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Dana, Richard (26 June 1700–17 May 1772), lawyer, justice of the peace, and resistance leader, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Daniel Dana, a selectman of Cambridge, and Naomi Croswell. Little is known of his early life. In 1718 he graduated from Harvard College, where his roommate was John Hancock, father of the famous patriot and in 1721 he was inoculated against smallpox. He then began to practice law in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The Massachusetts General Court appointed him notary public for the ports of Marblehead and Salem in 1733, a post he held until Marblehead elected him to the House of Representatives for one term, his only one, in 1738. In 1737 he married Lydia Trowbridge, the daughter of Thomas Trowbridge and sister of Judge ...

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Downer, Silas (16 July 1729–15 December 1785), scrivener and lawyer, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Samuel Downer and Phebe Bishop, farmers. The family soon moved to Sunderland, Massachusetts. Downer entered Harvard in 1747 and was ranked twenty-eighth in a class of thirty. Since Harvard students were then ranked according to their family’s social standing, Downer’s low ranking indicates his relatively humble origins. As an undergraduate, he won Brattle and Hollis scholarships. After receiving an M.A. in 1750, he moved to Rhode Island, settled in Providence, and became a scrivener. He married Sarah Kelton in 1758; within a decade the couple had five children....

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Hale, Nathan (06 June 1755–22 September 1776), martyr of the American Revolution, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, the son of Richard Hale and Elizabeth Strong, successful farmers. A sickly infant, he barely survived his first year, but as he grew he became an outdoorsman and a powerful athlete. He enjoyed reading, and his father decided to prepare him for the ministry, first by hiring Rev. Joseph Huntington to tutor him and then by sending him in 1769 to Yale College. At Yale he was widely admired by his teachers and fellow students. Dr. ...

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Howley, Richard (1740–30 December 1784), lawyer and governor, was born near Savannah, Georgia; his parents are unknown. Few records of his early life survive, but he apparently studied law and moved to Sunbury, St. John’s Parish, as a young man. In 1775 he married Sarah Fuller of Charleston, South Carolina, the widow of William Fuller and mother of two daughters. Subsequently, the couple had two daughters of their own, one of whom reached adulthood. When the Revolution began, Howley was practicing law at Sunbury, where he also owned a small plantation and a few slaves. He was not prominent in the early stages of the Revolution in Georgia. Apparently, he did not attend early Whig meetings in Savannah during 1774–1775, nor was he a member of the provincial congress. Savannah fell to the British on 29 December 1778, and Colonel Augustine Prevost began a siege of Sunbury. When Fort Morris surrendered in January 1779, Howley fled to Augusta....

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Lafayette, James (1748–09 August 1830), patriot spy, also known to history as James Armistead, was born in slavery; little is recorded of his parentage or early life except that he belonged to William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. In the summer of 1781 James was attending his master while Armistead worked as a commissary in Richmond, supplying patriot forces under the command of the ...

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Quincy, Josiah, Jr. (23 February 1744–26 April 1775), lawyer and political leader, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Josiah Quincy, a merchant, and Hannah Sturgis. Quincy was educated at Harvard College, and he graduated with the class of 1763. Delivering the very first English oration at the 1766 commencement, when he was awarded the master’s degree, Quincy chose to speak on “Patriotism” in the aftermath of the Stamp Act crisis, using a rhetoric influenced by William Shakespeare, and drawing on his favorite political writers, Algernon Sidney, John Locke, and Cato (John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon). Soon thereafter ...

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Weare, Meshech (16 January 1713–14 January 1786), president and chief justice of New Hampshire, was born in the part of Hampton, New Hampshire, that in 1726 became the town of Hampton Falls and now lies in Seabrook. He was the son of Mary Waite and ...