Gov. Samuel Ward
b.27 May 1725 Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, United States
d.26 Mar 1776 Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
m. 2 Nov 1709
Facts and Events
Samuel Ward (1725–1776) was a farmer, politician, Supreme Court Justice, Governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and a delegate to the Continental Congress. The son of an earlier Rhode Island Governor, Richard Ward, he was well educated as he grew up in a large Newport, Rhode Island family. After marrying, he and his new wife received property in Westerly, Rhode Island from his father-in-law, and upon settling there he took up farming. Entering politics as a fairly young man, he soon took sides in the hard money/paper money controversy, favoring hard money, or specie. His primary rival over the money issue was Providence politician Stephen Hopkins, and the two men became bitter rivals, alternating as governors of the colony for several terms.
During this time of political activity, Ward became a founder and trustee of Rhode Island's first college, Brown University. The most contentious issue he faced during his three years as governor involved the Stamp Act which had been passed by the British Parliament just before he took office for the second time. This act, putting a tax on all official documents and newspapers, infuriated the American colonists, being done without their consent. Representatives of the colonies met to discuss the unpopular act, but when it came time for the colonial governors to take a position in regards to the act, Ward was the only one who refused it, threatening his position, but bringing him recognition as a great patriot.
After last serving as governor in 1767, Ward retired to his farm in Westerly, but in 1774 he was called back into service as a delegate to the Continental Congress. War was looming with the mother country, and to this end he devoted all of his energy. After hostilities began, Ward made his famous statement, ending with "Heaven save my country, is my first, my last, and almost my only prayer." During a meeting of the Congress in Philadelphia, slightly more than three months before the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, he died of smallpox, and was buried in a local cemetery. His remains were later re-interred in the Common Burying Ground in Newport.