William Samuel Johnson, Connecticut

William Samuel Johnson, Connecticut

William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819) was an early American statesman who was notable for signing the United States Constitution, for representing Connecticut in the United States Senate, and for serving as president of Columbia University.


Born in Stratford, Connecticut on October 27, 1727, Johnson was already a prominent figure before the American Revolution. The son of Samuel Johnson, a well-known Anglican clergyman and later president of King's (Columbia) College, Johnson received his primary education at home. He then graduated from Yale College in 1744, going on to receive a master's degree from his alma mater in 1747 (as well as an honorary degree from Harvard the same year). Although his father urged him to enter the clergy, Johnson decided instead to pursue a legal career. Self-educated in the law, he quickly developed an important clientele and established business connections extending beyond the boundaries of his native colony. He also held a commission in the Connecticut colonial militia for over 20 years, rising to the rank of colonel, and he served in the lower house of the Connecticut Legislature (1761 and 1765) and in the upper house (1766 and 1771-75). He was a member as well of the colony's Supreme Court (1772-74).


Johnson was first attracted to the Patriot cause by what he and his associates considered Parliament's unwarranted interference in the government of the colonies. He attended the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 and served on the committee that drafted an address to the King arguing the right of the colonies to decide tax policies for themselves. He opposed the Townshend Acts passed by Parliament in 1767 to pay for the French and Indian War and supported the non importation agreements devised by the colonies to protest taxation without representation.


As the Patriots became more radical in their demands for independence, Johnson found it difficult to commit himself wholeheartedly to the cause. Although he believed British policy unwise, he found it difficult to break his own connections with the mother country. A scholar of international renown, he had many friends in Britain and among the American Loyalists. As the famous English author, Samuel Johnson, said of him, "Of all those whom the various accidents of life have brought within my notice, there is scarce anyone whose acquaintance I have more desired to cultivate than yours." He was also bound to Britain by religious and professional ties. He enjoyed close associations with the Anglican Church in England and with the scholarly community at Oxford, which awarded him an honorary degree in 1766. He lived in London from 1767 to 1771, serving as Connecticut's agent in its attempt to settle the colony's title to Indian lands.


Fearing the consequences of independence for both the colonies and the mother country, Johnson sought to avoid extremism and to reach a compromise on the outstanding political differences between the protagonists. He rejected his election to the First Continental Congress, a move strongly criticized by the Patriots, who removed him from his militia command. He was also strongly criticized when, seeking an end to the fighting after Lexington and Concord, he personally visited the British commander, General Thomas Gage. The incident led to his arrest for communicating with the enemy, but the charges were eventually dropped.


Once independence was achieved, Johnson felt free to participate in the government of the new nation, serving in the Congress of the Confederation (1785-87). His influence as a delegate was recognized by his contemporaries. Jeremiah Wadsworth wrote of him to a friend, "Dr. Johnson has, I believe, much more influence than either you or myself. The Southern Delegates are vastly fond of him." In 1785, the Vermont Republic granted Johnson a town in the former King's College Tract in thanks for representing the interests of Vermont before the Continental Congress. The town, Johnson, Vermont, and a small university, Johnson State College bear his name.


In 1787, Johnson played a major role as one of the Philadelphia Convention's most important and respected delegates. His eloquent speeches on the subject of representation carried great weight during the debate. He looked to a strong federal government to protect the rights of Connecticut and the other small states from encroachment by their more powerful neighbors. To that end he supported the so-called New Jersey Plan, which called for equal representation of the states in the national legislature.


In general, he favored extension of federal authority. He argued that the judicial power "ought to extend to equity as well as law" (the words "in law and equity" were adopted at his motion) or, in other words, that the inflexibility of the law had to be tempered by fairness. He denied that there could be treason against a separate state since sovereignty was "in the Union;" and he opposed prohibition of any ex post facto law, one which made an act a criminal offense retroactively, because such prohibition implied "an improper suspicion of the National Legislature."


Johnson was influential even in the final stages of framing the Constitution. He gave his fullest support to the Connecticut Compromise, which foreshadowed the final Great Compromise that devised a national legislature with a Senate that provided equal representation for all states and a House of Representatives based on population. He also served on and chaired the five-member Committee of Style, which framed the final form of the document. In Miracle at Philadelphia, Catherine Drinker Bowen called Johnson "the perfect man to preside over these four masters of argument and political strategy [i.e. fellow committee members Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, James Madison, and Rufus King)...His presence on the committee must have been reassuring; the doctor's quiet manner disarmed."


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Rufus King, Massachusetts

Rufus King, Massachusetts

Rufus King (March 24, 1755 - April 29, 1827) was an American lawyer, politician, and diplomat. He was a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. He represented New York in the United States Senate, served as Minister to Britain, and was the Federalist candidate for both Vice President (1804, 1808) and President of the United States (1816).


He was born on March 24, 1755 at Scarborough which was then a part of Massachusetts but is now in the state of Maine. He was a son of Sabilla Blagden and Richard King, a prosperous farmer-merchant, who had settled at Dunstan Landing in Scarborough, near Portland, Maine, and had made a modest fortune by 1755, the year Rufus was born.


His financial success aroused the jealousy of his neighbors, and when the Stamp Act 1765 was imposed, and rioting became almost respectable, a mob ransacked his house and destroyed most of the furniture. Nobody was punished, and the next year the mob burned down his barn. It was not surprising that Richard King became a loyalist, but he died just prior to the start of the war in 1775. All of his sons, however, became patriots in the American War of Independence.


King attended Dummer Academy (now The Governor's Academy) and Harvard College, graduating in 1777. He began to read law under Theophilus Parsons, but his studies were interrupted in 1778 when King volunteered for militia duty in the American Revolutionary War. Appointed a major, he served as an aide to General Sullivan in the Battle of Rhode Island. After the campaign, King returned to his apprenticeship under Parsons until he was admitted to the bar in 1780. He began a legal practice in Newburyport, Massachusetts. King was first elected to the Massachusetts state assembly in 1783, and returned there each year until 1785. Massachusetts sent him to the Confederation Congress from 1784 to 1787. He was the youngest at the conference.


In 1787, King was sent to the Federal constitutional convention at Philadelphia where he worked closely with Alexander Hamilton on the Committee of Style and Arrangement to prepare the final draft. He returned home and went to work to get the Constitution ratified and to position himself to be named to the U.S. Senate. He was only partially successful. Massachusetts ratified the Constitution, but his efforts to be elected to the Senate failed.


At Hamilton's urging he moved to New York City and was elected to the New York state legislature in 1788. When the U.S. Constitution took effect, the legislature disagreed on who should serve in the state's second United States Senate seat. Alexander Hamilton endorsed Rufus King as a candidate, thwarting the plans of the prominent Livingston family, who had hoped to place one of their own, Robert Livingston, into the seat. Governor George Clinton, looking to cause a rift between the Livingstons and the Hamilton clan, discreetly supported King, and as a result he was elected, representing New York in the Senate from 1789 to 1796 and again from 1813 to 1825. He was the author of the Navigation Act of 1818.


King played a major diplomatic role as the Minister to the Court of St. James (Britain) from 1796 to 1803 and again from 1825 to 1826. Although he was a leading Federalist, Thomas Jefferson kept him in office until King asked to be relieved. He successfully settled disputes that the Jay Treaty had opened for negotiation. His term was marked by friendship between the U.S. and Britain; it became hostile after 1805. While in Britain, he was in close personal contact with South American revolutionary Francisco de Miranda and facilitated Miranda's trip to the United States in search of support for his failed 1806 expedition to Venezuela.


He was the unsuccessful Federalist Party candidate for Vice President in 1804 and 1808. In April 1816 he lost the election for Governor of New York to the incumbent Daniel D. Tompkins of the Democratic-Republican Party - Tompkins 45,412 votes, King 38,647. Later that year, King was nominated by the Federalists for President in 1816, again losing. King was the last presidential candidate to be nominated by the Federalists during their period as one of the participants in the two-party system of the United States.


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John Langdon, New Hampshire

John Langdon, New Hampshire

John Langdon (June 26, 1741—September 18, 1819) was a politician from Portsmouth, New Hampshire and one of the first two United States senators from that state. Langdon was an early supporter of the Revolutionary War and later served in the Continental Congress. After being in Congress for 12 years, including serving as the first president pro tempore of the Senate, Langdon became governor of New Hampshire. He turned down a nomination for vice presidential candidate in 1812, and later retired until his death in 1819.


His father was a prosperous farmer and local politician, whose family had emigrated to America before 1660 from Sheviock, Caradon, Cornwall and was among the first to settle near the mouth of Piscataqua River, a settlement which became Portsmouth, one of New England's major seaports. Langdon attended the local grammar school, run by a veteran of the 1745 siege against the French at Fortress Louisbourg in Canada. After finishing his primary education, Langdon served an apprenticeship as a clerk. He and his older brother, Woodbury Langdon, rejected the opportunity to join in their father's successful agricultural pursuits, and went to sea instead, apprenticed themselves to local naval merchants.


By age 22, Langdon was captain of a cargo ship called the Andromache, sailing to the West Indies. Four years later he owned his first merchantman, and would continue over time to acquire a small fleet of vessels, engaged in the triangular trade between Portsmouth, the Caribbean, and London. His older brother was even more successful in international trade, and by 1770 both young men were among Portsmouth's wealthiest citizens.


British control of the shipping industries greatly hurt Langdon's business, motivating him to become a vigorous and prominent supporter of the revolutionary movement in the 1770s. He served on the New Hampshire Committee of Correspondence and a nonimportation committee, and also attended various patriot assemblies. In 1774, he participated in the seizure and confiscation of British munitions from Fort William and Mary.


Langdon served as a member of the First Continental Congress from 1775 to 1776. He resigned in June 1776 to become agent for the Continental forces against the British and superintended the construction of several warships including the Raleigh, the America, and the Ranger which was captained by John Paul Jones. In 1777, he equipped an expedition against the British, participating in the Battle of Bennington and commanding Langdon's Company of Light Horse Volunteers at Saratoga and in Rhode Island. War ended in 1783.


In 1784, he built at Portsmouth the mansion known as the Governor John Langdon House. He was again a member of the Continental Congress in 1787 and became a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, serving as a member of the New Hampshire delegation. Langdon was elected to the U.S. Senate and served from March 4, 1789, to March 3, 1801. He was elected the first President pro tempore of the Senate on April 6, 1789, and also served as President pro tempore during the Second Congress.


Langdon later served as a member of the New Hampshire Legislature (1801-05), with the last two terms as speaker; he served as governor from 1805-11, with the exception of 1809. Langdon declined the nomination to be a candidate for vice president in 1812, and later retired. He died in his hometown of Portsmouth in 1819, and was interred at the Langdon Tomb in the North Cemetery.

The town of Langdon, New Hampshire is named after him, as well as Langdon Street in Madison, Wisconsin, a town with several streets named after Founding Fathers.


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William Livingston, New Jersey

William Livingston, New Jersey

William Livingston (November 30, 1723 – July 25, 1790) served as the Governor of New Jersey (1776–1790) during the American Revolutionary War and was a signer of the United States Constitution.


Livingston was the son of Philip Livingston and was born in Albany. He was raised by his grandmother until the age of 14. He graduated from Yale University in 1741 and then studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1748 and began his practice in New York. He moved to Elizabethtown, today Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1772, where he built a large country home to house his growing family. The house, known as Liberty Hall, still stands today.

The home became a center of activity, in part due to its proximity to Francis Barber's academy and visits from young men. (Alexander Hamilton, a boarder at the academy, was a frequent early visitor.) Three of Livingston's daughters – Sarah, Susan, and Catherine – came to be known as 'the three graces'. The height of social activity during this era was the wedding, at Liberty Hall, in April 1774 of Sarah to a young New York lawyer, John Jay.


Livingston was a member of the Continental Congress from July 1774 to June 1776. In October 1775, he was commissioned a brigadier general of the New Jersey Militia and served until August 1776 when he was elected Governor of New Jersey – holding the office until his death in 1790. For much of the time between 1776 and 1779, the family was located in Parsippany for safety. Liberty Hall was frequently visited by British troops or naval forces since there was a substantial reward for Livingston's capture. The family returned in 1779 to begin restoring their looted home.


