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Brearly, David (11 June 1745–16 August 1790), jurist and revolutionary war officer, was born at “Spring Grove” farm, near Maidensead (now Lawrenceville), New Jersey, the son of David Brearly and Mary Clark, farmers. The family name was sometimes spelled “Brearley.” His early education is unknown, and he may have briefly attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He studied law and became an attorney at Allentown, New Jersey, where he made his residence. Brearly participated in the revolutionary movement and became associated with men involved in protest against Great Britain before the war who were later dubbed the “early Whigs” and who would dominate East New Jersey politics. In his law practice, he specialized in estate matters; he was appointed Monmouth County surrogate in 1768 and 1771. About 1767 Brearly married Elizabeth Mullen; they had four children before she died in 1777....

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Johnston, Peter (06 January 1763–08 December 1831), jurist, legislator, and soldier, was born at Osborne’s Landing on the James River, Virginia, the son of Peter Johnston, a merchant and farmer, and Martha Rogers. At two years of age Johnston moved with his parents to a large farm in Prince Edward County, Virginia, where he was educated by tutors before enrolling in Hampden-Sydney College (established on land donated by Johnston’s father). In late 1779, in a decision that displeased his Loyalist father, Johnston quit college to join the cavalry legion of Lieutenant Colonel ...

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Varnum, James Mitchell (17 December 1748–09 January 1789), lawyer, revolutionary war general, and judge, was born in Dracut, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Varnum and Hannah Mitchell, affluent farmers who had James prepared for Harvard College. Varnum successfully entered the class of 1769 along with forty-two other undergraduates. In April 1768, during his junior year, he helped lead a student protest against the college tutors. Several undergraduates, including Varnum, left the campus as a result of this upheaval, though most of them returned and were reinstated. Varnum, however, made his departure permanent and on 23 May 1768 entered the College of Rhode Island (now Brown University) in Providence. He earned his B.A. the following year and, at the college’s commencement exercises, presented the argument that “British America cannot under the present circumstances, consistent with good policy, afford to become an independent State.” He received his M.A. from the college in 1772....