William Few

William Few (1748-1828) Georgia Signer of the Constitution

Georgia would become the largest state east of the Mississippi River (which it still is), and the most populous in the South until the invention of air conditioning and Mickey Mouse. In 1787, however, the state was still terra incognita to most Americans. It was the youngest of the North American British colonies and most of the inhabitants had migrated there from the other twelve to the north. William Few was no exception. He was an exceptional man, however, and holds a unique place in the lineup signers of the U.S. Constitution. In some ways, he is the exemplar of an American man.

Unlike most of the other signatories of the Constitution, William Few came from humble beginnings. Born to a Quaker farm family in Maryland he received only two years of formal education before his adult years. His family moved to North Carolina looking for an opportunity to better themselves on more productive land. One can never predict what influence on a young person’s life will become a decisive factor in defining his future. For Few, his second teacher, at the age of twelve, and for only one year, infused into the young farm-boy a love for reading and self-improvement. By the time he was sixteen, Few was reading every book he could get his hands on and spending time at the courthouse listening to cases being argued (as the young Patrick Henry had done). At nineteen his father gave him a plot of land to plow for himself, but he always carried a book with him to the fields. An autodidact of the most diligent sort, William Few educated himself.