Livingston married Susanna French in 1742. They had 13 children. Livingston's daughter, Susannah, married John Cleves Symmes in 1780 and became the stepmother-in-law of President William Henry Harrison. Another descendant of William Livingston was Julia Kean, wife of United States Secretary of State and New York Governor Hamilton Fish.


Livingston was a delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and one of the signers of the Constitution. Livingston died in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and was originally buried in Trinity Church, New York, but was reinterred at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn in 1846. Because he was the first Revolutionary governor, he is often cited as the first governor of New Jersey. The township of Livingston, New Jersey was given its name in his honor, as was Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights NJ.


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James Madison, Virginia

James Madison, Virginia

James Madison (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American politician and political philosopher who served as the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817), and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Considered to be the "Father of the Constitution", he was the principal author of the document. In 1788, he wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, still the most influential commentary on the Constitution. The first President to have served in the United States Congress, he was a leader in the 1st United States Congress, drafted many basic laws and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution (said to be based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights), and thus is also known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights". As a political theorist, Madison's most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority.


As leader in the House of Representatives, Madison worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the Republican Party (later called the Democratic-Republican Party) in opposition to key policies of the Federalists, especially the national bank and the Jay Treaty. He secretly co-authored, along with Thomas Jefferson, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts.


As Jefferson's Secretary of State (1801–1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the nation's size, and sponsored the ill-fated Embargo Act of 1807. As president, he led the nation into the War of 1812 against Great Britain. During and after the war, Madison reversed many of his positions. By 1815, he supported the creation of the second National Bank, a strong military, and a high tariff to protect the new factories opened during the war.


James Madison was born in Port Conway, Virginia on March 16, 1751. He grew up as the oldest of seven children to live to maturity. His father, James Madison, Sr. (1723–1801) was a planter who grew up on an estate in Orange County, Virginia, which he inherited on reaching maturity. He later acquired still more property and became the largest landowner and leading citizen of Orange County. His mother, Eleanor "Nelly" Rose Conway (1731–1829), was born at Port Conway, Virginia, the daughter of a prominent planter and tobacco merchant. Madison's parents married in 1743. Both parents had a significant influence over their most famous oldest son.


As a young lawyer, Madison defended Baptist preachers arrested for preaching without a license from the established Anglican Church. In addition, he worked with the preacher Elijah Craig on constitutional guarantees for religious liberty in Virginia. Working on such cases helped form his ideas about religious freedom. Madison served in the Virginia state legislature (1776–79) and became known as a protégé of Thomas Jefferson. He attained prominence in Virginia politics, helping to draft the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. It disestablished the Church of England, and disclaimed any power of state compulsion in religious matters. He excluded Patrick Henry's plan to compel citizens to pay for a congregation of their own choice.


Madison's cousin, the Right Reverend James Madison (1749–1812), became president of the College of William & Mary in 1777. Working closely with Madison and Jefferson, Bishop Madison helped lead the College through the difficult changes involving separation from both Great Britain and the Church of England. He also led college and state actions that resulted in the formation of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia after the Revolution.


James Madison persuaded Virginia to give up its claims to northwestern territories - consisting of most of modern-day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota - to the Continental Congress, which created the Northwest Territory in 1783. These land claims overlapped partially with other claims by Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and maybe others. All of these states ceded their westernmost lands, with the understanding that new states could be formed from the land, as they were. As a delegate to the Continental Congress (1780–83), Madison was considered a legislative workhorse and a master of parliamentary detail. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for a second time from 1784-1786.


Madison returned to the Virginia state legislature at the close of the war. He soon grew alarmed at the fragility of the Articles of Confederation, especially in relation to the divisiveness of state governments, and strongly advocated a new constitution. At the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, Madison's draft of the Virginia Plan and his revolutionary three-branch federal system became the basis for the American Constitution of today. Though Madison was a shy man, he was one of the more outspoken members of the Continental Congress. He envisioned a strong federal government that could overrule actions of the states when they were deemed mistaken; later in life he came to admire the US Supreme Court as it started filling that role.


To encourage ratification of the Constitution, Madison joined Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to write the Federalist Papers in 1787 and 1788. Among other contributions, Madison wrote paper #10, in which he explained how a large country with many different interests and factions could support republican values better than a small country dominated by a few special interests. His interpretation was largely ignored at the time, but in the 20th century became a central part of the pluralist interpretation of American politics.


In Virginia in 1788, Madison led the fight for ratification at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, oratorically dueling with Patrick Henry and others who sought revisions (such as the United States Bill of Rights) before its ratification. Madison is often referred to as the "Father of the Constitution" for his role in its drafting and ratification. However, he protested the title as being "a credit to which I have no claim... The Constitution was not, like the fabled Goddess of Wisdom, the offspring of a single brain. It ought to be regarded as the work of many heads and many hands".


He wrote Hamilton at the New York ratifying convention, stating his opinion that "ratification was in toto and 'for ever'". The Virginia convention had considered conditional ratification worse than a rejection.


Initially Madison "adamantly maintained ... that a specific bill of rights remained unnecessary because the Constitution itself was a bill of rights." Madison had three main objections to a specific bill of rights: 1. it was unnecessary, since it purported to protect against powers that the federal government had not been granted; 2. it was dangerous, since enumeration of some rights might be taken to imply the absence of other rights; and 3. at the state level, bills of rights had proven to be useless paper barriers against government powers.


But the anti-Federalists demanded a bill of rights in exchange for their support for ratification.


Patrick Henry persuaded the Virginia legislature not to elect Madison as one of their first Senators; but Madison was directly elected to the new United States House of Representatives and became an important leader from the First Congress (1789) through the Fourth Congress (1797).


People submitted more than 200 proposals from across the new nation. Madison ignored proposals that called for structural change to the government and synthesized the remainder into a list for the protection of civil rights, such as free speech, right of the people to bear arms, and habeas corpus. Still ambiguous as late as 1788 in his support for a bill of rights, in June 1789 Madison offered a package of twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution. Madison completed his change in position and "hounded his colleagues relentlessly" to accept the proposed amendments.


By 1791, the last ten of Madison's proposed amendments were ratified and became the Bill of Rights. Contrary to his wishes, the Bill of Rights was not integrated into the main body of the Constitution, and it did not apply to the states until the passages of Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments restricted the powers of the states. The Second Amendment originally proposed by Madison (but not then ratified: see United States Bill of Rights) was later ratified in 1992 as the Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. The remaining proposal was intended to accommodate future increase in members of the House of Representatives.


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James McHenry, Maryland

James McHenry, Maryland

James McHenry (November 16, 1753–May 3, 1816) was an early American statesman. McHenry was a signer of the United States Constitution from Maryland and the namesake of Fort McHenry, the bombardment of which inspired the American national anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner". He was also a delegate to the Continental Congress from Maryland, and the third United States Secretary of War from January 27, 1796 to May 13, 1800, under Presidents George Washington and John Adams.


McHenry was born into a Scots-Irish family in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland in 1753. He enjoyed a classical education at Dublin, where he was also a writer of poetry. McHenry immigrated to Philadelphia in 1771 where he became a physician, learning under Benjamin Rush. He also ran a Baltimore import-export business with his brother.


As a skilled and dedicated surgeon during the Revolutionary War, he impressed George Washington, who made him an aide shortly before the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. He served bravely and loyally under Washington for two years and retired from the army in 1781.


McHenry was one of three physicians (with Hugh Williamson and James McClurg) involved in crafting the constitution.


Perhaps his most significant role as Secretary of War came under John Adams. Upon taking over office, Adams decided to keep the cabinet intact, since there was no precedent to follow. Three members of the cabinet—McHenry, Timothy Pickering (the Secretary of State) and Oliver Wolcott (the Secretary of the Treasury)—became a drag on the Adams administration as they listened to Adams's adversary Alexander Hamilton, more than Adams himself. The three publicly disagreed with Adams and, instead of resigning, stayed in office working against the official policy. It is unknown if Adams knew they were being disloyal.


During the election of 1800, McHenry goaded Hamilton into releasing his indictment against the President, which questioned Adams's loyalty and patriotism, sparking public quarrels over the major candidates and eventually paving the way for Thomas Jefferson to be the next President.


Finally in 1800, Adams replaced McHenry, though not on the grounds of incompetence, as McHenry resigned, as well as Pickering and Wolcott. Samuel Dexter became the 4th Secretary of War.

Although many liked McHenry personally, it was no secret Washington, Hamilton and Wolcott often complained of his incompetence as an administrator.


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Thomas Mifflin, Pennsylvania

Thomas Mifflin, Pennsylvania

Thomas Mifflin (January 10, 1744 – January 20, 1800) was an American merchant and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, a Continental Congressman from Pennsylvania, fifth President of the U.S. Congress under the Articles of Confederation, and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He served as Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, President of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council and the first Governor of Pennsylvania.


Mifflin was born January 10, 1744 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, son of John Mifflin and Elizabeth Bagnall. He graduated from the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) in 1760, and joined the mercantile business of William Biddle. After returning from a trip to Europe in 1765, he established a commercial business partnership with his brother, George Mifflin, and married his cousin, Sarah Morris, on March 4, 1765. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society.


Early in the Revolutionary War, Mifflin left the Continental Congress to serve in the Continental Army. Although his family had been Quakers for four generations, he was expelled from the Religious Society of Friends because his involvement with a military force contradicted his faith's pacifistic nature. He was commissioned as a major, then became George Washington's aide-de-camp and, on August 14, 1775, became the army's first Quartermaster General. He was good at the job, but preferred to be on the front lines. His leadership in battle gained him promotions to colonel and then brigadier general. He asked to be relieved of the job of Quartermaster General, but was persuaded to resume those duties because Congress was having difficulty finding a replacement.


In Congress, there was debate regarding whether a national army was more efficient or if individual states should maintain their own forces. As a result of this debate the Congressional Board of War was created, on which Mifflin served from 1777 to 1778. He then rejoined the army but took little active role, following criticism of his service as quartermaster general. He was accused of embezzlement and welcomed an inquiry; however, one never took place. He resigned his commission—by then, as a major general—but Congress continued to ask his advice even after accepting his resignation.


Prior to Independence, Thomas Mifflin was a member of Pennsylvania's Provincial Assembly (1772–1776). He served two terms in the Continental Congress (1774–1775, and 1782–1784). He then served in the house of Pennsylvania General Assembly (1785–1788). He was a delegate to the United States Constitutional Convention in 1787, as well as a signer of the Constitution. He was a member of the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and on November 5, 1788 he was elected President of the Council, replacing Benjamin Franklin. He was unanimously reelected to the Presidency on November 11, 1789. He presided over the committee that wrote Pennsylvania's 1790 State Constitution. That document did away with the Executive Council, replacing it with a single Governor. On December 21, 1790 Mifflin became the last President of Pennsylvania and the first Governor of the Commonwealth. He held the latter office until December 17, 1799, when he was succeeded by Thomas McKean. He then returned to the state legislature, where he served until his death the following month. Mifflin decreed that no less than six towns in Pennsylvania bear his name.


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Gouverneur Morris, Pennsylvania

Gouverneur Morris, Pennsylvania

Gouverneur Morris (31 January 1752 - 6 November 1816) was an American statesman and a native of New York who represented Pennsylvania in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He was also an author of large sections of the Constitution of the United States. He is widely credited as the author of the document's preamble: "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union ... ". In an era when most Americans thought of themselves as citizens of their respective states, Morris advanced the idea of being a citizen of a single union of states.


A gifted scholar, Morris enrolled at King's College (now Columbia University) at age twelve, in 1764. He graduated in 1768 and received a master's degree in 1771.


