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Breckinridge, John (02 December 1760–14 December 1806), lawyer, planter, and statesman, was born on a farm near Staunton, Virginia, the son of Robert Breckinridge, a farmer and member of the local gentry, and Lettice Preston. While John was still a boy the family moved to the frontier part of Augusta County that became Botetourt County. Determined to acquire an education, John entered William and Mary College in late 1780 or early 1781. His attendance was irregular, but when he left the school in 1784 he had studied for some two years, much of it under the guidance of ...

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Goldsborough, Robert (03 December 1733–22 December 1788), lawyer and planter, was born in Cambridge, Dorchester County, Maryland, the son of Charles Goldsborough, a lawyer, legislator, and large landowner, and his first wife Elizabeth Ennalls. When Robert was five and a half years old, his father married Elizabeth Dickinson, half sister of ...

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Henry Laurens. Reproduction of a painting by John Singleton Copley, 1781. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-148-CP-213).

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Laurens, Henry (24 February 1724–08 December 1792), planter-merchant and revolutionary war statesman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of John Laurens, a saddler, and Esther Grasset. The Laurens family had fled La Rochelle, France, as Huguenot refugees in 1682. After stops in London, Ireland, and New York, they settled in Charleston about 1715. Laurens received in his own words “the best education” that the provincial community could offer. In 1744 he sailed for London to serve a three-year clerkship in James Crokatt’s counting house. Laurens married Eleanor Ball in 1750. They had twelve children, but only four survived childhood. ...

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Marigny, Bernard (28 October 1785–03 February 1868), Creole planter and politician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Pierre Enguerrand Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, a Spanish army officer and rich landowner, and Jeanne Marie d’Estréhan, daughter of a distinguished family. He was christened Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville and grew up in the richest family in the French colony of Louisiana. When Marigny was fifteen his father died, at which time Lino de Chalmette, a relative, became his guardian. Already Marigny had developed into an unruly, spoiled young man, so addicted to gambling that Chalmette could not control him. Hence Marigny was dispatched to Pensacola, Florida, and placed in the care of a wealthy merchant named Panton, who found him so impossible that he immediately sent him back. Chalmette then sent Marigny to England, where he lived on an extravagant allowance, mingled with the best society, met Lord Byron, and continued his dissipated ways. Soon he was deeply in debt to London and Parisian gamblers. Returning to New Orleans after his eighteenth birthday, he came into possession of his entire fortune of $7 million but was compelled to liquidate a plantation in order to pay his creditors. Supposedly he maintained an entire street of houses on what he called “Rue de l’Amour” to shelter his numerous mistresses....

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John Young Mason. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109927).

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Mason, John Young (18 April 1799–03 October 1859), planter-lawyer, politician, and diplomat, was born at “Homestead,” the family plantation in Greensville County, Virginia, the son of Edmunds Mason and Frances Ann Young, both descendants of landed southern Tidewater families. An excellent student, young Mason graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1816, read law with Judge Griffin Stith in Southampton County, and then attended the law school of Judge ...

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Morgan, Sir Henry (1635–25 August 1688), buccaneer, planter, and lieutenant governor, was born in Llanrhymny, Wales, the son of Robert Morgan. His mother’s name is not known. Little is known of Morgan’s years in Wales. In a letter that he wrote to the Lords of Trade in 1680, Morgan said of his education that he “left the schools to [ ...

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Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-148-CC-42-6).

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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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Wharton, William Harris (1802–14 March 1839), lawyer, planter, and activist for Texas independence, was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, the son of William Wharton and Judith Harris. His father, who combined planting with milling and distilling, followed his lawyer brothers to Nashville, Tennessee, in the early 1800s. Both parents died in 1816, and William, his brother John Austin Wharton, and two sisters were raised by their uncle, Jesse Wharton, a prominent lawyer and briefly a U.S. senator. The uncle, a supporter of ...