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Dane, Nathan (29 December 1752–15 February 1835), lawyer, legislator, and legal writer, was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, the son of Daniel Dane and Abigail Burnham, prosperous farmers. Dane, one of twelve children, received a common school elementary education. He worked on his father’s farm until he entered Harvard College at the unusual age of twenty-two. Dane’s college career from 1774 to 1778 was interrupted by the American Revolution; he apparently performed militia service in Boston during the British siege of the city in 1775–1776. In his academic studies Dane displayed an aptitude for mathematics, which later bore fruit when, as a legislator, he took special interest in taxation, government finance, and census issues. Throughout his life Dane retained the studiousness that marked his college years....

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Howard, Benjamin Chew (05 November 1791–06 March 1872), lawyer and legislator, was born at “Belvedere” in Baltimore County, Maryland, the son of John Eager Howard, an officer in the revolutionary war, and Peggy Oswald Chew of Pennsylvania. His maternal grandfather was Benjamin Chew...

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Iredell, James (05 October 1751–20 October 1799), statesman and jurist, was born in Lewes, England, and raised in Bristol, the son of Francis Iredell, a merchant, and Margaret McCulloh. Little is known of Iredell’s early education. The family’s circumstances were modest, and when his father suffered a paralytic stroke in 1766, the Iredells were forced to appeal to their well-connected relatives for assistance. In February 1768 one of these relatives, Sir George Macartney, secured for James a position as comptroller of customs for Port Roanoke in Edenton, North Carolina. Aided by his friendly disposition and his family connection to Henry Eustace McCulloh, one of the largest landholders in the colony, Iredell soon entered into Edenton society. He took up the study of law with ...

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Kirby, Ephraim (23 February 1757–20 October 1804), law reporter and Connecticut Jeffersonian, was born near Washington in Litchfield County, Connecticut, the son of Abraham Kirby and Eunice Starkweather, farmers. In December 1775, after five months in the Connecticut militia, three months of which were spent investing British-occupied Boston, Kirby returned to his Litchfield home to begin the study of law with attorney Reynold Marvin. In December 1776 he enlisted as a trooper in the Second Continental Dragoons. He fought at Brandywine and Germantown....

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Leigh, Benjamin Watkins (18 June 1781–02 February 1849), lawyer, court reporter, and politician, was born in Chesterfield County, Virginia, the son of William Leigh, an Episcopalian minister, and Elizabeth Watkins. Benjamin attended the College of William and Mary, where he studied under St. George Tucker...

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Maxwell, William (1766 or 1767?–10 September 1809), pioneer printer, newspaper editor, and office holder, was long thought, based on statements made by his descendants, to have been born about 1755 in New York or New Jersey, the son of William Maxwell, an immigrant from Scotland. Current scholarship infers a probable birth date of 1766 or 1767 from a contemporary newspaper obituary and suggests several additional mid-Atlantic states (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland) as possible places of origin. Little is known of Maxwell’s early life, including his mother’s identity. Although he is reputed to have served as a revolutionary war soldier, his participation has not been confirmed by extant military records....

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Munford, William (15 August 1775–21 June 1825), court reporter, poet, and politician, was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, the son of Robert Munford, a planter, playwright, and poet, and Anne Beverley. William began his education at the grammar school at William and Mary, then attended the college. His talents and intelligence impressed his teachers, including ...

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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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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....

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Wheaton, Henry (27 November 1785–11 March 1848), scholar, diplomat, and Supreme Court reporter, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Seth Wheaton, a prosperous merchant, civic leader, and later president of the Rhode Island branch of the Bank of the United States, and Abigail Wheaton (a cousin). Wheaton entered Rhode Island College (now Brown University) at age twelve, studied law at his father’s urging, and graduated in 1802. After three years in the offices of Providence attorney Nathaniel Searles, he gained admission to the Rhode Island bar in 1805 at age nineteen. His father then sent him for a year abroad to become familiar with the languages, history, and literature of Europe. While in France and England, Wheaton studied civil law at Poitiers and attended the law courts, including the Court of Admiralty at Westminster. He returned to Providence in 1806, embarking on six years of law practice and increasing political involvement, including writings on local, state, national, and international affairs. In 1811 Wheaton married his cousin Catherine, the daughter of Dr. Levi Wheaton, his uncle and mentor. They had three children....