Matthew Thornton

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Matthew Thornton was a physician and legislator from Ireland who was one of the 56 signers of the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. He was a man of principles who believed that everyone possessed an inalienable right to liberty. Though he was born in Ireland, he moved to America with his family when he was three years old and developed an unwavering love for the country. As a bright young man, he chose to become a physician in order to alleviate others’ sufferings. He began his career as a physician and surgeon after studying medicine under Doctor Grout. He was diligent and ambitious, and he built a prosperous medical practice that earned him considerable wealth and social standing. He was chosen to serve as a surgeon in the New Hampshire military during King George’s War. His political career began when he was elected to the Colonial Assembly as a delegate for Londonderry. He later served as President of the New Hampshire Provincial Congress. He presided over the five-member committee that drafted the nation’s first state constitution upon independence. In 1776, he signed the United States Declaration of Independence and was elected to the Continental Congress as a delegate.

Childhood & Adolescence

He was born in Ireland to Elizabeth and James Thornton. When he was three years old, his family immigrated to America. They began their lives in Maine but soon relocated to Massachusetts after their home was attacked.
He received his elementary education at Worcester Academy. His ambition was to become a physician, and he completed his medical studies at Leicester under the supervision of a physician relative, Dr. Grout.

Career of Matthew Thornton

Thornton began his medical practice in 1740, at the age of 26, after completing his education. His practice flourished, and he quickly established a reputation as a successful physician and surgeon.

He enlisted in the New Hampshire Military in 1745 as a surgeon during King George’s War, which lasted until 1748. He was a pivotal figure during the siege of the French Fortress of Louisbourg.

In 1758, he was elected to the colonial assembly as a delegate representing Londonderry. He was an active participant in colonial affairs and a prominent figure in New Hampshire’s Stamp Act protests.

He was a firm believer in the concept of liberty and believed that the United States of America should be liberated from the British Empire’s control. He was outspoken in his condemnation of the British Parliament’s oppressive acts.

In 1775, he was elected President of the New Hampshire Provincial Congress and Chairman of the Committee of Safety, which was responsible for raising ammunition during times of war.

As a member of the Committee of Safety, he was tasked with the responsibility of drafting the first state constitution to be adopted following the British Empire’s dissolution.

The Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been approved just a few days before, on 4 July 1776. Thornton signed the Declaration of Independence as a representative of New Hampshire, becoming one of the Declaration’s 56 signatories.

He was elected the first president of the New Hampshire House of Representatives following independence. Despite his lack of legal education, he was appointed to the Superior Court from 1776 to 1782 as a justice.

He also retired from medical practice at the conclusion of his public career due to his advanced age. He farmed and operated a ferry in his later years.

Significant Works of Matthew Thornton

He was instrumental in leading the expedition that resulted in the capture of the French fortress of Louisbourg. Colonel William Pepperell led the troops, and Thornton served as the accompanying surgeon. Although the expedition was physically demanding for the soldiers, only six of the 500 entrusted to the doctor died of disease.

He is best known as one of the Declaration of Independence’s 56 signers. He was initially unable to participate in the Declaration of Independence’s signing on 2 August 1776, but was later given the opportunity to sign the document alongside several others.

Personal History and Legacies

In 1760, he married Hannah Jack and together they had five children.

He spent his leisure time farming after retiring from both his public and medical careers. Additionally, he operated a ferry service. He remained active until his death in 1803 at the age of 89.

Estimated Net Worth

The Estimate Net Worth is Matthew Thornton is unknown.


On his gravestone, the original epitaph simply reads, “An Honest Man.”

Additionally, he was a political essayist who contributed numerous essays, articles, and letters to various newspapers.