John, an American statesman, of Irish parentage, born in Charleston, S. C, in 1739, died there, July 23, 1800. He studied law in London, returned to Charleston in 1761, and attained the foremost rank as an advocate. He was a member of the stamp act congress at New York in 1765, of the South Carolina convention in 1774, and in the same year a delegate to the continental congress at Philadelphia. He was reappointed to the congress of 1775; and in 1776, in the convention of South Carolina, he was chairman of the committee which prepared the constitution, and was elected president of the new government. When Fort Moultrie was attacked by the British in June, he sent to it 500 lbs. of powder, against the advice of Gen. Lee, and directed Col. Moultrie not to evacuate it without an order from him. In 1779 he was chosen governor, and when Charleston was threatened with a siege he was clothed by the legislature with dictatorial power. In May, 1780, when Charleston fell, Rutledge retired to North Carolina, and for nearly two years accompanied the southern army. In 1782 he was elected to congress, and in 1784 chosen chancellor of the state; and he was a member of the convention for framing the federal constitution, the ratification of which he supported in the state convention.
In 1789 he was appointed an associate judge of the United States supreme court, and in 1791 elected chief justice of South Carolina. He was appointed chief justice of the United States in July, 1795, and presided at the succeeding term of the supreme court; but the senate, for political reasons, refused to confirm the appointment.
Edward, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, brother of the preceding, born in Charleston, Nov. 23, 1749, died Jan. 23, 1800. He studied law in London, practised in Charleston, and in 1774-'7 was a member of the continental congress. In June, 1776, he was a member of the first board of war, and in September was associated with Dr. Franklin and John Adams as a committee to confer with Lord Howe on Staten island as to terms of accommodation. In 1779 he was again appointed to congress, but was prevented by illness from taking his seat. During the siege of Charleston in 1780 he was taken prisoner and detained for 11 months at St. Augustine. In the legislature of 1791 he drew up the act for the abolition of the rights of primogeniture. From 1798 till his death he was governor of the state.