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Bedford, Gunning, Jr. (1747–30 March 1812), revolutionary statesman, signer of the U.S. Constitution, and federal district judge, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Gunning Bedford and Susannah Jacquett. His upper-middle-class father was associated with the Philadelphia Carpenter’s Company, a labor combination of master workers. Bedford referred to himself as Gunning Bedford, Jr., probably to avoid being confused with his notable cousin and contemporary, Colonel ...

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Benson, Egbert (21 June 1746–24 August 1833), jurist and founding father, was born in New York City, the son of Robert Benson and Catherine Van Borsum. After graduating from King’s College (now Columbia) in 1765, Benson served his legal clerkship in the New York City office of the revolutionary leader ...

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Bulloch, Archibald (1730–1777), lawyer and revolutionary war leader, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of James Bulloch, a clergyman, member of the South Carolina Assembly, merchant, and Colleton County planter, and Jean Stobo. Although little is known about his early years, it is believed that he received a liberal education and studied law. Prior to his move to Georgia in 1758, he was admitted to the bar and acquired a rice plantation near Purrysburg on the Savannah River. In 1764 he married Mary De Veaux; they had four children. President ...

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Burnet, William (02 December 1730–07 October 1791), physician, judge, and member of the Continental Congress, was born in Lyon’s Farms, a town located between Newark and Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of Ichabod Burnet, a physician who emigrated from Scotland, and Hannah (maiden name unknown). He was educated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) when it was located in Newark under Rev. ...

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Dana, Francis (13 June 1743–25 April 1811), public official, diplomat, and jurist, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Dana, a lawyer, and Lydia Trowbridge. Francis entered Harvard College in 1758 and graduated in 1762. He received an M.A. from Harvard in 1765 at the same time that he was studying law in Cambridge with his uncle Edward Trowbridge. Dana was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1767 and became successful in his practice. In 1773 he married Elizabeth Ellery, daughter of ...

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Dyer, Eliphalet (14 September 1721–13 May 1807), politician and jurist, was born in Windham, Connecticut, the son of Thomas Dyer, a politician and farmer, and Lydia Backus. Because of the deepening land shortage in colonial Connecticut, Dyer trained for a professional career rather than enter into farming, and he graduated from Yale College in 1740. As law schools were nonexistent in colonial New England, Dyer entered an apprenticeship to train for the law; in 1746 he was admitted as a Connecticut lawyer. In 1747, following the traditional pattern for young attorneys in eighteen-century Connecticut to enhance their careers by seeking several public offices, Dyer was elected as one of Windham’s two deputies to the Connecticut General Assembly. Serving in the colony’s lower house of the legislature until 1762, he was then elected to the Governor’s Council, where he served continuously until 1784. Dyer’s election to the council, which served as the upper legislative body, signaled his arrival in the front ranks of Connecticut political life at the age of 41....

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Few, William (08 June 1748–16 July 1828), lawyer, politician, and banker, was born near Baltimore, Maryland, the son of William Few, a failed tobacco planter turned frontier farmer, and Mary Wheeler. Few’s family moved in 1758 to North Carolina, where young William received little formal schooling but enough skills and enough love for reading that the future Founding Father was able to educate himself. In the early 1770s, the Few family joined the Regulator movement, rural westerners’ sometimes violent opposition to unrepresentative coastal political control. The family lost one of William’s brothers, the family farm, and the family fortune in the struggle for more local autonomy. The Fews then moved to Georgia, leaving William behind to settle the family’s affairs, to farm, and to teach himself law....

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Gibbons, William (1750?–27 September 1800), lawyer and politician, was born at Bear Bluff, South Carolina, the son of Joseph Gibbons, a successful rice planter, and Hannah Martin. Young Gibbons read law in Charleston and began his legal practice in Savannah before the Revolution. Georgians, slow to join the revolutionary movement, were split between Whigs and Loyalists, a division reflected in Gibbons’s family. William was an ardent Whig, whereas his brother ...

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Patrick Henry. Etching by Albert Rosenthal, 1888. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102566).

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Henry, Patrick (29 May 1736–06 June 1799), revolutionary statesman, orator, and lawyer, was born at Studley, Hanover County, Virginia, the son of John Henry, a Scottish-born and prosperous planter, and Sarah Winston Syme, a young widow, also from a family of substantial means. Often mistakenly thought to have been of more humble origins, Patrick Henry was, by birth and estate, a member of the gentry of the colony, if not of the highest rank. After attending a local school for a few years, he received the remainder of his formal education from his father, who had attended King’s College, University of Aberdeen....