Thornton, Matthew

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Thornton, Matthew

THORNTON, MATTHEW. (1714–1803). Signer. Ireland—Massachusetts—New Hampshire. Born in Ireland of Scots-Irish ancestry, he came to America with his parents around 1718 and lived in Maine before moving to the neighborhood of Worcester, Massachusetts. He completed his medical studies in 1740 and started a practice in the Scots-Irish colony of Londonderry, New Hampshire. In 1745 he took part in the Louisbourg expedition as an "under-surgeon." In 1758 Londonderry elected him to the provincial assembly. He was commissioned a militia colonel in 1770 and sent off troops to Massachusetts in April 1775. His militia commission was reinstituted by the provincial congress of New Hampshire, but Thornton, over sixty years old, saw no further active military duty.

In 1775 he was elected president of the provincial congress, which the same year selected him as chairman of the committee of safety that was, in effect, the local Patriot government. From 1776 to 1782 he was an associate justice of the superior court. During the war years he served as speaker of the house, member of the executive council, and president of the state constitutional convention.

He served one term in Congress (1776–1777) and is believed to have been the last delegate to sign the Declaration of Independence, in November 1776, as it lay on the table. In 1780 he moved to Merrimack County where he practiced politics but not medicine. He served in the newly created state senate in 1784–1786.

He had married Hannah (Jack) about 1760. They had five children. Dr. Thornton died on 24 June 1803 while visiting his daughter in Newburyport, Massachusetts.


Estes, J. Worth. "Honest Dr. Thornton." In Physician Signers of the Declaration of Independence. Edited by George E. Gifford Jr. New York: Science History Publications, 1976.

Randall, Peter E. "Matthew Thornton." In New Hampshire: Years of Revolution. Edited by Peter E. Randall. Portsmouth, N.H.: Profiles Publishing, 1976.

                              revised by Frank C. Mevers

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