Providence has an ingenious way of uplifting the humble and lowering the lofty, and many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were happy participants of this same divine providence. Born July 3, 1731 to a humble Connecticut farmer and his pious wife, Samuel Huntington entered history at such a time which required his every energy and ability. The oldest of ten children, Samuel had little time for formal education, applying his early youth to the barrel-making trade. Huntington expanded his education on a part time basis. By the age of twenty-seven he was admitted to the bar and commenced his law practice in Windham, Connecticut.
At thirty-three he married Martha Devotion, and although they did not have children of their own, they adopted two of Joseph Huntington’s, one of which would later become Governor of Ohio. Samuel Huntington himself was soon elected to the colonial legislature where he faithfully served for twenty-two years, or until the colonial governments were dissolved under the Articles of Confederation.
In 1775, Samuel Huntington along with Oliver Wolcott and Roger Sherman was elected as delegate to the Continental Congress where he voted for Independence in July and later signed the document in August. Described as reserved, dignified, religious, and formal, he was nonetheless respected by his peers as a representative. Samuel Huntington appended his name to the Articles of Confederation in 1778 at a time when he was presiding over Congress, making him, technically, the first President of the United States. This prestigious position was among the many other public accolades pinned to the name of Samuel Huntington. In 1783 he was appointed Chief justice of the superior court in Connecticut, and only a few years later became Lieutenant Governor, and finally Governor of Connecticut, an office he held for the remainder of his life. Governor Huntington’s last contribution to the formation of an American constitutional government was his support of the ratification of the US Constitution in 1787.
He had not the advantage of family patronage, or the benefit of a liberal education; nor did hereditary wealth lend him her aid. But he had genius, courage, and perseverance, and with the united assistance of these traits, he succeeded as a state and national leader and a wise counselor. The day before his forty-fifth birthday Samuel Huntington voted for independence, and later signed the Declaration for his state. In a letter to George Washington he verified his patriotic motives in this simple but lasting statement: “I shall always love my Country.”
He rendered services to his country, which will long be remembered with gratitude; he attained to honors with which a high ambition might have been satisfied, and, at length, went down to the grave, cheered with the prospect of a happy immortality.