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William Cranch. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109848).

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Cranch, William (17 July 1769–01 September 1855), jurist and Supreme Court reporter, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Cranch, a watchmaker, judge, and legislator, and Mary Smith. His mother was Abigail Adams’s sister. Graduated from Harvard at the age of nineteen, Cranch was a classmate there of his cousin ...

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McClain, Emlin (26 November 1851–25 May 1915), judge and legal educator, was born in Salem, Ohio, the son of William McClain, a teacher and farmer, and Rebecca Harris. In 1855 the family moved to Iowa and settled near Tipton, Cedar County, where McClain’s father farmed, administered the local schools, and taught at the teachers’ institute. After the Civil War the family moved to Iowa City and Des Moines, where his father operated preparatory schools....

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Root, Jesse (28 December 1736–29 March 1822), politician and jurist, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, the son of Ebenezer Root and Sarah Strong. As the youngest of eight children, Root was directed by circumstances to pursue his worldly fortune within the ranks of the growing professional classes rather than as a farmer amidst the mounting land shortage in mid-eighteenth-century Connecticut. In 1756 Root graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in preparation for the ministry. He continued his theological studies under the tutelage of the Reverend Samuel Lockwood, the Congregational minister for Andover, Connecticut, and was formally licensed as a Congregational preacher by the Hartford South Association on 29 March 1757. In May 1758 Root married Mary Banks of Newark, New Jersey; they would have nine children....

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Swift, Zephaniah (27 February 1759–27 September 1823), congressman and jurist, was born in Wareham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, the son of Roland (or Rowland) Swift and Mary Dexter. While still young, Swift moved with his parents to Lebanon, Connecticut. He entered Yale College at fifteen and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1778; he received a master of arts degree, also from Yale, in 1781. After completing his college education, Swift studied law and was admitted to the Connecticut bar....

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Taylor, John Louis (01 March 1769–29 January 1829), North Carolina jurist, was born in London, England, the son of Irish parents whose names are unknown. Orphaned as a child, Taylor came to America at age twelve under the tutelage of James Taylor, an elder brother. John Taylor attended the College of William and Mary, where he studied the classics, but did not graduate. Moving to North Carolina, he studied law on his own and was licensed to practice in 1788. Taylor settled in Fayetteville, where he established a successful legal practice. He represented that borough in the House of Commons in the 1792, 1794, and 1795 legislative sessions. As a commoner he advocated suppression of the slave trade and the manumission of slaves. Taylor also supported measures to improve the state’s justice system. He was a presidential elector in 1792....

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Toulmin, Harry (07 April 1766–11 November 1823), clergyman, statesman, and judge, was born in Taunton, England, the son of Joshua Toulmin, a Unitarian clergyman, and Jane Smith, a bookstore proprietor. Toulmin attended Hoxton Academy, but much of his education came from spending time in his mother’s bookstore....