John Morton's home in todays Ridley Park. Morton built this house in 1764 when he married Anne Justis. The house burned to the ground in the 1870's. A historical marker on E. Ridley Ave. marks the spot.
Breaking the tie
Pennsylvania's vote on July 4, 1776
On the Fourth of July, 1776, the day of the great crisis came. Eleven colonies had already voted for the Declaration of Independence, but Pennsylvania and Delaware came last, and both were doubtful. The active opposition of a single State at this trying moment would have defeated the immortal resolution and possibly changed the trend of our whole national life. Delaware had three delegates and Delaware came first. Thomas McKean, true as the dial to the sun, voted “aye”, but Read hesitated, and then voted “no” and Caesar Rodney, the third delegate, was absent. There was a tie and the clerk was about to call the roll for Pennsylvania.
At this juncture the clatter of horses’ hoofs were heard in front of the State House. Booted, spurred and breathless, Caesar Rodney, having ridden eighty miles from the county of Kent and the arms of his sweetheart, through swamp and marsh, rushed into the Assembly and voted “aye” just in time to save little Delaware for the Declaration.
Now Pennsylvania was called upon to record her important but doubtful vote. Her delegation was composed of seven members. They were Benjamin Franklin John Morton, John Dickinson, Robert Morris, James Wilson, Thomas Willing and Charles Humphries. Dickinson and Morris were not in their official places at roll call and did not vote, one of the other members was absent, but for what reason no one seemed to know. President Hancock anxiously awaited his coming, but he came not, and delay was no longer possible. Once again the sound of the President’s gavel rang through the Assembly Hall and Pennsylvania, the Queen of the Colonies, was called upon to record her vote. The muteness of the tomb reigned in Independence Hall. In an instant all eyes were turned toward Pennsylvania’s delegation, and the pulsation of anxious hearts could almost be heard in the profound quiet of the place. The roll call began. Franklin voted “aye,” Willing voted “no,” Wilson voted “aye,” Humphries voted “no.” There was a tie and for an instant the Declaration of Independence seemed lost.
But at this decisive moment, a moment that may prove to be the mother of ages of freedom, John Morton, of Delaware County, entered the hall. With agitated face and pallid lips and clenched fists he sank nervously into his chair. All the influence of a Tory lobby, all the bribes of an intriguing diplomacy, all the ostracizing threats of family, relatives and neighbors had been brought to bear upon him to control his vote. The time had now come to test the courage of this Christian patriot. The clerk called the name of John Morton. He arose slowly from his chair. His face was no longer pallid, his lips quivered no more, but his clenched hands still remained clenched, and with a strong and steady voice he answered “aye,” and that word broke the tie and confirmed the Declaration of Independence and kingly tyranny on the Western Continent was practically and forever dethroned.
This is the story of “breaking the tie,” and no historian has ever been able to disprove it, although many attempts have been and will be made to accomplish that result, but none will be successful.
Morton now rests in a dilapidated old cemetery at Chester under a monument that would give the dead deacon of a small church the qualms if he had any just claims to the gratitude of posterity