Edward Rutledge was born in 1749 not far from Charleston, South Carolina. He studied law in England and then returned to the colonies in the early 1770's to practice law. In 1773, during his first year of practice, he gained the support of the Whig party when he was able to get Thomas Powell, a newspaper publisher imprisoned by the Crown, released. In the following year, Rutledge was one of five delegates selected by the Whigs to attend the First Continental Congress.
Initially, Rutledge had planned to vote against national independence. On June 7, 1776, he was, in fact, one of the moderates who managed to delay voting. When the vote for independence came up once more on July 1 of that same year, he was firm in his decision to vote in the negative. Once nine of the other colonies came out in support of independence, however, Rutledge realized that this resolution would pass nevertheless. He suggested that another vote be held the very next day, and utilized the extra time to convince the other South Carolina delegates to support independence in order to give the final decision a sense of unanimity.
In September, 1776 Rutledge returned to Charleston, South Carolina in order to resume his legal practice. Two year later, he took a seat on the State legislature where he served until 1798. In 1798 he was chosen to be Governor of South Carolina. One year before his term was to end, however, he died at the age of fifty. He was buried at St. Philip's Episcopal Church.