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Auchmuty, Robert, Jr. (1725–11 December 1788), lawyer and Loyalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Scottish-born Robert Auchmuty, a judge of admiralty in Massachusetts, and Mary Julianna. As a youth Robert attended Boston Latin School and was admitted to Harvard, class of 1746, but never matriculated. He benefited from growing up in an upper-class family and learned law from his father. In 1762 he became a barrister, and many considered him the third best lawyer in Massachusetts, just behind ...

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Ayllón, Lucas Vázquez de (1480?–18 October 1526), Spanish judge and founder of the first Spanish colony in North America, was born at Toledo, Spain, the son of Juan Vázquez de Ayllón, a member of a distinguished Mozarabic family, and Inés de Villalobos. Lucas was educated in the law, earning the ...

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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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Bollan, William (1710?–1782), colonial agent and lawyer, was born in England and emigrated from there to America while a teenager. He pursued a legal career by studying as an apprentice under the tutelage of Massachusetts attorney Robert Auchmuty. Little is known of Bollan’s early life and career. However, by 1733 he had begun to gain prominence as an attorney, as evidenced by his acquisition of Harvard College and Boston’s Anglican parish, King’s Chapel, as clients. Bollan was an Anglican, which placed him in a religious minority in Congregational-dominated Boston. By the mid-1730s he had begun to venture into land speculation in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island....

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Browne, William (27 February 1737–13 February 1802), Massachusetts Superior Court judge and Loyalist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Browne, Jr., a merchant, and Catherine Winthrop. Both families had lived in Salem for five generations. On the matrilineal side William could trace his lineage back to four colonial governors, the Winthrops and the Dudleys. On the patrilineal side one of William’s great-grandfathers was Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, England. When William was only five years old, his father died, and when William was seven, his mother married Colonel Epes Sargent. Because the Browne family was the most distinguished and popular in Salem, when William entered Harvard at age fourteen, he was ranked third in his class. He lived in Massachusetts Hall, held a scholarship, and was noted as “an excellent scholar.” He graduated in 1755 as valedictorian of his class. Classmate ...

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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 (?Mar. 1688–07 September 1729), attorney and royal governor of New York and New Jersey and of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, was born in the Hague, the Netherlands, the son of Gilbert Burnet, a bishop of Salisbury, and his second wife, Mary Scott. William was named for his godfather William of Orange, who became William III of England after the 1688 Glorious Revolution. William entered Trinity College, Cambridge, was expelled, and was then privately instructed by tutors. He was admitted to the bar and in May 1712 married a daughter of Dean Stanhope (her first name and the number of their children is unknown). His wife died three years later. In 1722 Burnet married Anna Maria Van Horne, who died in 1728; the couple had three children....

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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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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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Dulany, Daniel (1685–05 December 1753), lawyer and officeholder, was born in Queen’s County, Ireland, the son of Thomas Dulany (occupation unknown). His mother’s name is unknown. He is often called Daniel Dulany, the Elder, to distinguish him from his son Daniel Dulany, Jr....

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Dunbar, Moses (14 June 1746–19 March 1777), first civilian executed in the state of Connecticut for the crime of treason, was born in Wallingford, Connecticut, the son of John Dunbar, a Congregationalist minister, and Temperance Hall. Dunbar’s father embedded in his children strong religious beliefs. However, these beliefs caused Moses in later years to end his relationship with his father. Little is known about Dunbar’s educational background. When he was fourteen years old, his family moved to Waterbury, Connecticut, and perhaps there he obtained his early education....

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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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Fitch, Thomas (1700–18 July 1774), lawyer and colonial governor, was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, the son of the well-to-do Thomas Fitch and Sarah (maiden name unknown). His great-grandfather, also named Thomas Fitch, was one of the founders of the town. Three years after he graduated from Yale College (1721), Fitch married Hannah Hall of New Haven; they had ten children. By 1726, Fitch was serving occasionally as the substitute minister for the Norwalk Congregational church, although there is no record of his ever being formally ordained....

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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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Gookin, Daniel (1612–19 March 1687), colonial magistrate and soldier, was the son of Daniel Gookin and Mary Byrd, the daughter of Richard Byrd, canon of Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, England. His father’s family had been in Kent for many generations; Daniel may have been born in Kent or in Carrigaline, County Cork, Ireland, where his father held lands and was an important figure among the English Protestants who had settled in the southern part of Ireland early in the seventeenth century. The elder Gookin also invested in land in Virginia and went over himself in 1621 with fifty employees, passengers, and cattle. He returned to England but later sent Daniel and his younger brother John to manage his lands and to make their own way in the wilderness. Daniel first appears in the Virginia records in 1630 at age eighteen. In 1634–1635 he was granted land in his own right, 2,500 acres in the Nansemond area on the south side of the James River. By 1639 he was a widower; the year of his marriage and the name of his wife are not known. That year he returned to England, where he married Mary Dolling of London. They had nine children. Early in 1641 they returned to Virginia to settle on his property. He was made a burgess and a representative to the Virginia Assembly from Upper Norfolk County and was also appointed captain of train bands, the local militia....

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Button Gwinnett. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111795).