On 8 May 1775, Morris was elected to represent his family estate, in southern Westchester County (now Bronx County), in the New York Provincial Congress, an extralegal assembly. As a member of the Congress, he, along with most of his fellow delegates, concentrated on turning the colony into an independent state. However, his advocacy of independence brought him into conflict with his family, as well as with his mentor, William Smith, who had abandoned the patriot cause when it pressed toward independence. Twenty-five-year-old Morris was largely responsible for the 1777 constitution of the newborn state of New York.


After the Battle of Long Island in August 1776, the British seized New York City and his family's estate across the Harlem River from Manhattan. His mother, a loyalist, gave the estate to the British for military use. Because his home was now in the possession of the enemy, he was no longer eligible for election to the New York state legislature; instead, he was appointed to be a delegate to the Continental Congress.


He took his seat in Congress on 28 January 1778, and he was immediately selected to a committee in charge of coordinating with General Washington reforms of the military. After witnessing the army encamped at Valley Forge, he was so appalled by the conditions of the troops that he became the spokesman for the Continental Army in Congress, and he saved the army by pushing for substantial reforms in its training, methods, and financing. He also signed the Articles of Confederation in 1778.


In 1779, he was defeated for re-election to Congress, largely because his advocacy of a strong central government was at odds with the decentralist views prevalent in New York. Defeated in his home state, he moved to Philadelphia to work as a lawyer and merchant.


In 1780, at age twenty-eight, Morris's left leg was shattered and replaced with a wooden pegleg. Reportedly, he liked to dance, and he managed to dance well on his wooden leg. Morris's public account for the loss of his leg was that it happened in a carriage accident, but there is evidence that this was a false story concocted to cover for a dalliance with a woman, during which he jumped from a window to escape a jealous husband. Morris was well-known throughout much of his life for having many affairs, with both married and unmarried women, and he recorded many of these adventures and misadventures in his diary. Despite an automatic exemption from military duty because of his handicap and his service in the legislature, he joined a special "briefs" club for the protection of New York City, a forerunner of the modern New York Guard.


In Philadelphia, he was appointed assistant superintendent of finance (1781-1785), and he was a Pennsylvania delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He resumed his residence in New York in 1788.


Before the Constitutional Convention, Morris lived in Philadelphia where he worked as a merchant for some time. After that, he began to become interested in financial affairs, so he started to work with Robert Morris (no relation). Robert Morris and George Washington then recommended him for the convention because of what he did.


During the Philadelphia convention, he was a friend and ally of George Washington and others who favored a strong central government. Morris was elected to serve on a committee of five (chaired by William Samuel Johnson) who drafted the final language of the proposed constitution. Catherine Drinker Bowen, in Miracle at Philadelphia, called Morris the committee's "amanuensis," meaning that it was his pen that was responsible for most of the draft, as well as its final polished form.


"An aristocrat to the core," Morris believed that "there never was, nor ever will be a civilized Society without an Aristocracy". He also thought that common people were incapable of self-government because he feared that the poor would sell their votes to the rich. Consequently, he thought that voting should be restricted to property owners. Morris also opposed admitting new western states on an equal basis with the existing eastern states, fearing that the interior wilderness could not furnish "enlightened" statesmen to the country.


At the convention he gave more speeches than any other delegate, a total of 173. Morris has been categorized as a "theistic rationalist" because he believed strongly in a guiding god and in morality as taught through religion. Nonetheless, he did not have much patience for any established religion. As a matter of principle, he often vigorously defended the right of anyone to practice his chosen religion without interference, and he argued to include such language in the Constitution.


He went to Europe on business in 1789 and served as Minister Plenipotentiary to France from 1792 to 1794. His diaries during that time have become an invaluable chronicle of the French Revolution, capturing much of the turbulence and violence of that era, as well as documenting his affairs with women there.


He returned to the United States in 1798, and he was elected in 1800, as a Federalist, to the United States Senate, filling the vacancy caused by the resignation of James Watson. He served from 3 April 1800 until 3 March 1803, but he was an unsuccessful candidate for re-election in 1802.


After leaving the Senate, he served as chairman of the Erie Canal Commission from 1810 to 1813. The Erie Canal helped to transform New York City into a financial capital, the possibilities of which were apparent to Morris when he said "the proudest empire in Europe is but a bubble compared to what America will be, must be, in the course of two centuries, perhaps of one."


At the age of 57, he married Anne Cary ("Nancy") Randolph, who was the sister of Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr., husband of Thomas Jefferson's daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph.


He died at the family estate, Morrisania, and he is buried at St. Ann's Episcopal Church in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. Morris and his wife had a son, Gouverneur Jr., who eventually became a railroad executive.


Morris also established himself as an important landowner in northern New York, where the Town of Gouverneur and Village of Gouverneur in St. Lawrence County are named for him.


Morris's half-brother, Lewis Morris (1726-1798), was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Another half-brother, Staats Long Morris, was a loyalist and major-general in the British army during the American Revolution. His nephew, Lewis Richard Morris, served in the Vermont legislature and in the United States Congress. His grandnephew was William M. Meredith, United States Secretary of the Treasury under Zachary Taylor. Morris's great-grandson, also named Gouverneur (1876-1953), was an author of pulp novels and short stories during the early-twentieth century. (Several of his works were adapted into films, including the famous Lon Chaney, Sr. film, The Penalty.)


In 1943, a United States liberty ship named the SS Gouverneur Morris was launched. She was scrapped in 1974.


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Robert Morris, Pennsylvania

Robert Morris, Pennsylvania

Robert Morris, Jr. (January 31, 1734 – May 8, 1806) was an American merchant, and a signer to the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution. He was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly and became the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, and a member of the Second Continental Congress where he served as the Chairman of the Secret Committee, and as a member of the Committee of Correspondence. Later Morris was known as the "Financier of the Revolution", because of his role in financing the American side in the Revolutionary War. From 1781 to 1784, he served as Superintendent of Finance, managing the economy of the fledgling United States. At the same time he was Agent of Marine, a position he took without pay, and from which he controlled the Continental Navy. He was one of Pennsylvania's original pair of U.S. senators, serving from 1789 to 1795.


Morris was born to Robert Morris, Sr. and Elizebeth Murphet in Liverpool, England on January 20, 1734. At the age of 13 Morris moved to the United States, and to Oxford, Maryland where he lived with his father, tobacco factor, Robert Morris. The younger Morris was provided a tutor, but he quickly learned everything that teacher had to impart. His father arranged for Robert Jr. to go to Philadelphia, where he stayed with Mr. Charles Greenway, a family friend. Mr. Greenway arranged for young Robert to become an apprentice at Charles Willing's shipping firm. A year later Robert's father died as the result of being wounded by the wadding of a ship's gun that was fired in his honor.


At age 16 Morris was already apprenticed to the shipping and banking firm of Philadelphia merchant (later mayor) Charles Willing. After Willing's death two years later, the 18-year-old Morris became the partner of Charles's son, Thomas Willing. They established the prominent shipping-banking firm of Willing & Morris on May 1, 1757. The partnership of Willing, Morris & Company lasted until 1779, and they often collaborated thereafter. Eventually they sent ships to India, China, and the Levant. The firm's business of import, export and general agency made it one of the most prosperous in Pennsylvania. As a result Morris became both wealthy and influential in Philadelphia. Even so, Morris's wealth was mostly in his stock in trade, and the value of his holdings was small when compared to the southern plantation holders who owned thousands of acres of land and controlled the lives of thousands of slaves, or even when compared to the average middle class Englishman living in London.


On March 2, 1769, at 35 years old, Morris married 20-year-old Mary White. White came from a prominent family in Maryland; her brother was the well-known Bishop William White. Together they had five sons and two daughters.


Morris worshiped in Philadelphia at St Peter's Church on Pine Street and Christ Church on 2nd Street, both of which were run by his brother-in-law, Rev. William White. Morris remained a constant worshiper at this Anglican Church for his entire life. Because of location and reputation of St. Peter’s Church in Philadelphia, it served as a place of worship for a number of the members of the Continental Congress, sometimes including George Washington.


Morris was elected to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He managed to get Gouverneur Morris onto the Pennsylvania delegation. Although Robert Morris said little at the Convention, his former assistant, Gouverneur, and his lawyer, James Wilson, were two of the three most talkative men there. Both opposed slavery during the Convention. Gouverneur Morris actually wrote the polished draft of the Constitution. While it was widely known at the time that Morris was active behind the scenes, his only significant role of record during the Convention was to nominate his friend George Washington as its president.


Washington wanted to appoint Morris Secretary of the Treasury in 1789, but Morris declined (suggesting instead Alexander Hamilton who was a supporter of his policies). He served as a United States Senator from 1789 to 1795. Morris was on 41 Senatorial committees and reported for many of them. He focused on using his position in the Legislature to support the Federalist economic program, which included internal improvements like canals and lighthouses to aid commerce. As Senator he generally supported the Federalist party and backed Hamilton's economic proposals. Hamilton's proposals were, in actuality, a rework of Morris's report "On Public Credit", submitted some 10 years earlier.


As a Senator from Pennsylvania, Morris is credited with helping to bring the Federal Government to Philadelphia for 10 years as the Federal District was under construction. During this period he moved from his home, and allowed it to be used by Washington as his residence. Later that house was used by Adams while he was President.


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William Paterson, New Jersey

William Paterson, New Jersey

William Paterson (December 24, 1745 – September 9, 1806) was a New Jersey statesman, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, who served as the 2nd governor of New Jersey, from 1790 to 1793.


William Paterson was born on December 24, 1745, in County Antrim, now in Northern Ireland, moved to what is now the United States at age 2, and entered the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) at age 14. After graduating, he studied law with the prominent lawyer Richard Stockton and was admitted to the bar in 1768.


Paterson became an outspoken supporter of American independence. He was selected as Somerset County, New Jersey delegate for the first three Provincial Congresses of New Jersey, where, as secretary, he recorded the 1776 New Jersey State Constitution.


After Independence, Paterson was appointed as the first Attorney General of New Jersey, serving from 1776-1783, maintaining law and order and establishing himself as one of the state's most prominent lawyers. He was sent to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he proposed the New Jersey Plan for a unicameral legislative body with equal representation from each state. After the Great Compromise (for two legislative bodies: a Senate with equal representation for each state, and a House of Representatives with representation based on population), the Constitution was signed.


Paterson went on to become one of New Jersey's first US. senators (1789-90). He was a strong nationalist who supported the Federalist party. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he played an important role in drafting the Judiciary Act of 1789 that established the federal court system. The first nine sections of this very important law are in his handwriting.


He resigned from the U.S. Senate in 1790 in order to succeed fellow signer William Livingston as governor of New Jersey. As governor, he pursued his interest in legal matters by codifying the English statutes that had been in force in New Jersey before the Revolution in Laws of the State of New Jersey. He also published a revision of the rules of the chancery and common law courts in Paterson's Practice Laws, later adopted by the New Jersey Legislature.


He resigned the governorship to become an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1793-1806). There he presided over the trials of individuals indicted for treason in the Whiskey Rebellion, a revolt by farmers in western Pennsylvania over the federal excise tax on whiskey, the principal product of their cash crop. Militia sent out by President George Washington successfully quelled the uprising, and for the first time the courts had to interpret the provisions of the Constitution in regard to the use of troops in civil disturbances. Here, and in fact throughout his long career, Paterson extolled the primacy of law over governments, a principle embodied in the Constitution he helped write.


Paterson served on the Supreme Court until his death (from the lingering effects of a coach accident suffered in 1803 while on circuit court duty in New Jersey) on September 9, 1806, aged 60. He was "on his way to Ballston Springs, New York to "take the waters" when he died at the Albany, New York home of his daughter and Van Renssalaer son-in-law. He was laid to rest in the Van Renssalaer family vault in 1806, and remained until the property was acquired by the city. His remains were relocated to Albany Rural Cemetery Menands, Albany County, New York, USA. He shares this cemetery with Associate Justice Rufus W. Peckham and President Chester A. Arthur.


Paterson, New Jersey, and William Paterson University are named after him.


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Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, South Carolina

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, South Carolina

Charles Cotesworth (C.C.) Pinckney (February 25, 1746 – August 16, 1825), was an early American statesman of South Carolina, Revolutionary War veteran, and delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He was twice nominated by the Federalist Party as their presidential candidate, but he did not win either election.


