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John Adams. After a painting by Gilbert Stuart. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-13002 DLC).

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Adams, John (19 October 1735–04 July 1826), second president of the United States, diplomat, and political theorist, was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, the son of John Adams (1691–1760), a shoemaker, selectman, and deacon, and Susanna Boylston. He claimed as a young man to have indulged in “a constant dissipation among amusements,” such as swimming, fishing, and especially shooting, and wished to be a farmer. However, his father insisted that he follow in the footsteps of his uncle Joseph Adams, attend Harvard College, and become a clergyman. John consented, applied himself to his studies, and developed a passion for learning but refused to become a minister. He felt little love for “frigid John Calvin” and the rigid moral standards expected of New England Congregationalist ministers....

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Samuel Adams. After a painting by John Singleton Copley. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ61-262).

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Adams, Samuel (27 September 1722–02 October 1803), revolutionary politician, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Massachusetts governor, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Adams and Mary Fifield. Of the twelve children born to the couple, he was one of only three who survived their parents. The elder Samuel Adams was a prosperous investor in real estate and other ventures, including the ill-fated land bank of 1740–1741, and the owner of a brewery. He also held several public offices—Boston selectman, justice of the peace, and member of the provincial assembly....

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Alexander, Abraham (1718–23 April 1786), early leader in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, was born probably in Cecil County, Maryland, the son of Francis Alexander (mother’s name unknown). Alexander was descended from one of several families bearing his surname who arrived in the middle colonies from Northern Ireland early in the eighteenth century, many of them settling in Cecil County. His grandfather, Joseph Alexander, a tanner, recorded his will in Cecil County in 1726. His father may have migrated with his wife and children, but it is more likely that Abraham was in the vanguard of younger relatives who commenced relocating in the early 1750s to the southern piedmont of North Carolina. The Alexander clan was enticed to the region by Lord George Augustus Selwyn and ...

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Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga. Reproduction of a painting by E. Percy Moran (1862–1935). Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96539).

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Allen, Ethan (10 January 1738–12 February 1789), frontier revolutionary leader and author of the first deistic work by an American, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Allen and Mary Baker, farmers. Allen served briefly in the French and Indian War and in 1762 began operating a productive iron forge in Salisbury, Connecticut. That same year he married Mary Brownson, with whom he would have five children. But Allen’s deism and aggressive personal conduct ruined his early prospects: he was warned out of Salisbury in 1765 and Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1767....

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Allen, Levi (16 January 1746–16 December 1801), American Loyalist and free-trade advocate, was born in Cornwall, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Allen and Mary Baker, farmers. Though self-educated, Allen taught school in the Hudson River Valley for a year when he was eighteen. Expressing boredom with that sedentary life, he left teaching for the Indian trade in 1765. Over the next four years, Allen and his partner, Peter Pond, the prominent explorer and maker of wildly inaccurate maps, were among the first European Americans to trade in the Miami country. This experience made Allen a lifelong defender of the Native Americans. As he wrote in his autobiography, “Christians have not so much to boast over the American Indians as they Vainly attribute to themselves.” After a competitor in Detroit tried to kill him, Allen moved to the Green Mountains with several of his brothers and cousins in 1771. Allen became a member of the Green Mountain Boys, the militia founded by his brother ...

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Andros, Sir Edmund (06 December 1637–19 February 1714), imperial administrator, was born in London, England, the son of Amias Andros, seigneur of Sausmarez, Guernsey, and master of the ceremonies to King Charles I, and Elizabeth Stone, the sister of Sir Robert Stone, cupbearer to Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia. Raised with royalty, Edmund Andros suffered with the Stuarts. He went into exile in October 1643 when his father took up a command in the besieged Castle Cornet, Guernsey. The last place in Europe to hold out for the Stuarts, the castle was not surrendered until 15 December 1651. The Andros family took refuge at the court of Elizabeth of Bohemia in The Hague. There, in April 1656, “Mun” Andros was commissioned in the cuirassier troop of his uncle Sir Robert Stone and fought in Denmark from 1655 to 1658. Andros was then named gentleman-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth and also served her nephews, the exiled Charles II of England and the prince of Orange, later William III....

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Anza, Juan Bautista de (07 July 1736–19 December 1788), military commander, explorer, and governor, was born in the presidio of Fronteras, Sonora, Mexico, the son of Juan Bautista de Anza, commandant of the post since 1719, and María Rafaela Becerra Nieto; his grandfather was commandant of Janos presidio, Chihuahua. Anza’s father was killed in combat in 1739, but Anza continued in the family tradition, and on 1 December 1752 entered the militia at Fronteras. On 1 July 1755 he was promoted to lieutenant at Fronteras, and, after participating in Indian campaigns in Sonora, he rose in 1760 to the rank of captain and commander of the presidio at Tubac (in present-day Arizona). On 24 June 1761 he married Ana María Pérez Serrano of Arizpe, Sonora, but no children were born of the union....

