Legislator, delegate to Continental Congress. Lynch was born in St. James Santee Parish, the son of Thomas Lynch and Sabina Vanderhorst. His father became a wealthy rice planter with several plantations along the Santee River. Lynch’s first marriage, in 1745 to Elizabeth Allston, produced three children. On March 6, 1755, Lynch married Hannah Motte, daughter of Jacob Motte and Elizabeth Martin. His second marriage produced one daughter.
A prominent planter, Lynch was active in public affairs. He was the first president of the Winyah Indigo Society (1755–1757) and represented Prince Frederick Parish (1752–1754, 1757–1760), St. James Santee Parish (1754–1757), and Prince George Winyah Parish (1760–1775) in the Commons House of Assembly. Visiting Charleston in early 1773, the Massachusetts lawyer and patriot Josiah Quincy described Lynch in the Commons House as “a man of sense, and a patriot.”
From an early date, Lynch opposed efforts by the British to encroach upon colonial autonomy. He was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765 in New York and was a member of the Non-Importation Association (1769), serving on its General Committee. As one of South Carolina’s best-known and most ardent patriots, Lynch became a great favorite of the Charleston Sons of Liberty. In 1774 Lynch was elected a delegate to the First Continental Congress (1774–1775) in Philadelphia, and he was reelected to the Second Continental Congress (1776). In Congress, Lynch played an active role in the proceedings and earned the respect of his fellow delegates for his “plain, sensible” manner. Silas Deane, a delegate from Connecticut, recorded that Lynch “wears his hair strait, his clothes in the plainest order, and is highly esteemed.” Lynch was also elected by St. James Santee Parish to the Second Provincial Congress (1775–1776) and the first South Carolina General Assembly (1776), although he did not participate in either assembly.
While attending Congress in early 1776, Lynch suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to participate in legislative affairs. In 1776 the South Carolina Provincial Congress elected his son Thomas Lynch, Jr., as a delegate to the Continental Congress in order to assist his father. Although still a delegate, the senior Lynch’s declining health prevented him from signing the Declaration of Independence, leaving a gap between the signatures of Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward, Jr. However, Thomas Jr. was among the signers.
In December 1776 Lynch left Philadelphia with his son to return to South Carolina. En route, he suffered a second stroke and died in Annapolis, Maryland, where he was buried in St. Anne’s Churchyard.
Edgar, Walter, and N. Louise Bailey, eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Vol. 2, The Commons House of Assembly, 1692–1775. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1977.
Horne, Paul A., Jr. “Forgotten Leaders: South Carolina’s Delegation to the Continental Congress, 1774–1789.” Ph.D. diss., University of South Carolina, 1988.
Weir, Robert M. Colonial South Carolina: A History. 1983. Reprint, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.