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Gwinnett, Button (bap. 10 April 1735), merchant and political leader, was born in Gloucester, England, the son of the Reverend Samuel Gwinnett and Anne Emes. Gwinnett left England as a young man and for a number of years after arriving in America was a merchant in the colonial trade. In April 1757 he married Ann Bourne, with whom he had three children. His business activities took him from Newfoundland to Jamaica, and at times brought him into conflict with other merchants and with legal authorities. Never very successful, he moved to Savannah in 1765 and opened a store. When that venture failed, he bought (on credit) St. Catherines Island, off the coast of Georgia to the south of Savannah, and attempted to become a planter. Though his planting activities were also unsuccessful, he did make a name for himself in local politics....

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McKean, Thomas (19 March 1734–24 June 1817), statesman, jurist, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of William McKean, an innkeeper and farmer, and Letitia Finney. He studied at Francis Alison’s New London Academy (1742–1750), then left to study law (1750–1754) with his cousin David Finney of New Castle, Delaware. He joined the Delaware bar in 1754 and expanded his practice into Pennsylvania (1755) and New Jersey (1765). Following his admittance to practice before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1757, he gained admission to the Society of the Middle Temple in London as a specialiter, which permitted him to earn certification in 1758 as a barrister without attending....

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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 ...