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Henry, Patrick (29 May 1736–06 June 1799), revolutionary statesman, orator, and lawyer, was born at Studley, Hanover County, Virginia, the son of John Henry, a Scottish-born and prosperous planter, and Sarah Winston Syme, a young widow, also from a family of substantial means. Often mistakenly thought to have been of more humble origins, Patrick Henry was, by birth and estate, a member of the gentry of the colony, if not of the highest rank. After attending a local school for a few years, he received the remainder of his formal education from his father, who had attended King’s College, University of Aberdeen....

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Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth (14 February 1745–16 August 1825), lawyer and planter, was born in Charles Town (now Charleston), South Carolina, the son of Charles Pinckney, a lawyer, and Eliza Lucas Pinckney. Pinckney was born into a life of privilege and wealth. His father was very active in the political life of colonial South Carolina and in 1753 was appointed interim chief justice of South Carolina, but his hopes were dashed when he was not granted a permanent appointment; instead the office went to a corrupt placeman of the Crown. Following this sharp disappointment, in 1753 the Pinckney family moved temporarily to England, where the father served as South Carolina’s colonial agent. Charles Cotesworth remained there until 1769 for his education. He studied at Westminster School and matriculated in 1764 both at Christ Church College, Oxford, and at the Middle Temple, London, where he was called to the bar in 1769. He regularly attended debates in the House of Commons. A family portrait shows him declaiming against the Stamp Act of 1765, one indication that he was taking an active interest in politics, particularly questions relating to the American colonies....

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Wilson, James (14 September 1742–21 August 1798), lawyer and jurist, was born in Carskerdo, near St. Andrews, Scotland, the eldest son of William Wilson and Aleson Lansdale, farmers. His parents, members of the Associate Presbytery, intended him for the ministry. In 1757, having won a competitive scholarship, Wilson entered the University of St. Andrews, an important center of the Scottish Renaissance. He enrolled at the St. Mary’s College divinity school four years later but, because of financial problems caused by his father’s death, withdrew and became a tutor in a gentleman’s family. In 1765 Wilson began learning merchant accounting, then quickly changed plans. Financed by family loans and anxious to advance in the secular world, he sailed for America. In 1765–1766 he tutored in the College of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania) and also received an honorary M.A. He then applied to study law with ...