last night, and that circumstances required that his remains should he interred this evening, they “Resolved, That the Congress would, in a body, attend the funeral this evening at six o’clock, as mourners, with a crape round the left arm, and would continue in mourning for the space of one month.” They further resolved that Mr. Laurens, Mr. Matthews, and Mr. Harnett be a committee to superintend the funeral; and that the Rev. Mr. White, the attending chaplain, should be notified to officiate on the occasion. They also directed the committee to invite the General Assembly, the President and Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, the Minister Plenipotentiary of France, and other persons of distinction in town, to attend the funeral.

Accordingly, at six o’clock this evening, the corpse was carried in procession to Christ Church—the President, two members of the Executive Council, the Judge of the Admiralty, and the Attorney-General of Pennsylvania, and Brigadier-General Hogan, supported the pall. Besides the President and members of Congress as mourners, the Minister and Consul of France, several civil and military officers of the United States, and a number of inhabitants and strangers of distinction, attended the funeral. After Divine service had been performed by the Rev. Mr. White, rector of the Episcopal churches in Philadelphia, and one of the chaplains of Congress, the corpse was interred in the adjoining cemetery.

Mr. Drayton’s age did not exceed thirty-eight years;—he died of a putrid fever. His health had been almost insensibly impaired by a sedentary life, and incessant attention to business for near two years’ attendance on Congress, which his constitution, though naturally strong, was unable longer to sustain. His family was always among the number of the most respectable and opulent in South Carolina. He had taken an early and decided part in the present contest, and been honored from time to time by his country, with the most important and confidential offices. At the time of his death he was chief-justice of that State, and one of its delegates to Congress. His literary attainments, acquired by good talents and an excellent education, are well known here and in Europe, where several of his political papers have been admired and read in different languages.

To speak particularly of his character would perhaps be improper in a newspaper, which, like the grave, generally places the dead on a level, without respect to the wise man or the fool, the saint or the sinner. Let this subject, therefore, be reserved for the pen of some impartial historian, who, when he shall inform posterity that William Henry Drayton was an honest, independent patriot, and an upright, candid gentleman, will, at the same time, communicate facts more than sufficient to establish and support his title to that character.1


1 Pennsylvania Packet, September 11.