Charles C. Pinckney was born into the Pinckney family of aristocratic planters in Charleston, South Carolina on February 25, 1746. He was the son of Charles Pinckney, who would later serve as the chief justice of the Province of South Carolina, and the celebrated planter and agriculturalist, Eliza Lucas. He was the elder brother of Thomas Pinckney, who served as Governor of South Carolina, as a U.S. Representative, and as a George Washington administration dipmomat. His first cousin once removed, Charles Pinckney, served as Governor of South Carolina, as a U.S. Senator, and as a Thomas Jefferson administration diplomat.


In 1753, Pinckney's father moved the family to London, England to serve as the colony's agent (essentially as a lobbyist to protect South Carolina's commercial and political interests). Both Charles and his brother Thomas were enrolled in the Westminster School, where they remained after the rest of the family returned to South Carolina in 1758. Both brothers also studied at Oxford University. Pinckney graduated from Christ Church College, Oxford with degrees in science and law, and proceeded to further study law with the prestigious Middle Temple society. Pinckney was called to the bar in 1769, but he continued his education in France for another year, studying botany and chemistry. He also had a brief stint at the Royal Military College at Caen.


In 1773, Pinckney married Sarah Middleton, whose father Henry Middleton served as the second President of the Continental Congress and whose brother Arthur Middleton signed the Declaration of Independence. Sarah died in 1784. In 1786, he remarried to Mary Stead, who came from a wealthy family of planters in Georgia. Pinckney had three daughters.


After returning to South Carolina from Europe, Charles C. Pinckney began to practice law in Charleston. He was first elected to a seat in the colonial legislature in 1770. In 1773 he served as a regional attorney general. When war erupted between the thirteen American colonies and Great Britain in 1775, Pinckney stood with the American Patriots; in that year he was a member of the first South Carolina Provincial Congress in 1775, which helped South Carolina transition from being a British colony to being an independent state. During the American Revolutionary War he would serve in the lower house of the state legislature and as a member of the South Carolina Senate in addition to his military service.


In 1775, after the American Revolutionary War had broken out, Pinckney volunteered for military service as a full-time regular officer in George Washington's Continental Army. As a senior company commander with the rank of captain, Pinckney raised and led the elite Grenadiers of the 1st South Carolina Regiment. He participated in the successful defense of Charleston in the Battle of Sullivan's Island in June 1776, when British forces under General Sir Henry Clinton staged an amphibious attack on the state capital. Later in 1776 Pinckney took command of the regiment, with the rank of colonel, a position he retained to the end of the war.


After this, the British Army shifted its focus to the Northern and Mid-Atlantic states. Pinckney led his regiment north to join General Washington's troops near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pinckney and his regiment then participated in the Battle of Brandywine and the Battle of Germantown. Around this time he first met fellow officers and future Federalist statesmen Alexander Hamilton and James McHenry.


In 1778, Pinckney and his regiment, returning to the South, took part in a failed American expedition attempting to seize British East Florida. The expedition ended due to severe logistical difficulties and a British victory in the Battle of Alligator Bridge. Later that year, the British Army shifted its focus to the Southern theater, capturing Savannah, Georgia, that December. In October 1779, the Southern army of Major General Benjamin Lincoln, with Pinckney leading one of its brigades, attempted to re-take Savannah in the Siege of Savannah. This attack was disastrous for the Americans, who suffered numerous casualties.


Pinckney then participated in 1780 defense of Charleston against British siege. Major General Lincoln surrounded his 5,000 men to the British on May 12, 1780, whereupon Pinckney became a prisoner of war. As a prisoner of war, he played a major role in maintaining the troops' loyalty to the Patriots' cause. During this time, he famously said, "If I had a vein that did not beat with the love of my Country, I myself would open it. If I had a drop of blood that could flow dishonourable, I myself would let it out." He was kept in close confinement until his release in 1782. In November 1783, he was commissioned a brevet Brigadier General in the Continental Army shortly before the southern regiments were disbanded.


Pinckney, who had returned to the lower house of the state legislature, represented South Carolina at the constitutional convention of 1787, where he was an influential member. Pinckney advocated the idea that slaves be counted as a basis of representation and opposing abolition of the slave trade. He also advocated a strong national government (albeit one with a system of checks and balances) to replace the weak one of the time. He opposed as impracticable the election of representatives by popular vote. He also opposed paying senators, who, he thought, should be men of independent wealth. Pinckney played a key role in requiring treaties to be ratified by the Senate and in the compromise that resulted in the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. He also opposed placing a limitation on the size of a federal standing army.


Pinckney played a prominent role in securing the ratification of the Federal constitution in the South Carolina convention of 1788, and in framing the South Carolina Constitution in the convention of 1790. After this he announced his retirement from politics.


During the 1790s, President George Washington offered Pinckney several offices in his administration. Pinckney declined them all until 1796, when he accepted an appointment as U.S. Minister to France. France was in turmoil due to the French Revolution, and the French revolutionaries had been seizing American trading ships bound for Great Britain. The French republican government rejected Pinckney's credentials upon his arrival. Three French agents then demanded a large bribe in exchange for allowing Pinckney and fellow diplomats Elbridge Gerry and John Marshall to see French foreign minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. Pinckney famously replied, "No! No! Not a sixpence!" After this incident, which later came to be known as the XYZ Affair, Pinckney broke off all discussion and returned home, resigning from his position. President John Adams, a Federalist, appointed Pinckney to one of the highest posts in the new Provisional Army which Congress had voted to raise in response to the diplomatic rupture with France. However, a peaceful solution to the Quasi-War with France was negotiated by 1800 and Pinckney's active military service ended.


In the 1800 presidential election, Pinckney was the Federalist candidate for vice-president, running with the incumbent president, John Adams. They were defeated by the Democratic-Republicans Thomas Jefferson (whom became president) and Aaron Burr (who became vice president). In 1804, the Federalist Party nominated Pinckney to run for the presidency against Jefferson. Jefferson, who was very popular due to the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase and booming trade. Pinckney was defeated in a landslide, winning only 27.2% of the popular vote and carrying only two states. In 1808 he was again the Federalist nominee for president, running against Jefferson's Secretary of State, James Madison. Pinckney did not fare much better against Madison, carrying only five states and winning 32.4% of the popular vote.


From 1805 until his death, Pinckney was president-general of the Society of the Cincinnati. Pinckney died on August 16, 1825 and was buried in St. Michael's Churchyard in Charleston, South Carolina. His tombstone reads, "One of the founders of the American Republic. In war he was a companion in arms and friend of Washington. In peace he enjoyed his unchanging confidence."


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Charles Pinckney, South Carolina

Charles Pinckney, South Carolina

Charles Pinckney (October 26, 1757–October 12, 1824) was an American politician who was a signer of the United States Constitution, Governor of South Carolina, a Senator and a member of the House of Representatives. He was first cousin (once removed) of fellow-signer Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.


Charles was an ancestor of seven future South Carolina governors, a few of which have very prominent South Carolinian names, including the Maybank and Rhett families.


Pinckney was born at Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Colonel Charles Pinckney, was a rich lawyer and planter, who on his death in 1782 was to bequeath Snee Farm, a country estate outside the city, to his son Charles. The latter apparently received all his education in the city of his birth, and he started to practice law there in 1779.


"About that time, well after the War for Independence had begun, young Pinckney enlisted in the militia, ["though his father demonstrated ambivalence about the Revolution"]. He became a lieutenant, and served at the siege of Savannah (September-October 1779). When Charleston fell to the British the next year, the youth was captured and remained a prisoner until June 1781.


"Pinckney had also begun a political career, serving in the Continental Congress (1777-78 and 1784-87) and in the state legislature (1779-80, 1786-89, and 1792-96). A nationalist, he worked hard in Congress to ensure that the United States would receive navigation rights to the Mississippi and to strengthen Congressional power.


"Pinckney's role in the Constitutional Convention is controversial. Although one of the youngest delegates, he later claimed to have been the most influential one and contended he had submitted a draft[, known as the Pinckney Plan,] that was the basis of the final Constitution. He did submit a plan that was a more elaborate form of the Virginia Plan, after Edmund Randolph had submitted the Virginia Plan, but it was disregarded by the other delegates. Historians recognize that he ranked as an important contributing delegate. [Pinckney's vanity led him to boast that he was only 24, allowing him to claim distinction as the youngest delegate. He was in fact 30 years old.] He attended full time, spoke often and effectively, and contributed immensely to the final draft and to the resolution of problems that arose during the debates. He also worked for ratification in South Carolina (1788). That same year, he married Mary Eleanor Laurens, daughter of a wealthy and politically powerful South Carolina merchant [ Henry Laurens ]; she was to bear at least three children. [One son was Congressman/Mayor of Charleston SC Henry Laurens Pinckney. Two of his brothers-in-law were Colonel John Laurens and South Carolina Congressman David Ramsay; another brother-in-law married the daughter of South Carolina Governor John Rutledge. A son-in-law was South Carolina Congressman/Governor/Mayor of Charleston SCRobert Young Hayne].


"Subsequently, Pinckney's career blossomed. From 1789 to 1792 he held the governorship of South Carolina, and in 1790 chaired the State constitutional convention. During this period, he became associated with the Federalist Party, in which he and his cousin Charles Cotesworth Pinckney were leaders. But, with the passage of time, the former's views began to change. In 1795 he attacked the Federalist backed Jay's Treaty and increasingly began to cast his lot with Carolina back-country Democratic-Republicans against his own eastern aristocracy. In 1796 he became governor once again, and in 1798 his Democratic-Republican supporters helped him win a seat in the U.S. Senate. There, he bitterly opposed his former party, and in the Presidential election of 1800 served as Thomas Jefferson's campaign manager in South Carolina.


"The victorious Jefferson appointed Pinckney as Minister to Spain (1801-5), in which capacity he struggled valiantly but unsuccessfully to win cession of the Floridas to the United States and facilitated Spanish acquiescence in the transfer of Louisiana from France to the United States in 1803.


Pinckney's grave at St. Philip's in Charleston


"Upon completion of his diplomatic mission, his ideas moving ever closer to democracy, Pinckney headed back to Charleston and to leadership of the state Democratic-Republican Party. He sat in the legislature in 1805-6 and then was again elected as Governor (1806-8). In this position, he favored legislative reapportionment, giving better representation to back-country districts, and advocated universal white manhood suffrage. He served again in the legislature from 1810 to 1814 and then temporarily withdrew from politics. In 1818 he won election to the United States House of Representatives, where he fought against the Missouri Compromise.


"In 1821, Pinckney's health beginning to fail, he retired for the last time from politics. He died in 1824, just 3 days after his 67th birthday. He was laid to rest. . . at St. Philip's Episcopal Churchyard ["in Charleston"]." ("Signers", 1976)


Pinckney's Snee Farm plantation is maintained as Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.


His son, Henry L. Pinckney (September 24, 1794 - February 3, 1863) was a U.S. Representative from South Carolina.


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George Read, Delaware

George Read, Delaware

George Read (September 18, 1733 – September 21, 1798) was an American lawyer and politician from New Castle, in New Castle County, Delaware. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a Continental Congressman from Delaware, a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, President of Delaware, and a member of the Federalist Party, who served as U.S. Senator from Delaware and Chief Justice of Delaware.


Read was born in Cecil County, Maryland, near North East, the son of John and Mary Howell Read. John Read was a wealthy English resident of Dublin, Ireland who came to Maryland as a young man and was one of the founders of Charlestown, Maryland in Cecil County. When George Read was an infant the family moved to New Castle County, Delaware, settling near the village of Christiana. As he grew up, Read joined Thomas McKean at the Rev. Francis Allison's Academy at New London, Pennsylvania and then studied law in Philadelphia with John Moland. He was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1753 and a year later he returned home to establish a practice at New Castle, Delaware.


