John Penn (1741-1788)

PENN, John, (nephew of Edmund Pendleton and cousin of Nathaniel Pendleton), a Delegate from North Carolina; born near Port Royal, Caroline County, Va., May 17, 1741; was educated under private tutors; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1762 and commenced practice in Bowling Green, Caroline County, Va.; moved to Granville County, N.C., in 1774; elected to the Provincial Congress which met in Hillsboro, N.C., in August 1775; Member of the Continental Congress 1775-1780; a signer of the Declaration of Independence; one of the three representatives from North Carolina to ratify the Articles of Confederation on behalf of the state; member of board of war in North Carolina in 1780; receiver of taxes for North Carolina in 1784; resumed the practice of law; died near Williamsboro, Granville County, N.C., September 14, 1788; interment on his estate in Granville County, N.C.; reinterment at Guilford Battle Grounds, near Greensboro, N.C., in 1894.

Source: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; Bibliography: Pittman, Thomas Merritt. John Penn. [Raleigh: E. M. Uzzell & Co., printers, 1904]; Copied from:


After serving with Harnett in the Provincial Congress, John Penn was thereafter elected in 1775 to serve in the Continental Congress. Penn was still serving in the Continental Congress when Harnett  and Thomas Burke were elected as delegates to the Second Continental Congress.   By November 15, 1777, the Articles of Confederation were adopted with Harnett, during his first term, playing a leading role as described by Historian David Morgan in his article in this Web site entitled “Harnett’s Contribution as Founding Father of U.S.” Both John Penn and Cornelius Harnett were signers for the ratification by North Carolina which took place on April 5, 1778.  Thomas Burke, who opposed adoption of the Articles, probably was not a member of the Continental Congress at that time since he did not sign the Articles;  the third member to sign on behalf of North Carolina was John Williams. 1


1.  In an article about the signers of the Articles of Confederation, accessed on August 21, 2013 on a Web site listed below, the following was stated: “John Williams practiced law in Williamsboro, North Carolina. He was one of the founders of the University of North Carolina and served in the Continental Congress from 1778-1779.”

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