George’s father was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of an Englishman of large fortune belonging to the family of Read of Berkshire, Hertfordshire, and Oxfordshire.
The death of his beloved having left George’s father bereft, John Read came to the American colonies and, with a view of diverting his mind, entered into extensive enterprises in Maryland and Delaware.
He attended a school in Chester, Pennsylvania then the Philadelphia Academy under Doctor Allison at New London. At fifteen he graduated and proceeded to study law at the office of John Moland in Philadelphia.
In 1753 Read was admitted to the bar and began to practice.
The next year, he journeyed back to New Castle, hung out his shingle, and before long enlisted a clientele that extended into Maryland.
During this period he resided in New Castle but maintained Stonum a country retreat near the city.
In 1763 he wed Gertrude Ross Till, the widowed sister of George Ross, like Read a future signer of the Declaration of Independence. She bore four sons and a daughter.
While crown attorney general (1763-74) for the Three Lower Counties (present Delaware), Read protested against the Stamp Act.
In 1765 he began a career in the colonial legislature that lasted more than a decade.
A moderate Whig, he supported no importation measures and dignified protests.
His attendance at the Continental Congress (1774-77) was irregular.
Like his friend John Dickinson, he was willing to protect colonial rights but was wary of extremism.
He voted against independence on July 2, 1776, the only signer of the Declaration to do so, apparently either bowing to the strong Tory sentiment in Delaware, or believing reconciliation with Britain was still possible.
Following the adoption of the Federal Constitution of 1787, the Delaware General Assembly elected Read as one of its two U.S. Senators.
His term began March 4, 1789; he was reelected in 1791, and resigned September 18, 1793.
Read served with the pro-administration majority in the 1st and 2nd Congress, during the administration of U.S. President George Washington.
As Senator he supported the assumption of state debts, the establishment of a national bank, and the imposition of excise taxes.
He resigned as Senator to accept an appointment as Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court and served in that capacity until his death.
During 1779, in poor health, Read resigned from the legislative council, refused reelection to Congress, and began a period of inactivity.
During the years 1782-88, he again sat on the council and concurrently held the position of judge of the court of appeals in admiralty cases.
In 1786 he attended the Annapolis Convention.
The next year, he participated in the Constitutional Convention, where he missed few if any sessions and championed the rights of the small states.
Otherwise, he adopted a Hamiltonian stance, favoring a strong executive.
He later led the ratification movement in Delaware, the first state to ratify.