In 1763 Read married Gertrude Ross Till, daughter of the Rev. George Ross, the Anglican rector of Immanuel Church in New Castle and widowed sister of George Ross, also a future signer of the Declaration of Independence. They had five children, John, George Jr., William, John, and Mary, who married Gunning Bedford, Sr., a future Governor of Delaware. They lived on The Strand in New Castle and their house was in what is now the garden of the present Read House and Gardens, owned by the Delaware Historical Society. They were members of Immanuel Episcopal Church.


In 1763 John Penn, the Proprietary Governor, appointed Read Crown Attorney General for the three Delaware counties and he served in that position until leaving for the Continental Congress in 1774. He also served in the Colonial Assembly of the Lower Counties for twelve sessions, from 1764/65 through 1775/76.


Eighteenth century Delaware was politically divided into loose factions known as the "Court Party" and the "Country Party." The majority Court Party was generally Anglican, strongest in Kent County and Sussex County, worked well with the colonial Proprietary government, and was in favor of reconciliation with the British government. The minority Country Party was largely Ulster-Scot, centered in New Castle County, and quickly advocated independence from the British. Read was often the leader of the Court party faction, and as such he generally worked in opposition to Caesar Rodney and his friend and neighbor, Thomas McKean.


Read, therefore, like most people in Delaware, was very much in favor of trying to reconcile differences with Great Britain. He opposed the Stamp Act and similar measures of Parliament, and supported anti-importation measures and dignified protests, but was quite reluctant to pursue the option of outright independence. Nevertheless, from 1764 he led the Delaware Committee of Correspondence and was elected to serve along with the more radical Thomas McKean and Caesar Rodney in the First and Second Continental Congress from 1774 through 1777. He was frequently absent though, and when the Congress voted on American Independence on July 2, 1776, Read surprised many by voting against it. This meant Caesar Rodney had to ride overnight to Philadelphia to break the deadlock in Delaware's delegation in favor of independence. However, when the Declaration of Independence was finally adopted, Read signed it, joining the cause in spite of his natural caution.


Anticipating the Declaration of Independence, the General Assembly of the Lower Counties declared its separation from the British government on June 15, 1776. Once the Declaration of Independence was actually adopted, the General Assembly called for elections to a Delaware constitutional convention to draft a constitution for the new state. Read was elected to this convention, became its President, and guided the passage of the Thomas McKean-drafted document, which became the Delaware Constitution of 1776.


Read was then elected to the first Legislative Council of the Delaware General Assembly and was selected as the Speaker in both the 1776/77 and 1777/78 sessions. At the time of the capture of President John McKinly, Read was in Philadelphia attending Congress, and after narrowly escaping capture himself while returning home, he became President on October 20, 1777, serving until March 31, 1778. During these months the British occupied Philadelphia and were in control of the Delaware River. Read tried, mostly in vain, to recruit additional soldiers and protect the state from raiders from Philadelphia and off ships in the Delaware River. The Delaware General Assembly session of 1777/78 had to be moved to Dover, Delaware for safety and the Sussex County General Assembly delegation was never seated because disruptions at the polls had negated the election results.


After Caesar Rodney was elected to replace him as President, Read continued to serve in the Legislative Council through the 1778-79 session. After a one-year rest nursing ill health, he was elected to the House of Assembly for the 1780/81 and 1781/82 sessions. He returned to the Legislative Council in the 1782/83 session and served two terms, through the 1787/88 session. In 1782 he was appointed Judge of the Court of Appeals in admiralty cases.


Read was again called to national service in 1786 when he represented Delaware at the Annapolis Convention. Because so few states were represented, this meeting produced only a report calling for a broader convention to be held in Philadelphia the next year.


At what became the Constitutional Convention, Read again represented Delaware. Quoting from Wright & Morris in their Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution,


"Read immediately argued for a new national government under a new Constitution, saying 'to amend the Articles was simply putting old cloth on a new garment.' He was a leader in the fight for a strong central government, advocating, at one time, the abolition of the states altogether and the consolidation of the country under one powerful national government. 'Let no one fear the states, the people are with us;' he declared to a Convention shocked by this radical proposal. With no one to support his motion, he settled for protecting the rights of the small states against the infringements of their larger, more populous neighbors who, he feared, would 'probably combine to swallow up the smaller ones by addition, division or impoverishment.' He warned that Delaware 'would become at once a cipher in the union' if the principle of equal representation embodied in the New Jersey (small-state) Plan was not adopted and if the method of amendment in the Articles was not retained. He favored giving Congress the right to vote state laws, making the federal legislature immune to popular whims by having senators hold office for nine years or during good behavior, and granting the U.S. President broad appointive powers. Outspoken, he threatened to lead the Delaware delegation out of the Convention if the rights of the small states were not specifically guaranteed in the new Constitution."


Once those rights were assured, he led the ratification movement in Delaware which, partly as a result of his efforts, became the first state to ratify.


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, 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.


Read's resignation from the U.S. Senate was before the first session of the 3rd Congress assembled, but it was not until February 7, 1795, 4 weeks before it adjourned, that Henry Latimer was elected to replace him. One of Delaware's U.S. Senate seats was, therefore, vacant from September 18, 1793 until February 7, 1795.


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John Rutledge, South Carolina

John Rutledge, South Carolina

John Rutledge (September 17, 1739 – July 23, 1800) was an American statesman and judge. He was the first Governor of South Carolina following the signing of the Declaration of Independence. For a time, he held dictatorial powers in that state. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and he signed the United States Constitution. He served as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, and was the second Chief Justice of the Court from July to December 1795. He was the elder brother of Edward Rutledge, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.


Rutledge was born into a large family in Charleston. His father was Scots-Irish immigrant John Rutledge (Sr.) (1713-1750), a physician. His mother, South Carolina-born Sarah (nee Hext) (born 18 September 1724), was of English descent. John had 6 younger siblings; Andrew (1740-1772), Thomas (1741-1783), Sarah (1742-1819), Hugh (1745-1811), Mary (1747-1832) and Edward (1749-1800). John’s early education was provided by his father until the latter's death. The rest of Rutledge's primary education was provided by an Anglican priest.


John took an early interest in law and often "played lawyer" with his brothers and sisters. When he was 17 years old, Rutledge began studying law under a man named James Parsons. Two years later, he sailed to England to further his studies at London's Middle Temple. In the course of his studies, he won several cases in English courts.


After finishing his studies, Rutledge sailed back to Charleston to begin a fruitful legal career. At the time, many lawyers came out of law school and barely scraped together enough business to earn a living. Most new lawyers could only hope that they would win a well-known case to ensure their success. Rutledge, however, emerged almost immediately as one of the most prominent lawyers in Charleston, and his services were in high demand.


With his successful legal career, he was able to build on his mother's fortune. On 1 May 1763, Rutledge married Elizabeth Grimke (born 1742). Rutledge was very devoted to his wife, and Elizabeth's death on 6 July 1792 was a major cause of the illness that affected Rutledge in his later years.


John and Elizabeth had 10 children; Martha Henrietta (1764-1816), Sarah (born and died 1765), John (1766-1819), Edward James (1767-1811), Frederick Wilkes (1769-1821), William Spencer (1771-1821), Charles Wilson (1773-1821), Thomas (born 1774 and died young), Elizabeth (1776-1842), and States Whitcomb (1783-1829).


A few weeks after leaving the governorship, Rutledge was again elected to the Continental Congress, where he served until 1783. In 1784, he was appointed to the South Carolina Court of Chancery.


Rutledge continued to serve on the Court of Chancery until 1791. During this time, he was selected to represent South Carolina in the Constitutional Convention. Rutledge maintained a moderate nationalist stance and chaired the Committee of Detail. He attended all the sessions and served on five committees.


Rutledge recommended that the executive power consist of a single person, rather than a plurality, because he felt that one person would feel the responsibility of the office more acutely. Because the president would not be able to defer a decision to another "co-president", Rutledge concluded that a single person would be more likely to make a good choice.


Rutledge was largely responsible for denying the Supreme Court the right to give advisory opinions. Being a judge himself, he strongly believed that a judge’s sole purpose was to resolve legal conflicts; he held that a judge should only hand down an opinion when ruling on an actual case.


Rutledge also argued that if either house of the legislature was to have the sole authority to introduce appropriation bills, it should be the Senate. He noted that the Senate, by nature of its lengthier terms of office, would tend to be more leisurely in its actions. Because of this, Rutledge felt that the Senate would be better able to clearly think about what the consequences of a bill would be. And since the bills could not become law without the consent of the House of Representatives, he concluded that there would be no danger of the Senate ruling the country.


When the proposal was made that only landowners should have the right to vote, Rutledge opposed it perhaps more strongly than any other motion in the entire convention. He stated that making a rule like this would divide the people into "haves" and "have nots". It would create an undying resentment against the landowners and could do nothing but cause discord. Benjamin Franklin agreed with Rutledge, saying that such a law would suppress the ambitions of the common people. Franklin also observed that if only people who actually owned land could vote, the sons of a substantial farmer, not having land in their own names, would be denied the right to vote.


In the debate of whether or not to allow slavery in the new country, Rutledge took the side of the slave-owners; he was a Southerner and he owned several slaves. Rutledge said that if the Constitution forbade slavery, the Southern states would never agree to the Constitution.


The source of this article is Wikipedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.



Roger Sherman, Connecticut

Roger Sherman, Connecticut

Roger Sherman (April 19, 1721 (J.C), April 30, 1721 (G.C.) – July 23, 1793) was an early American lawyer and politician. He served as the first mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, and served on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and was also a representative and senator in the new republic.


He and Robert Morris were the only people to sign all four great state papers of the U.S.: the Articles of Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson said of him: "That is Mr. Sherman, of Connecticut, a man who never said a foolish thing in his life."


Sherman is also the patriarch of one of America's oldest, most powerful and prolific U.S. political families, the Baldwin, Hoar & Sherman family as ranked by Political Graveyard.


His family moved to Stoughton, Massachusetts, a town located seventeen miles (27 km) south of Boston. The part of Stoughton, Massachusetts where Sherman grew up was later incorporated in 1797 to Canton, Massachusetts. Sherman's education did not extend beyond his father's library and grammar school and his early career was spent as a shoe designer. However, he was gifted with an aptitude for learning, and access to a good library owned by his father, as well as a Harvard educated parish minister, Rev. Samuel Dunbar, who took him under his wing.


In 1743, after his father's death, he moved (on foot) with his mother and siblings to New Milford, Connecticut, where in partnership with his brother, he opened the town's first store. He very quickly introduced himself in civil and religious affairs, rapidly becoming one of the town's leading citizens and eventually town clerk of New Milford. Due to his mathematical skill he became county surveyor of New Haven County in 1745, and began providing astronomical calculations for almanacs in 1748.


Despite the fact that he had no formal legal training, Sherman was urged to read for the bar exam by a local lawyer and was admitted to the Bar of Litchfield, Connecticut in 1754, and chosen to represent New Milford in the Connecticut General Assembly from 1755 to 1758 and from 1760 to 1761. In 1766 he was elected to the Upper House of the Connecticut General Assembly, where he served until 1785.


He was appointed justice of the peace in 1762,, judge of the court of common pleas in 1765, and justice of the Superior Court of Connecticut from 1766 to 1789, when he left to become a member of the United States Congress. He was also appointed treasurer of Yale College, and awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree. He was a professor of religion for many years, and engaged in lengthy correspondences with some of the greatest theologians of the time.


In 1783 he and Richard Law were appointed to massively revise the confused and archaic Connecticut statutes, which they accomplished with great success. In 1784 he was elected Mayor of New Haven, which office he held until his death. He is especially notable for being the only person to sign all four great state papers of the United States: the United States Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Association, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution. Only one other person, Robert Morris, signed 3 of these documents (not the Articles of Association).


At the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775 Sherman was appointed to the Connecticut Governor's Council of Safety and also commissary to the Connecticut Troops. He was elected to the Continental Congress in 1774 and served very actively throughout the War, earning high esteem in the eyes of his fellow delegates and serving on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence.


