Richard Stockton was a signer of the Declaration of Independence from New Jersey. Stockton was a lawyer and during the Revolution he was a member of the Continental Congress. Richard was taken prisoner by loyalists and during this time, his possessions were burned and his wealth reduced. He never recovered from his time as a prisoner and died in February, 1781.

The text and image below are from Richard Stockton’s May 20, 1780 will. The complete 1780 will is held by the New Jersey State Archives.


“…And as my children will have frequent occasion of perusing this instrument, and may probably be particularly impressed with the last words of their father, I think it proper here not only to subscribe to the entire belief of the great and leading doctrines of the Christian Religion, such as the Being of God, the universal defection and depravity of human nature, the divinity of the person and the completeness of the redemption purchased by the blessed Saviour, the necessity of the operations of the divine Spirit; of divine Faith, accompanied with an habitual virtuous life, and the universality of the divine Providence: but also, in the bowels of a father’s affection, to exhort and charge them, that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, that the way of life held up in the Christian system, is calculated for the most complete happiness that can be enjoyed in this mortal state; that all occasions of vice and immorality is injurious either immediately or consequentially; even in this life; that as Almighty God hath not been pleased in the holy Scriptures to prescribe any precise mode in which he is to be publickly worshipped, all contention about it generally arises from want of knowledge or want of virtue. I have therefore no particular advice to leave with my children upon this subject, saving that they deliberately and conscienciously, in the beginning of life, determine for themselves, with which denomination of Christians they can, the most devoutly and profitably worship God; that after such determination they statedly adhere to such denomination without being given to change; and without contending with or judging others who may think or act differently upon a matter so immaterial to substantial virtue and piety. That distinguished abilities, stations and authority are only desireable as occasions of doing greater private and public good, but that their footsteps being invariably masked with envy and opposition, make them enemies to private peace, and therefore unless public life is evidently pointed out by divine providence it should rather be avoided than coveted. Of the temporal estate with which it hath pleased Almighty God in his bountiful providence to bless me, I hereby make the disposition following…”