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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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Bland, Theodorick (21 March 1742–01 June 1790), revolutionary soldier and politician, was born in Prince George County, Virginia, the son of Theodorick Bland, a planter, and Frances Bolling. In 1753 he was sent to Wakefield in Yorkshire, England, for schooling, remaining there until taking up medical studies in Liverpool in 1759. Two years later he transferred to the University of Edinburgh and received an M.D. degree in 1763. In Edinburgh and later in London Bland cut a fashionable figure, chivied by friends for his “monstrous large Whig.” He was also known as “something of a politician,” and it was with reluctance that he heeded his father’s call to return to Virginia in 1764. There he began his medical practice with all its attendant “distresses, cares and anxieties,” the “immense fatigue” of which caused him to retire from the profession in 1771. Wishing for a “calm, quiet, and philosophical life, in a rural situation,” Bland became a planter in Prince George County....

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Dayton, Jonathan (16 October 1760–09 October 1824), revolutionary war officer and congressman, was born in Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth), New Jersey, the son of Elias Dayton, a wealthy merchant and revolutionary war general, and Hannah Rolfe. Dayton probably attended Elizabethtown Academy (a grammar school). He entered the College of New Jersey (Princeton) about 1774 and graduated in 1776, although he missed the commencement because he had joined the Continental army....

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Graham, Joseph (13 October 1759–12 November 1836), revolutionary soldier, political leader, and iron entrepreneur, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of James Graham and Mary McConnell Barber, farmers. Graham’s father rented the land he farmed. Upon his death in 1763, his mother joined the great Scotch-Irish migration to the South, moving her family to the Carolina back country via Charleston, South Carolina. Eventually the widow Graham and her five children—three sons and two daughters—settled in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where in 1771 she purchased a 200-acre farm near Charlotte....

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Houstoun, John (1750?–20 July 1796), lawyer, soldier, and politician, was born in St. George’s Parish, Georgia, the son of Sir Patrick Houstoun, a baronet, registrar of grants and receiver of quit rents for the colony, and Priscilla Dunbar. He studied law in Charleston and practiced in Savannah, where he early became involved in the protests against Great Britain prior to the Revolution and was probably a member of the Sons of Liberty. In 1775 he married Hannah Bryan, the daughter of Jonathan Bryan, a prominent planter, a former member of the governor’s council, and one of the leaders of Georgia’s Whig movement; they apparently had no children. In July 1774 he joined ...

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Mifflin, Thomas (10 January 1744–20 January 1800), merchant, soldier, and politician, was born in Philadelphia, the son of John Mifflin and Elizabeth Bagnell, Quakers. His father, a wealthy merchant, held numerous significant political posts including that of provincial councilor. Thomas graduated from the College of Philadelphia in 1760 and then spent four years learning the merchant trade with William Coleman. After visiting England and France during 1764 and 1765, Mifflin formed a mercantile partnership with his brother George and in March 1767 married Sarah Morris, a cousin. The couple quickly took a prominent place in Philadelphia’s elite social circle. Contemporaries described Mifflin as an affable gentleman and fine sportsman. Elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society in 1768, he actively participated in that organization thereafter....

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Reed, Joseph (27 August 1741–05 March 1785), lawyer, soldier, and statesman, was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Andrew Reed, a minor officeholder and merchant, and Theodosia Bowes. Following the family’s move to Philadelphia, Reed was enrolled in Francis Alison’s Academy of Philadelphia in 1751. Two years later, following the death of Reed’s mother, the family returned to Trenton, where Reed attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). For three years following his graduation on 28 October 1757, he studied law at Princeton under the direction of ...

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Schuyler, Philip John (10 November 1733–18 November 1804), soldier and statesman, was born in Albany, New York, the son of John Schuyler, a merchant-landowner, alderman, and Indian commissioner, and Cornelia Van Cortlandt. His father died in 1741, and Philip was reared in the Dutch tradition by his mother (daughter of the first lord of Cortlandt Manor), his grandfather Johannes (1668–1747), and Aunt ...

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Ten Broeck, Abraham (13 May 1734–19 January 1810), statesman and soldier, was born in Albany, New York, the son of Dirck Ten Broeck, a merchant, and Grietja Cuyler. He came from a Dutch family that had long enjoyed prominence in Albany. Ten Broeck profited from familial connections with the Livingstons and Van Rensselaers, two of New York’s great dynasties, to emerge as one of Albany’s leading citizens. He served an apprenticeship in the counting house of his brother-in-law, ...

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Thompson, Samuel (22 March 1735–16 May 1798), politician and military officer, was born in Brunswick, Maine, the son of James Thompson, Jr., and Reliance Hinkley. Thompson was self-educated. Although little is known of his early years, it is documented that he converted from orthodox Calvinism to Universalism. In 1757 he married Abial Purinton; they had eight children....

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Wadsworth, James (08 July 1730–22 September 1817), military and political leader, was born in Durham, Connecticut, the son of James Wadsworth, Jr., and Abigail Penfield. Wadsworth’s grandfather, also named James Wadsworth, was prominent in Connecticut’s colonial government, serving for many years as an assistant—a member of the governor’s council that acted as an upper house of the legislature. The youngest James attended Yale, graduating with the class of 1748. His public career began in 1752 with his election as ensign in the local militia company. Promotions followed rapidly, first to lieutenant in 1753 and then to captain in 1754. He also served as captain of a company in the expeditionary force raised by Connecticut for the Ticonderoga campaigns of 1758 and 1759. In 1757 he married Katharine Guernsey; they had two children, both of whom died in infancy....

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Ward, Artemas (26 November 1727–28 October 1800), revolutionary war general and politician, was born in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, the son of Nahum Ward, a town founder, lawyer, and judge, and Martha How. Artemas Ward studied at a local school and also with a tutor. He received a B.A. in 1748 and an M.A. in 1751 from Harvard. Ward taught school in Groton, Massachusetts, for two years, and he briefly owned a general store in Shrewsbury. He married Sarah Trowbridge in 1750; Sarah was the daughter of Reverend Caleb Trowbridge and a direct descendant of the Reverends ...