During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, summoned into existence to amend the Articles of Confederation, Sherman offered what came to be called the Great Compromise or Connecticut Compromise. In this plan, the people would be represented in the house by proportional representation in one branch of the legislature, called the House of Representatives (the Lower House). The states would be represented in another house called the Senate (the Upper House). In the lower house, each state had a representative for every 30,000 people. On the other hand, in the upper house each state was guaranteed two senators, no matter their size.


Sherman is also memorable for his stance against paper money and his authoring of Article I Section 10 of the United States Constitution.


Mr. Wilson & Mr. Sherman moved to insert after the words "coin money" the words "nor emit bills of credit, nor make any thing but gold & silver coin a tender in payment of debts" making these prohibitions absolute, instead of making the measures allowable (as in the XIII art:) with the consent of the Legislature of the U.S. ... Mr. Sherman thought this a favorable crisis for crushing paper money. If the consent of the Legislature could authorize emissions of it, the friends of paper money would make every exertion to get into the Legislature in order to license it."


The source of this article is Wikipedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.



Richard Dobbs Spaight, North Carolina

Richard Dobbs Spaight, North Carolina

Richard Dobbs Spaight (March 25, 1758 – September 6, 1802) was the Federalist governor of the American State of North Carolina from 1792 to 1795.


Spaight was born in New Bern, North Carolina, the son of the Secretary of the Crown in the colony. Orphaned at the age of eight, Spaight was sent to school in Ireland and graduated from the University of Glasgow.


In 1778, Spaight returned to North Carolina and served as an aide to General Richard Caswell during the American Revolutionary War until 1781. Although he was elected to the North Carolina General Assembly in 1779, he was denied his seat after the election was challenged. Spaight was again elected in 1781 and served until 1783.


The General Assembly elected Spaight a delegate to the Continental Congress between 1782 and 1785; he then served in the North Carolina House of Commons from 1785 to 1787, and was named Speaker of the House. In 1787, Spaight was a delegate to the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the U.S. Constitution, and he signed the document when he was only 29 years old.


On 24 March 1788, Spaight married Mary Leach; their son Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr., later became Governor of North Carolina in 1835. Mary had the distinction of being the first lady to dance with George Washington at a ball in Washington’s honor at Tryon Palace in New Bern in 1791.


Under the North Carolina Constitution of 1776, Spaight was nominated for Governor in 1787, but was defeated by a majority in the General Assembly; he was nominated for the United States Senate in 1789 and was again defeated. In 1788, he was a member of the state convention which voted not to ratify the United States Constitution, although Spaight himself supported ratification.


Spaight retired from politics for several years due to ill health; he returned to the state House of Representatives in 1792, was elected governor that same year, and re-elected by the General Assembly for two further one-year terms.


During Spaight's term as governor, sites were chosen for the new state capital of Raleigh and the newly-chartered University of North Carolina. Spaight served as chair of the university's Board of Trustees during his term as governor. Spaight stepped down as governor in 1795, having served the constitutional limit of three one-year terms.


Spaight was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1798, filling the unexpired term of Nathan Bryan; he was elected to a two-year term in 1799, serving until 1801, and though elected as a Federalist, his views on states rights lead him to become associated with the Democratic-Republican party of Thomas Jefferson. He lost his bid for re-election to Congress, but returned to state government, serving in the North Carolina Senate beginning in 1801. Spaight died on 6 September 1802, following injuries sustained in a duel with John Stanly, the Federalist Congressman who had defeated him in the election of 1800 for the House of Representatives. Spaight is buried in his home town New Bern. Spaight Street in central Madison, Wisconsin is named in honor of Richard Spaight. Most of the main streets in downtown Madison are named after signers of the United States Constitution.


The source of this article is Wikipedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.



George Washington, Virginia

George Washington, Virginia

George Washington (February 22, 1732 [O.S. February 11, 1731] – December 14, 1799) was the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and served as the first President of the United States of America (1789–1797). For his central role in the formation of the United States, he is often referred to as the father of his country.


The Continental Congress appointed Washington commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. The following year, he forced the British out of Boston, lost New York City, and crossed the Delaware River in New Jersey, defeating the surprised enemy units later that year. As a result of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies at Saratoga and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and failure. Following the end of the war in 1783, Washington returned to private life and retired to his plantation at Mount Vernon, prompting an incredulous King George III to state, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world."


He presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787 because of general dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation. Washington became President of the United States in 1789 and established many of the customs and usages of the new government's executive department. He sought to create a nation capable of surviving in a world torn asunder by war between Britain and France. His unilateral Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 provided a basis for avoiding any involvement in foreign conflicts. He supported plans to build a strong central government by funding the national debt, implementing an effective tax system, and creating a national bank. Washington avoided the temptation of war and began a decade of peace with Britain via the Jay Treaty in 1795; he used his prestige to get it ratified over intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs and was its inspirational leader. Washington's farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars.


Washington was awarded the very first Congressional Gold Medal with the Thanks of Congress.


Washington died in 1799, and the funeral oration delivered by Henry Lee stated that of all Americans, he was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Washington has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.


George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 [O.S. February 11, 1731] the first son of Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washington, on the family's Pope's Creek Estate near present-day Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Moving to Ferry Farm in Stafford County at age six, George was educated in the home by his father and older brother. The growth of tobacco as a commodity in Virginia could be measured by the number of slaves imported to cultivate it. When Washington was born, the population of the colony was 50 percent black, mostly enslaved Africans and African Americans.


In his youth, Washington worked as a surveyor, and acquired what would become invaluable knowledge of the terrain around his native Colony of Virginia.


Washington embarked upon a career as a planter, which historians defined as those who held 20 or more slaves. In 1748 he was invited to help survey Lord Fairfax's lands west of the Blue Ridge. In 1749, he was appointed to his first public office, surveyor of newly created Culpeper County. Through his half-brother, Lawrence Washington, he became interested in the Ohio Company, which aimed to exploit Western lands. In 1751, George and his half-brother traveled to Barbados, staying at Bush Hill House, hoping for an improvement in Lawrence's tuberculosis. This was the only time George Washington traveled outside what is now the United States. After Lawrence's death in 1752, George inherited part of his estate and took over some of Lawrence's duties as adjutant of the colony.


Washington was appointed a district adjutant general in the Virginia militia in 1752, which appointed him Major Washington at the age of 20. He was charged with training the militia in the quarter assigned to him. At age 21, in Fredericksburg, Washington became a Master Mason in the organization of Freemasons, a fraternal organization that was a lifelong influence.


In December 1753, Washington was asked by Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia to carry a British ultimatum to the French on the Ohio frontier. Washington assessed French military strength and intentions, and delivered the message to the French at Fort Le Boeuf in present day Waterford, Pennsylvania. The message, which went unheeded, called for the French to abandon their development of the Ohio country. The two colonial powers were heading toward worldwide conflict. Washington's report on the affair was widely read on both sides of the Atlantic.


In 1754, Dinwiddie commissioned Washington a lieutenant colonel and ordered him to lead an expedition to Fort Duquesne to drive out the French. With his American Indian allies led by Tanacharison, Washington and his troops ambushed a French scouting party of some 30 men, led by Joseph Coulon de Jumonville. Washington and his troops were overwhelmed at Fort Necessity by a larger and better positioned French and Indian force. The terms of surrender included a statement that Washington had assassinated Jumonville after the ambush. Washington could not read French, and, unaware of what it said, signed his name. Released by the French, Washington returned to Virginia, where he was cleared of blame for the defeat, but resigned because he did not like the new arrangement of the Virginia Militia.


In 1755, Washington was an aide to British General Edward Braddock on the ill-fated Monongahela expedition. This was a major effort to retake the Ohio Country. While Braddock was killed and the expedition ended in disaster, Washington distinguished himself as the Hero of the Monongahela. While Washington's role during the battle has been debated, biographer Joseph Ellis asserts that Washington rode back and forth across the battlefield, rallying the remnant of the British and Virginian forces to a retreat. Subsequent to this action, Washington was given a difficult frontier command in the Virginia mountains, and was rewarded by being promoted to colonel and named commander of all Virginia forces.


In 1758, Washington participated as a brigadier general in the Forbes expedition that prompted French evacuation of Fort Duquesne, and British establishment of Pittsburgh.[10] Later that year, Washington resigned from active military service and spent the next sixteen years as a Virginia planter and politician.


On January 6, 1759, Washington married the widow Martha Dandridge Custis. Surviving letters suggest that he may have been in love at the time with Sally Fairfax, the wife of a friend. Some historians believe George and Martha were distantly related.


Nevertheless, George and Martha made a good marriage, and together raised her two children from her previous marriage, John Parke Custis and Martha Parke Custis, affectionately called "Jackie" and "Patsy" by the family. Later the Washingtons raised two of Mrs. Washington's grandchildren, Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis. George and Martha never had any children together—his earlier bout with smallpox followed, possibly, by tuberculosis may have made him sterile. The newlywed couple moved to Mount Vernon, where he took up the life of a planter and political figure.


Washington's marriage to Martha, a wealthy widow, greatly increased his property holdings and social standing. He acquired one-third of the 18,000 acre (73 km²) Custis estate upon his marriage, and managed the remainder on behalf of Martha's children. He frequently purchased additional land in his own name. In addition, he was granted land in what is now West Virginia as a bounty for his service in the French and Indian War. By 1775, Washington had doubled the size of Mount Vernon to 6,500 acres (26 km2), and had increased the slave population there to more than 100 persons. As a respected military hero and large landowner, he held local office and was elected to the Virginia provincial legislature, the House of Burgesses, beginning in 1758.


Washington lived an aristocratic lifestyle—fox hunting was a favorite leisure activity. Like most Virginia planters, he imported luxuries and other goods from England and paid for them by exporting his tobacco crop. Extravagant spending and the unpredictability of the tobacco market meant that many Virginia planters of Washington's day were losing money. (Thomas Jefferson, for example, would die deeply in debt.)


Washington began to pull himself out of debt by diversification. By 1766, he had switched Mount Vernon's primary cash crop from tobacco to wheat, a crop which could be sold in America, and diversified operations to include flour milling, fishing, horse breeding, spinning, and weaving. Patsy Custis's death in 1773 from epilepsy enabled Washington to pay off his British creditors, since half of her inheritance passed to him.


During these years, Washington concentrated on his business activities and remained somewhat aloof from politics. Although he expressed opposition to the 1765 Stamp Act, the first direct tax on the colonies, he did not take a leading role in the growing colonial resistance until after protests of the Townshend Acts (enacted in 1767) had become widespread. In May 1769, Washington introduced a proposal drafted by his friend George Mason, which called for Virginia to boycott English goods until the Acts were repealed. Parliament repealed the Townshend Acts in 1770, and, for Washington at least, the crisis had passed. However, Washington regarded the passage of the Intolerable Acts in 1774 as "an Invasion of our Rights and Privileges". In July 1774, he chaired the meeting at which the "Fairfax Resolves" were adopted, which called for, among other things, the convening of a Continental Congress. In August, Washington attended the First Virginia Convention, where he was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress.


After fighting broke out in April 1775, Washington appeared at the Second Continental Congress in military uniform, signaling that he was prepared for war. Washington had the prestige, the military experience, the charisma and military bearing, the reputation of being a strong patriot, and he was supported by the South, especially Virginia. Although he did not explicitly seek the office of commander and even claimed that he was not equal to it, there was no serious competition. Congress created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775; the next day, on the nomination of John Adams of Massachusetts, Washington was appointed Major General and elected by Congress to be Commander-in-chief.


Washington assumed command of the Continental Army in the field at Cambridge, Massachusetts in July 1775, during the ongoing siege of Boston. Realizing his army's desperate shortage of gunpowder, Washington asked for new sources. British arsenals were raided (including some in the Caribbean) and some manufacturing was attempted; a barely adequate supply (about 2.5 million pounds) was obtained by the end of 1776, mostly from France. Washington reorganized the army during the long standoff, and forced the British to withdraw by putting artillery on Dorchester Heights overlooking the city. The British evacuated Boston and Washington moved his army to New York City.


