Famous Last Wills and Testaments of American Statesmen

Some famous and bizarre last wills and testaments of American statesmen including Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, and Sam Houston.

Benjamin Franklin American statesman Died: 1790

Last Will: Reminding his Tory son, William, of his activities during the Revolutionary War, a bitter Franklin left him "all my books and papers which he has in his possession, and all debts standing against him on my account books," provided his executors did not demand repayment. To General George Washington, he gave his "crabtree walking-stick, with gold head curiously wrought in the form of a cap of liberty," an item which eventually passed into the safekeeping of the U.S. Government. Franklin's original gift of pound 2,000 for loans, bearing interest, to "married apprentices of upright behaviour," generated millions of dollars for subsequent charitable projects.

Patrick Henry American patriot and politician Died: 1799

Last Will: Henry's famous declaration, "Give me liberty or give me death," was taken to heart by his window, Dorothea. He 1st provided for her generously, but then--if she were to remarry--he cut her off without a cent, or "no more of my estate than she can recover by Law." She voted for freedom of choice and married his cousin, Judge Winston.

Gouverneur Morris American statesman Died: 1816

Last Will: Married late in life to the young and vivacious Ann Randolph, the Revolutionary War politician willed her a substantial income. Mindful and appreciative of the many happy moments she had given him, Morris added a provision that, should she decide to marry again, her income would be doubled.

Paul Revere American patriot Died: 1818

Last Will: Revere "sold" his thriving copper-manufacturing business to his son, Joseph Warren, giving him 4 years to pay off its appraised value through mortgages naming Revere's other children and grandchildren as beneficiaries. The provision allowed an equal distribution of the equity. Joseph fared better than Frank, Revere's grandson who had changed his name to Francis Lincoln. Frank was cut off with $1.

Samuel Houston American frontier hero and statesman Died: 1863

Last Will: The Texan expressed firm rules regarding the education of his sons. They were to devote no time to the abstract sciences, concentrating on a thorough study of the Holy Scriptures, geography, history, and the English language. In other subjects he was equally emphatic: "I wish my sons early taught an utter contempt for novels and light reading."

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