Abraham Clark was born February 15, 1726 in Elizabethtown, New Jersey as the son of a farmer.
Clark was too sickly to do heavy farm labor, yet he had a natural grasp for math and grew up to become a surveyor.
While earning a living surveying, Clark taught himself law and went into practice.
Clark believed in defending poor men who could not afford a lawyer, becoming known as “the poor man’s councilor.”
Abraham married Sarah Hatfield in 1748 and together they raised 10 children.
Clark soon entered politics, first as a clerk of the Provincial Assembly, then as the High Sheriff of Essex County.
Then in 1775, with the Revolutionary War around the corner, Clark was elected to the Provincial Congress.
Ironically, early in 1776, many of the New Jersey delegation to the Continental Congress were opposed to independence from Great Britain. Clark was among those who sought to replace their New Jersey delegates with men favoring the separation.
On June 21, 1776, as this issue heated up, the New Jersey convention replaced all their delegates. Abraham Clark was appointed as a new New Jersey delegate, along with John Hart, Francis Hopkinson, Richard Stockton, and John Witherspoon.
Clark’s New Jersey delegation arrived in Philadelphia on June 28, 1776.
Abraham Clark then signed the Declaration of Independence in early July.
Two of Clark’s sons became officers in the Continental Army.
Few of our Founding Fathers suffered as much as Clark would. The British captured his home and set it on fire.
Then, when the British captured one of his sons and imprisoned him on the prison ship Jersey in New York harbor, they offered to release his son if Clark would abandon the American cause.
The British ship Jersey was notorious for its brutality, he soon learned his son had been thrown into a dungeon and given no food except that which was shoved through a keyhole.
Clark refused to betray his country and his principles, even if it meant the death of his son.
Congress was appalled and made a case to the British, with the result that conditions for Clark’s son soon improved.
Abraham Clark remained in the Continental Congress through 1778, when he was elected as Essex County’s Member of the New Jersey Legislative Council.
When it was suggested that American currency show the head of the current American President, Clark responded that our nation’s coins should display the word “Liberty” along with designs typical of our country, and Congress soon voted to adopt Clark’s proposal.
Clark also represented New Jersey in the United States House of Representatives, serving in both the Second and Third United States Congress, from March 4, 1791, until his retirement just before New Jersey’s state Constitutional Convention in 1794.
Abraham Clark died from sunstroke September 15, 1794 at his home.
Clark Township in Union County is named for him, as is Abraham Clark High School in Roselle.
Clark is buried at the Rahway Cemetery in Rahway, New Jersey.
These words are inscribed on his tombstone:
“He loved his country and adhered to her cause, in the darkest hours of her struggles against oppression.”
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