Although negative toward the patriots in the Continental Congress, British newspapers routinely praised Washington's personal character and qualities as a military commander. Moreover, both sides of the aisle in Parliament found the American general's courage, endurance, and attentiveness to the welfare of his troops worthy of approbation and examples of the virtues they and most other Britons found wanting in their own commanders. Washington's refusal to become involved in politics buttressed his reputation as a man fully committed to the military mission at hand and above the factional fray.


In August 1776, British General William Howe launched a massive naval and land campaign designed to seize New York and offer a negotiated settlement. The Continental Army under Washington engaged the enemy for the first time as an army of the newly declared independent United States at the Battle of Long Island, the largest battle of the entire war. This and several other British victories sent Washington scrambling out of New York and across New Jersey, leaving the future of the Continental Army in doubt. On the night of December 25, 1776, Washington staged a counterattack, leading the American forces across the Delaware River to capture nearly 1,000 Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey. Washington followed up his victory at Trenton with another one at Princeton in early January. These winter victories quickly raised the morale of the army, secured Washington's position as Commander, and inspired young men to join the army.


British forces defeated Washington's troops in the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777. Howe outmaneuvered Washington and marched into Philadelphia unopposed on September 26. Washington's army unsuccessfully attacked the British garrison at Germantown in early October. Meanwhile, Burgoyne, out of reach from help from Howe, was trapped and forced to surrender his entire army at Saratoga, New York. France responded to Burgoyne's defeat by entering the war, openly allying with America and turning the Revolutionary War into a major worldwide war. Washington's loss of Philadelphia prompted some members of Congress to discuss removing Washington from command. This attempt failed after Washington's supporters rallied behind him.


Washington's army camped at Valley Forge in December 1777, staying there for the next six months. Over the winter, 2,500 men of the 10,000-strong force died from disease and exposure. The next spring, however, the army emerged from Valley Forge in good order, thanks in part to a full-scale training program supervised by Baron von Steuben, a veteran of the Prussian general staff. The British evacuated Philadelphia to New York in 1778 but Washington attacked them at Monmouth and drove them from the battlefield. Afterwards, the British continued to head towards New York. Washington moved his army outside of New York.


In the summer of 1779 at Washington's direction, General John Sullivan carried out a decisive scorched earth campaign that destroyed at least forty Iroquois villages throughout present-day central and upstate New York in retaliation for Iroquois and Tory attacks against American settlements earlier in the war. Washington delivered the final blow to the British in 1781, after a French naval victory allowed American and French forces to trap a British army in Virginia. The surrender at Yorktown on October 17, 1781 marked the end of most fighting. Though known for his successes in the war and of his life that followed, Washington suffered many defeats before achieving victory.

Depiction by John Trumbull of Washington resigning his commission as commander-in-chief.

In March 1783, Washington used his influence to disperse a group of Army officers who had threatened to confront Congress regarding their back pay. By the Treaty of Paris (signed that September), Great Britain recognized the independence of the United States. Washington disbanded his army and, on November 2, gave an eloquent farewell address to his soldiers.


On November 25, the British evacuated New York City, and Washington and the governor took possession. At Fraunces Tavern on December 4, Washington formally bade his officers farewell and on December 23, 1783, he resigned his commission as commander-in-chief, emulating the Roman general Cincinnatus. He was an exemplar of the republican ideal of citizen leadership who rejected power. During this period, there was no position of President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, the forerunner to the Constitution.


Washington's retirement to Mount Vernon was short-lived. He made an exploratory trip to the western frontier in 1784, was persuaded to attend the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, and was unanimously elected president of the Convention. He participated little in the debates involved (though he did vote for or against the various articles), but his high prestige maintained collegiality and kept the delegates at their labors. The delegates designed the presidency with Washington in mind, and allowed him to define the office once elected. After the Convention, his support convinced many, including the Virginia legislature, to vote for ratification; the new Constitution was ratified by all 13 states.


The Electoral College elected Washington unanimously in 1789, and again in the 1792 election; he remains the only president to receive 100% of the electoral votes. At his inauguration, he insisted on having Barbados Rum served. John Adams was elected vice president. Washington took the oath of office as the first President under the Constitution for the United States of America on April 30, 1789 at Federal Hall in New York City although, at first, he had not wanted the position.


The 1st United States Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year—a large sum in 1789. Washington, already wealthy, declined the salary, since he valued his image as a selfless public servant. At the urging of Congress, however, he ultimately accepted the payment, to avoid setting a precedent whereby the presidency would be perceived as limited only to independently wealthy individuals who could serve without any salary. Washington attended carefully to the pomp and ceremony of office, making sure that the titles and trappings were suitably republican and never emulated European royal courts. To that end, he preferred the title "Mr. President" to the more majestic names suggested.


Washington proved an able administrator. An excellent delegator and judge of talent and character, he held regular cabinet meetings to debate issues before making a final decision. In handling routine tasks, he was "systematic, orderly, energetic, solicitous of the opinion of others but decisive, intent upon general goals and the consistency of particular actions with them."


Washington reluctantly served a second term as president. He refused to run for a third, establishing the customary policy of a maximum of two terms for a president which later became law by the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.


After retiring from the presidency in March 1797, Washington returned to Mount Vernon with a profound sense of relief. He devoted much time to farming.


On July 4, 1798, Washington was commissioned by President John Adams to be Lieutenant General and Commander-in-chief of the armies raised or to be raised for service in a prospective war with France. He served as the senior officer of the United States Army between July 13, 1798 and December 14, 1799. He participated in the planning for a Provisional Army to meet any emergency that might arise, but did not take the field.


On December 12, 1799, Washington spent several hours inspecting his farms on horseback, in snow and later hail and freezing rain. He sat down to dine that evening without changing his wet clothes. The next morning, he awoke with a bad cold, fever, and a throat infection called quinsy that turned into acute laryngitis and pneumonia. Washington died on the evening of December 14, 1799, at his home aged 67, while attended by Dr. James Craik, one of his closest friends, Dr. Gustavus Richard Brown, Dr. Elisha C. Dick, and Tobias Lear V, Washington's personal secretary. Lear would record the account in his journal, writing that Washington's last words were "'Tis well."


Modern doctors believe that Washington died largely because of his treatment, which included calomel and bloodletting, resulting in a combination of shock from the loss of five pints of blood, as well as asphyxia and dehydration. Washington's remains were buried at Mount Vernon. Originally, he was interred in the old tomb on the estate. In 1831, for the cenntenial of his birth, his remains were moved to the current tomb. To protect their privacy, Martha Washington burned the correspondence between her husband and herself following his death. Only three letters between the couple have survived.


Throughout the world men and women were saddened by Washington's death. Napoleon ordered ten days of mourning throughout France and in the United States thousands wore mourning clothes for months. On December 18, 1799, a funeral was held at Mount Vernon.


The source of this article is Wikipedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.



Hugh Williamson, North Carolina

Hugh Williamson, North Carolina

Hugh Williamson (December 5, 1735–May 22, 1819) was an American politician. He is best known for representing North Carolina at the Constitutional Convention.


Williamson was a scholar of international renown. His erudition had brought him into contact with some of the leading intellectuals of the Patriot cause and, in turn, with the ferment of political ideas that eventually found expression in the Constitution. During the American Revolution, Will as physician and natural scientist to the American war effort. His experiences in that preeminent event of his generation transformed the genial scholar into an adroit politician and a determined leader in the campaign for effective national government. This leadership was evident not only at the Convention in Philadelphia but also, with telling effect, during the ratification debates in North Carolina.


Williamson's career demonstrates the rootlessness that characterized the lives of many Americans even in the eighteenth century. Born on the frontier, he lived for significant periods of his long life in three different regions of the country. This mobility undoubtedly contributed to the development of his nationalistic outlook, an outlook strengthened by wartime service with interstate military forces and reinforced by the interests of the planters and merchants that formed his North Carolina constituency. These experiences convinced him that only a strong central government could adequately protect and foster the political, economic, and intellectual future of the new nation.


Williamson was born in Chester County in what was then the frontier region of Pennsylvania. His fragile health as a youth weighed against his beginning a career in the family's clothier business. His parents instead sent him to a private academy and then to the College of Philadelphia (today's University of Pennsylvania). A member of the college's first graduating class, Williamson obtained a license to preach in Connecticut, but factional disputes among the local clergy and a resurgence of ill health led him to abandon a career in the ministry. Further study and a master's degree led to employment in 1760 as a professor of mathematics at his alma mater.


In another career shift four years later, Williamson turned to the study of medicine. Armed with a degree from the prestigious University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, he returned to Philadelphia to open a private practice. At the same time, he pursued a number of independent scientific and educational projects, and his work in these areas eventually led to membership in the American Philosophical Society as well as acclaim in Europe's intellectual circles.


Interest in science and education indirectly led Williamson to politics and the Patriot cause. Sailing for England in 1773 to raise funds for a local educational project, Williamson stopped en route at Boston. There he witnessed the famous Boston Tea Party, in which Patriots dressed as American Indians destroyed a cargo of tea in protest over a newly enforced Parliamentary tax on imported commodities. On reaching London he was summoned before the Privy Council to testify on this act of rebellion and on colonial affairs in general.


Williamson came of age politically during this encounter. In response to questions by Council members, who were in the process of formulating punitive measures against Massachusetts, he bluntly warned that repression would provoke rebellion. He then went on to express the argument that was becoming the core of the Patriot position: Americans were entitled to the full rights of Englishmen, including representation in the decisions of the English government. This testimony brought him to the attention of other Americans in London. A mutual interest in scientific matters cemented a solid working relationship with Benjamin Franklin, and Williamson soon found himself joined with the famous American scientist and others in appealing for support among those Englishmen who, in opposition to their own government, sympathized with American claims.


Williamson continued on to the Netherlands where, taking advantage of the cover afforded by his attendance at meetings on scientific and educational subjects, he organized the publication of pamphlets and other papers that supported the Patriot cause. While there he learned that the colonies had declared their independence. Narrowly avoiding capture at sea, he rushed back to Philadelphia in early 1777 and volunteered for service in the Medical Department of the Continental Army. The Department had no opening at that time, so Williamson decided to form a partnership with a younger brother to import medicines and other scarce items from the West Indies through the British blockade. Believing that he could best contribute to the war effort by using his contacts and reputation in this manner, Williamson made Edenton, North Carolina, his base of operations. Settlement in North Carolina soon led to his establishing a medical practice to serve the planters and merchants of the region.


These various activities brought Williamson to the attention of North Carolina's political leaders. Facing the threat of a British invasion of the region from the sea and bases in Florida, the state legislature voted to raise a force of 4,000 men to assist South Carolina. When Governor Richard Caswell, with the rank of major general, took to the field at the head of these citizen-soldiers, he named Williamson to serve as the state's Physician and Surgeon General, a post Williamson held until the end of the war.


The capture of Charleston, South Carolina in 1780 not only marked a stunning defeat for American forces, but also signaled the end of the first phase in a new British war strategy. Under this strategy British forces would continue to tie down Washington's main army in the north while a Royal army under General Charles Cornwallis would advance northward. Using Savannah, Georgia and Charleston as their bases of operations, the British expected their regular units to push through North Carolina and Virginia while a militia composed of local Loyalists secured areas captured by the regular forces. If successful, this strategy would have led to the conquest of the colonies from the south. To counter Cornwallis' efforts, the Continental Congress sent Horatio Gates to command a small force composed of a division of continentals, Caswell's units from North Carolina, and a group of hastily assembled Virginia militia units.


Gates attempted to attack the British advance base near Camden, South Carolina, but his tired militia units, which were still forming when the battle began, were routed, and the Americans suffered another defeat. Williamson, who witnessed the disaster, volunteered to pass behind enemy lines to care for the American wounded. He spent two months on this mercy mission. When smallpox threatened the prison camp, he argued strenuously with Cornwallis and other British officers over the proper method to combat the disease. His perseverance and scientific reputation paid off. The British followed his advice, and an epidemic was averted.


