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Austin, William (02 March 1778–27 June 1841), writer and lawyer, was born in Lunenberg, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Austin, a pewterer and enterprising dealer in real estate, and Margaret Rand. Austin was raised in Charlestown, Massachusetts, which had been the family home for five generations. He received an A.B. from Harvard in 1798. The following year Austin obtained an appointment as both a schoolmaster and chaplain in the U.S. Navy. He sailed on the historic frigate ...

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Campbell, George Washington (08 February 1769–17 February 1848), lawyer and statesman, was born in Tongue Parish, Sutherlandshire, Scotland, the son of Archibald Campbell, a physician, and Elizabeth Mackay. He immigrated with his family to America in 1772 and settled with them near the present city of Charlotte, North Carolina, where his father farmed and practiced medicine. After several years of teaching in a small school near his home, he was admitted at the age of twenty-three to the junior class of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) and graduated in 1794 with high honors. He taught in New Jersey for a year or two but soon returned to North Carolina, where he studied law. By 1798 he had moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, a bustling commercial center of about fifty homes, where he achieved immediate success at the bar. Knoxville was the capital of the state for more than another decade, and this fact, in addition to the city’s significant growth during that time, was a factor in his success....

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Daniel, Peter Vivian (24 April 1784–31 May 1860), lawyer, state official, and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born at “Crow’s Nest,” in Stafford County, Virginia, the son of Travers Daniel, a planter, and Frances Moncure. His ancestors settled in Virginia early in the seventeenth century and founded a prominent gentry family. Daniel attended the College of New Jersey at Princeton for a time, but left in 1805 to read law in Richmond with ...

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Denver, James William (23 October 1817–09 August 1892), soldier, governor of Kansas Territory, and lawyer, was born near Winchester, Virginia, the son of Patrick Denver and Jane Campbell, farmers of Irish extraction. In 1831 his family migrated to a farm near Wilmington, Ohio. After a grade school education, James taught briefly at Platte City, Missouri, graduated from Cincinnati College (now the University of Cincinnati) in 1844, and was admitted to the bar. He opened a newspaper and law office in Xenia, Ohio, but after less than a year, in 1845, returned to Platte City, where he continued to practice both professions. After the outbreak of the Mexican War on 4 March 1847, Denver was appointed captain in the Twelfth Regiment, U.S. Volunteers, commanding a company he had raised, and was ordered to Mexico. Sick much of the time, he was ordered home on 26 October 1847....

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Gibbons, Thomas (15 December 1757–16 May 1826), planter, lawyer, and steamship owner, was born near Savannah, Georgia, the son of Joseph Gibbons and Hannah Martin, planters. Gibbons was schooled at home and in Charleston, South Carolina, where he also read law. He married Ann Heyword, but the date of the marriage is unknown. They had three children. Throughout his life Gibbons demonstrated a determined spirit. Contemporaries described him as a “high liver,” possessing a “strong mind, strong passions, strong prejudices, and strong self-will” (Halsted, pp. 16–17)....

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Albert Pike. Photoprint, c. 1886. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100590).

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Pike, Albert (29 December 1809–02 April 1891), lawyer, soldier, and Masonic scholar, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin Pike, a cobbler, and Sarah Andrews. The boy was torn between his father, whose irreverence and drinking scandalized neighbors, and his mother, who read the Bible to her only son daily and planned on his entering the ministry. In 1813, seeking to supplement his income by farming, Benjamin Pike moved the family to Newburyport, Massachusetts. In 1825 Albert was sent to live with his uncle, a teacher at Framingham Academy, who soon learned that Pike had a prodigious memory that enabled him to digest large volumes and recall their contents at will; the boy learned Hebrew, Latin, and Greek almost effortlessly. Eight months after his arrival in Framingham, Pike passed the entrance examination for Harvard College. He could not afford the tuition, however, so, instead of enrolling at Harvard, he taught common school at Gloucester. The following year Harvard agreed to admit him as a junior, but school officials insisted that he pay the first two years’ tuition. Outraged, Pike abandoned his dreams of a formal education....

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Smyth, Alexander (14 September 1767–17 April 1830), lawyer, soldier, and congressman, was born on Rathlin Island, County Antrim, twelve miles off the northern coast of Ireland, the son of the Reverend Adam Smyth. His mother’s name is unknown. In 1775 his father relocated the family to Botetourt County, Virginia, where he served as rector of the Episcopal parish. Smyth read law and in 1787 was appointed deputy clerk of Botetourt County. He passed the bar in 1789, moved to Wythe County, and married Nancy Binkley in 1791. The couple had four children. A vigorous orator, Smyth entered politics and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1792, 1796, 1801–1802, and 1804–1808. Success and a mercurial disposition garnered him powerful enemies, however. Foremost among these was John Preston of Wythe County, with whom Smyth dueled in 1795. The confrontation proved bloodless, but the two men and their respective families remained staunch political adversaries....

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Pierre Soulé. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110006).

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Soulé, Pierre (31 August 1801–26 March 1870), U.S. senator, jurist, and diplomat, was born at Castillon-en-Couserans in the French Pyrenees, the son of Joseph Soulé, a distinguished Napoleonic officer and a magistrate, and Jeanne Lacroix. Soulé spent his youth absorbing the republican spirit of revolutionary France and conversely enduring the strident discipline of a Jesuit seminary. He rejected the seminary and joined republican revolutionaries who opposed the Bourbon restoration. After a brief exile and pardon, he returned to Bordeaux, earned the degree of bachelor of letters in 1819, and went to Paris to study law. His admission to the bar in 1822 did not deter him from again plunging into the revolutionary movement against Charles X. Arrested and imprisoned, he managed to escape to England. After brief and unsatisfactory sojourns in Port-au-Prince, Baltimore, and New York, Soulé arrived in New Orleans, where many other Frenchmen had sought refuge....

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Wise, John Sergeant (27 December 1846–12 May 1913), lawyer, politician, and author, was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the son of Henry Alexander Wise, a former congressman from Virginia who was then serving as U.S. minister plenipotentiary to Brazil, and Sarah Sergeant. When Wise was less than a year old, his family returned to Virginia. He grew up on the plantations “Only,” in Accomack County, and “Rolleston,” in Princess Anne County, near the Chesapeake Bay. From 1856 to 1859, during his father’s term as governor, John lived in Richmond. Educated in private schools, he developed a precocious interest in politics and military affairs....