Edward Rutledge (November 23, 1749 – January 23, 1800) was an American politician and youngest signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. He later served as the 39th Governor of South Carolina. Along with his brother John, Rutledge represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress. Although a firm supporter of colonial rights, he was initially reluctant to support independence from Great Britain, hoping instead for reconciliation with the mother country.
Like other Southern planters, Rutledge did not want the American Revolution to change the basic social structure of the South. He worked to have African Americans expelled from the Continental Army, and led the successful effort to have wording removed from the Declaration of Independence that condemned slavery and the slave trade. Nevertheless, he signed the Declaration for the sake of unanimity, and at age 26 was the youngest to sign.He returned home in November 1776 to take a seat in the South Carolina Assembly. He served as a captain of artillery in the South Carolina militia, and fought at the Battle of Beaufort in 1779. The next year he was captured by the British in the fall of Charleston, and held prisoner until July 1781.After his release he returned to the state assembly, where he served until 1796. He was known as an active member and an advocate for the confiscation of Loyalist property. He served in the state senate for two years, then was elected governor in 1798. He had to go to an important meeting in Columbia. While there he had to be sent home because of his gout. He died in Charleston before the end of his term. Some said at the time that he died from apoplexy resulting from hearing the news of George Washington's death.