In the fall of 1780 Williamson returned to the field. Major General Nathanael Greene, Gates' replacement, had begun his brilliant campaign to recover the south through the joint efforts of continentals and militia. While his main force engaged the British in a series of battles, the militiamen concentrated on picking off small outposts and isolated enemy parties. Francis Marion], nicknamed "Swamp Fox", and others who operated mainly in South Carolina are most remembered for this type of guerrilla warfare, but North Carolina units also adopted these tactics. Williamson was attached to a force under Brigadier General Isaac Gregory whose mission was to limit British activity in eastern North Carolina. Gregory established his base in the vast reaches of the Dismal Swamp where he could pin the British down in Wilmington without jeopardizing his small force. Williamson's bold innovations in preventive medicine, especially his strenuous efforts to indoctrinate raw troops in the importance of sanitation and diet, kept the command virtually free of disease during the six months that it inhabited the swamp-—a rare feat in eighteenth-century warfare.


In 1782 Williamson's neighbors elected him to the lower house of the North Carolina legislature, where he served for several terms. He sat on numerous committees, including those formed to regulate veterans' rights, and he authored the state's copyright law. His fellow legislators also chose Williamson to serve in the Continental Congress in 1782. Appointment to this national body represented a natural political progression for Williamson, who was evolving into a champion of federalism. His experiences during the Revolution, especially his exposure to the pressing need for interstate cooperation during the 1780 and 1781 campaigns in the Carolinas, had convinced him of the military importance of strong national government. This interest increased when he came to realize the economic benefits that might accrue from binding interstate association. In 1786 North Carolina chose Williamson to attend the Annapolis Convention, a meeting called to settle economic questions affecting the middle Atlantic states. Although he arrived too late to play a role in the Maryland proceedings, he was prepared to discuss interstate issues the following year when his state appointed him as a representative at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.


Williamson, a faithful attendee at Convention sessions, lodged with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, two of the country's best-known nationalist leaders. His intellectual stature and international background also propelled him into a leadership role in the North Carolina delegation. A capacity for hard work and his innate good humor made him invaluable to the Federalists as they worked out the many political compromises necessary for consensus on the new instrument of government.


Shortly before the Convention adjourned, Williamson wrote a series of public letters in defense of a strong federal system. These "Letters of Sylvius" addressed many of the practical concerns of his state, where the rural and frequently debt-ridden farmers favored minimal government regulations, while the mercantile-planter group from the seaboard region wanted an economy strictly regulated by a central government. Using simple examples, Williamson explained to both groups the dual dangers of inflationary finances and of taxes that would stunt the growth of domestic manufacture. He exhorted North Carolinians to support the Constitution as the basis for their future prosperity. The ratification process, he explained, would decide whether the United States would remain a "system of patchwork and a series of expedients" or become "the most flourishing, independent, and happy nation on the face of the earth."


Following adjournment in Philadelphia, Williamson returned to New York to participate in the closing sessions of the Continental Congress and to serve as one of the agents settling North Carolina's accounts with that body. These duties caused him to miss the Hillsboro Convention, where North Carolina first considered and rejected the Constitution, but he played a major role at a second convention that met in Fayetteville in 1789. Here he participated in a successful effort to rally support for the Constitution.


Williamson's neighbors elected him to represent them in the first federal Congress. He served two terms before retiring and settling in New York City, where he continued to pursue a wide range of scholarly interests. He wrote extensively about his research, joined numerous learned societies, and contributed to many charities. He also served as one of the original trustees of the University of North Carolina.


Thomas Jefferson described Williamson's role at the Philadelphia Convention in the following terms: "he was a useful member, of an acute mind, attentive to business, and of an high degree of erudition."


The source of this article is Wikipedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.



James Wilson, Pennsylvania

James Wilson, Pennsylvania

James Wilson (September 14, 1742 – August 21, 1798), was a Scottish lawyer, most notable as a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. He was twice elected to the Continental Congress, a major force in the drafting of the United States Constitution, a leading legal theoretician and one of the six original justices appointed by George Washington to the Supreme Court of the United States.


James Wilson was born in Scotland in 1742. He attended a number of universities without attaining a degree. He emigrated to British America in 1766, carrying a number of valuable letters of introduction with him. Through these connections he began tutoring and then teaching at the College of Philadelphia, now the University of Pennsylvania. He petitioned there for a degree and was awarded an honorary Master of Arts several months later.


The most popular prestigious career field in those days was the law. Wilson managed to secure studies at the office of John Dickinson a short time later. After two years of study he attained the bar in Philadelphia, and the following year (1767) set up his own practice in Reading. His office was very successful and he managed to earn a small fortune in a few short years. At that point he had bought a small farm near Carlisle, was handling cases in eight local Counties, and lecturing on English Literature at the College of Philadelphia. It was also during this period that he began a life-long fascination with land speculation.


Taking up the proto-revolutionary cause in 1774, Wilson published "Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament," a pamphlet denying all authority of Parliament over the Colonies. Though considered by scholars on par with the seminal works of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams of the same year, it was actually penned in 1768, perhaps the first cogent argument to be formulated against British dominance.


In 1775 he was a Colonel in the 4th Battalion of Associators and rose to the rank of Brigadier General of State Militia.


As a member of the Continental Congress in 1776, Wilson was a firm advocate for independence and became an imposing figure that was looked upon favorably by his fellow Congressmen. But with Pennsylvania divided on the issue of separation, Wilson, not wanting to go against the wishes of his constituents, refused to vote. Only when he received more feedback did he vote for independence.


While serving in the Congress Wilson was clearly among the leaders in the formation of Native American policy. "If the positions he held and the frequency with which he appeared on committees concerned with Indian affairs are an index, he was until his departure from Congress in 1777 the most active and influential single delegate in laying down the general outline that governed the relations of Congress with the border tribes.” (James Wilson: Founding Father, Charles Smith Page, 1956, p. 72.)


Wilson also served from June 1776 on the Committee on Spies, along with John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Rutledge, and Robert Livingston. They together defined treason. (Page, p. 119.)


On October 4, 1779, the Fort Wilson Riot began. In response to inflation, poverty, and food shortages that had been on the rise in the last 3 years, a militia supporting price regulations and opposing Philadelphia's conservative leadership marched to James Wilson's house on Third and Walnut Streets. Wilson and thirty five of his colleagues who feared the crowd barricaded themselves in his home, which was later nicknamed Fort Wilson. In the short battle that ensued, 5 soldiers died, and 17-19 people were wounded. The city's soldiers, the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry and Baylor's 3rd Continental Light Dragoons, led by Joseph Reed eventually intervened and rescued James Wilson and his colleagues.


In 1779 Wilson accepted the role of Advocate General for France in America. He held this post until 1783.


Known as one of the most prominent lawyers of his time, Wilson is credited for being the most learned of the Framers of the Constitution. A fellow delegate in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia made the following assessment of James Wilson: "Government seems to have been his peculiar study, all the political institutions of the world he knows in detail, and can trace the causes and effects of every revolution from the earliest stages of the Grecian commonwealth down to the present time."


Wilson's most lasting impact on the country came as member of the Committee of Detail, which produced the first draft of the United States Constitution in 1787 (a year after the death of his wife). He wanted senators and the president to be popularly elected. He also proposed the Three-Fifths Compromise at the convention, which made slaves count as three-fifths of a person for representation in the House and Electoral College. Along with James Madison, he was perhaps the best versed of the framers in the study of political economy. He understood clearly the central problem of dual sovereignty (nation and state) and held a vision of an almost limitless future for the United States. Wilson addressed the Convention one hundred-sixty-eight times. (World Book Encyclopedia, 2003, James Wilson article.) A witness to Wilson’s performance during the convention, Dr. Benjamin Rush, called Wilson’s mind “one blaze of light.” (“James Wilson: A Forgotten Father,” St. John, Gerald J., in The Philadelphia Lawyer, www.philadelphiabar.org.)


Though not in agreement with all parts of the final, necessarily compromised Constitution, Wilson stumped hard for its adoption, leading Pennsylvania, at its ratifying convention, to become the second state (behind Delaware) to accept the document. His October 6, 1787 speech in the State House Yard has been seen as particularly important in setting the terms of the ratification debate, both locally and nationally. In particular, it focused on the fact there would be a popularly elected national government for the first time. Wilson was later instrumental in the redrafting of the 1776 Pennsylvania State constitution, leading the group in favour of a new constitution, and entering into an agreement with William Findley (leader of the Constitutionalist Party) that limited the partisan feeling that had previously characterised Pennsylvanian politics.


He began a series of law lectures at the College of Philadelphia in 1790—only the second at any academic institution in the United States—in which he mostly ignored the practical matters of legal training. Like many of his educated contemporaries, he viewed the academic study of law as a branch of a general cultured education, rather than solely as a prelude to a profession.


Wilson broke off his first course of law-lectures in April 1791 to attend to his duties as Supreme Court justice on circuit. He appears to have begun a second-year course in late 1791 or in early 1792 (by which time the College of Philadelphia had been merged into the University of Pennsylvania), but at some unrecorded point the lectures stopped again and were never resumed. They were not published (except for the first) until after his death, in an edition produced by his son, Bird Wilson, in 1804. The University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia officially traces its foundation to Wilson's lectures.


Wilson's final years were marked by failure. He assumed heavy debts investing in land that became real liabilities with the onset of the Panic of 1796-1797. Of note was the failure in Pennsylvania with Theophilus Cazenove. Wilson was briefly imprisoned for a small debt in Burlington, New Jersey. His son paid the debt, but Wilson went to North Carolina to escape other creditors. He was again briefly imprisoned, but nevertheless became a circuit judge there. In 1798, he suffered a bout of malaria, then died of a stroke while visiting a friend in Edenton, North Carolina. He was buried in the Johnston burial ground on a plantation near Edenton, but was reinterred in 1906 at Christ Churchyard, which is located in Philadelphia.


“Tracing over the events of Wilson’s life, we are impressed by the lucid quality of his mind. With this went a restless energy and insatiable ambition, an almost frightening vitality that turned with undiminished energy and enthusiasm to new tasks and new ventures. Yet, when all has been said, the inner man remains, despite our probings, an enigma.” – Charles Page Smith, James Wilson: Founding Father, 1956, p. 393


In the lectures mentioned above, Wilson, among the first of American legal philosophers, worked through in more detail some of the thinking suggested in the opinions issuing at that time from the Supreme Court. He felt, in fact, compelled to begin by spending some time in arguing out the justification of the appropriateness of his undertaking a course of lecture. But he assures his students that: "When I deliver my sentiments from this chair, they shall be my honest sentiments: when I deliver them from the bench, they shall be nothing more. In both places I shall make ? because I mean to support ? the claim to integrity: in neither shall I make ? because, in neither, can I support ? the claim to infallibility." (First lecture, 1804 Philadelphia ed.)


With this, he raises the most important question of the era: having acted upon revolutionary principles in setting up the new country, "Why should we not teach our children those principles, upon which we ourselves have thought and acted? Ought we to instil into their tender minds a theory, especially if unfounded, which is contradictory to our own practice, built on the most solid foundation? Why should we reduce them to the cruel dilemma of condemning, either those principles which they have been taught to believe, or those persons whom they have been taught to revere?" (First lecture.)


That this is no mere academic question is revealed with a cursory review of any number of early Supreme Court opinions. Perhaps it is best here to quote the opening of Justice Wilson's opinion in Chisholm v. State of Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793), one of the most momentous decisions in American history: "This is a case of uncommon magnitude. One of the parties to it is a State; certainly respectable, claiming to be sovereign. The question to be determined is, whether this State, so respectable, and whose claim soars so high, is amenable to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the United States? This question, important in itself, will depend on others, more important still; and, may, perhaps, be ultimately resolved into one, no less radical than this 'do the people of the United States form a Nation?'"


In order to arrive at an answer to this question, one that would provide the foundation for the United States of America, Wilson knew that legal thinkers had to resolve in their minds clearly the question of the difference between "the principles of the constitutions and governments and laws of the United States, and the republicks, of which they are formed" and the "constitution and government and laws of England." He made it quite clear that he thought the American items to be "materially better." (First lecture.)

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