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Archdale, John (05 May 1642–04 July 1717), colonial governor and a proprietor of Carolina, was born in Chipping Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, the son of Thomas Archdale, the local squire, and Mary Nevill. His grandfather Richard Archdale, a London merchant, had earlier purchased “Loakes” and “Temple Wycombe” manors and joined the county gentry. Although relatives had attended Wadham College, Oxford, John Archdale apparently was self-educated....

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Archer, John (05 May 1741–28 September 1810), physician, patriot, and public official, was born in Maryland, either near Brinckley’s Mills, Cecil County, or near the present town of Churchville, Harford County, the son of Thomas Archer, a farmer and ironworks agent, and Elizabeth Stevenson. Archer attended the West Nottingham Academy in Cecil County and the College of New Jersey (Princeton), from which he received the A.B. degree in 1760 and the M.A. in 1763. Thereafter he taught school in Baltimore and studied theology. However, after a second examination by the Presbytery of New Castle, in 1764, the presbytery decided that it “cannot encourage him to prosecute his tryals for the Gospel ministry any further,” and he turned his attention to medicine. He became a pupil of Dr. ...

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Argall, Sir Samuel (1580–24 January 1626), English explorer and colonial leader in early Virginia, was baptized at East Sutton, Kent, England, on 4 December 1580, the son of Richard Argall, a gentry landowner, and Mary Scott, daughter of a wealthy knight. As the eighth son and twelfth child of a prominent family, Argall neither had the luxury of living as a landed gentleman, nor the necessity of forging a career without influential kin connections in Kent and London....

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Arnold, Jonathan (03 December 1741–01 February 1793), political leader of the revolutionary period, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Josiah Arnold and Amy Phillips, occupations unknown. Though he did not attend college, Arnold studied medicine and opened his own practice in Providence in the late 1760s. An early supporter of the revolutionary cause, Arnold commanded a company of volunteer grenadiers in Providence in the alarm following Lexington and Concord in 1775. Elected to represent Providence in the Rhode Island Assembly in 1776 and reelected the following year, Arnold wrote the statute, approved on 4 May 1776, repealing the oath of allegiance to Great Britain required of all public officials. That same year he organized the Revolutionary Hospital of Rhode Island and was appointed its chief surgeon by the governor, a position he held until 1781. He gained a reputation as an innovative doctor and an efficient administrator. In 1781 he was elected assistant to the governor of Rhode Island, largely in honor of his wartime service....

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Ashe, John (1720?–24 October 1781), colonial politician and military officer, was born in the Albemarle Sound region of North Carolina, the son of John Baptista Ashe, an assemblyman, and Elizabeth Swann. In late 1727 the elder Ashe moved south from Beaufort County and purchased a 640-acre plantation near the Cape Fear River. There, John Ashe was tutored in Latin, Greek, and French. Entering Harvard as a member of the class of 1746, he proved to be a rebellious student, continually chafing against authority and chronically absenting himself from class....

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Ashmun, Jehudi (21 April 1794–25 August 1828), colonial agent and missionary in West Africa, was born in Champlain, New York, the son of Samuel Ashmun, a justice of the peace, and Parthenia (maiden name unknown). An intensely devout Christian from the age of sixteen, Ashmun studied theology and classics at Vermont’s Middlebury College and the University of Vermont in Burlington. Following his graduation from the latter in 1816, he was appointed principal and instructor at the Maine Charity School, a Congregationalist college in Hampden, Maine. In 1818 he married Catherine Gray; it is not known if they had any children....

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Attucks, Crispus (1723–05 March 1770), probably a sailor, was the first to be killed in the Boston Massacre of 5 March 1770. Generally regarded to have been of mixed ancestry (African, Indian, and white), Attucks seems to have hailed from a Natick Indian settlement, Mashpee (incorporated as a district in 1763, near Framingham, Massachusetts)....

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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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Auchmuty, Samuel (16 January 1722–04 March 1777), Episcopal minister and Loyalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Scottish-born Robert Auchmuty, a judge of admiralty in Massachusetts, and Mary Julianna. He would have been a graduate in the Harvard class of 1742 but dropped out during his junior year. At the encouragement of his uncle, James Auchmuty, dean of Armagh, Samuel prepared for holy orders by reading under the direction of the Reverend Alexander Malcolm of St. Michael’s Church in Marblehead and the Reverend Benjamin Bradstreet of Gloucester. Based on the recommendation of these two ministers as to Samuel’s character and learning, Harvard awarded him his B.A. in 1745 and his M.A. in 1746....

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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 ...