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The Ludwell Blog

News and research on the life, community, and worldview of Colonel Philip Ludwell III.
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When Ludwell’s Friend Benjamin Waller Announced the Declaration of Independence

On Thursday, October 27, 1748, a 31-year-old member of the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg rose in response to the Governor’s command to “return again to your House, and proceed to the Choice of a Speaker.” The young man was Benjamin Waller, who proceeded to nominate his friend Philip Ludwell III as Speaker of the House, recommending Ludwell as “a Gentleman of known Ability and Integrity, and entirely equal to that Trust.” [1]

journal of house of burgesses october 27 1748 benjamin waller nominates philip ludwell as speaker

The election predictably went in favor of John Robinson, who held the office of Speaker from 1738 until his death in 1766. The two young men, Waller and Ludwell, were both born in 1716 and attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg together in the 1730s.

Waller’s action was also interesting because, in fact, Ludwell had converted to the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith in late 1738 in London. As Colonial Williamsburg’s website notes: “Office-holding qualifications at all levels required Church of England affiliation. … Legal toleration provided dissenters a means, however cumbersome, by which they could legally worship outside the Anglican church, but it also disadvantaged dissenters by barring them from public office …” [2]

In his will of 28 February 1767, as he was nearing death in London, Philip Ludwell III named Waller as one of four Virginia-based executors of his will, along with “Richard Corbin Esq., H. M. Receiver General of Virginia, Robert Carter Nicholas Esq., Treasurer of Virginia, [and] John Wayles … [Esq] Attorneys at Law in Virginia.” [3]

benjamin waller portrait
Benjamin Waller, 1716 – 1786

Of principal concern to Ludwell was the guardianship of his three daughters, who were with him in London, two of whom were still minors – Frances and Lucy. As John Starr Greenman stated in describing Waller’s character and career as a lawyer: “Guardianship of children implied a benevolent association between guardian and ward.” This statement reflects the confidence and trust that Ludwell had in his friend Benjamin Waller. 

Waller’s family had immigrated to Virginia in the 1600s, just as had Ludwell’s. Waller served as clerk of the county, as had his father. He went on to hold many important offices, both under the crown and, following the Revolution, under the Republic. As for his work as an executor, Greenman states:

With his association with Philip Ludwell, Waller reached the apogee of his career as executor. Born in 1716, the same year as Benjamin Waller, Philip Ludwell was one of the highest ranking gentlemen in the colony. His paternal grandfather and father, both named Philip, preceded him into the council where only nine families had sent three or more members.

– John Starr Greenman

In his public life, however, Benjamin Waller perhaps had his most renowned moment on July 25, 1776 when, as clerk of courts, it fell to him to read the newly published and distributed United States Declaration of Independence from the Williamsburg courthouse steps on July 25, 1776. [5]


  1. Journal of the House of Burgesses, Thursday, October 27, 1748 (Google Books)
  3. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Jul., 1924), pp. 288-291
  4. John Starr Greenman, The Rise of Benjamin Waller: 1716-1786, Thesis Presented to The Faculty of the American Studies Program, The College of William and Mary in Virginia, 1994.
  5. “Courthouse, Colonial Williamsburg,

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