Our Founding Fathers came from diverse backgrounds.
One lesser-known founder, Pierce Butler (1744-1822), was born the third son of a baronet in County Carlow, Ireland. Like all younger sons of aristocrats, Butler stood little chance of inheriting his father's wealth. Faced with a choice between a career in the church or in the British army, he opted for the latter. He began as an 11-year-old officer, with a commission purchased by his father.
The French and Indian War brought Butler to the colonies. Upon defeat of the French, Butler was stationed in Nova Scotia as part of the large garrison of troops required to administer the territory won during the war. To finance those troops, Parliament soon levied taxes on the colonists, leading many of the king's subjects to resent the crown. Butler was relocated to Boston to quell unrest there, and a detachment of his own troops fired the shots at what became known as the Boston Massacre.
In 1772, Butler married Mary Middleton, the daughter of a wealthy South Carolina planter, and quickly resigned from the British army. In his new life as a Southern planter, Butler eventually built up his holdings to more than 10,000 acres, including a large rice plantation off the southeastern coast of Georgia.
But the Revolution soon became hard to ignore.
The British occupation of nearby Savannah sparked the organizing of South Carolina's defenses and militia, which Butler led. Following the crown's 1780 capture of Charleston, Butler quickly moved to form an armed resistance outside the city to harry British regulars. Much of this Butler paid for himself.
Butler spent the rest of his life concerned with planting and politics. He served as a representative from South Carolina in the Second Continental Congress, the Constitutional Convention, and the Senate. He was labeled by many of his contemporaries as an enigma for his many contradictions - including his aristocratic birth, his wealth, and his large slaveholdings.