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Bulloch, Archibald (1730–1777), lawyer and revolutionary war leader, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of James Bulloch, a clergyman, member of the South Carolina Assembly, merchant, and Colleton County planter, and Jean Stobo. Although little is known about his early years, it is believed that he received a liberal education and studied law. Prior to his move to Georgia in 1758, he was admitted to the bar and acquired a rice plantation near Purrysburg on the Savannah River. In 1764 he married Mary De Veaux; they had four children. President ...

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Few, William (08 June 1748–16 July 1828), lawyer, politician, and banker, was born near Baltimore, Maryland, the son of William Few, a failed tobacco planter turned frontier farmer, and Mary Wheeler. Few’s family moved in 1758 to North Carolina, where young William received little formal schooling but enough skills and enough love for reading that the future Founding Father was able to educate himself. In the early 1770s, the Few family joined the Regulator movement, rural westerners’ sometimes violent opposition to unrepresentative coastal political control. The family lost one of William’s brothers, the family farm, and the family fortune in the struggle for more local autonomy. The Fews then moved to Georgia, leaving William behind to settle the family’s affairs, to farm, and to teach himself law....

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Gibbons, William (1750?–27 September 1800), lawyer and politician, was born at Bear Bluff, South Carolina, the son of Joseph Gibbons, a successful rice planter, and Hannah Martin. Young Gibbons read law in Charleston and began his legal practice in Savannah before the Revolution. Georgians, slow to join the revolutionary movement, were split between Whigs and Loyalists, a division reflected in Gibbons’s family. William was an ardent Whig, whereas his brother ...

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Patrick Henry. Etching by Albert Rosenthal, 1888. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102566).

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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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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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Johnson, William Samuel (07 October 1727–14 November 1819), lawyer and politician, was born in Stratford, Connecticut, the son of the Reverend Samuel Johnson, an Anglican clergyman, and Charity Floyd Nicholl, the widow of a wealthy Long Island lawyer. With a younger brother and three stepsiblings from his mother’s first marriage, Johnson grew up in a convivial, intellectually stimulating home made comfortable by his mother’s inherited wealth. His father’s success in making Anglicanism a respectable alternative to Congregationalism fostered amicable relations between Anglican and Puritan acquaintances. A philosopher as well as a churchman, Samuel Johnson taught—in opposition to Puritan childrearing practice—“indulgence” to children’s “intellectual curiosity, … candor, patience, and care” in moral and intellectual training. The recipient of this kind of nurture, William Samuel was also shaped by Connecticut’s culture of “steady habits” and by Anglican decorum....

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Livingston, Robert Robert ( August 1718–09 December 1775), landowner, attorney, and politician, was born in New York, the only son and heir of Robert Livingston and Margaret Howarden. His father, a younger son of manor lord Robert Livingston, was given a portion of land, called “Clermont,” at the southern end of Livingston Manor. In 1742 Livingston married Margaret Beekman, the heir of Colonel ...

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Pendleton, Edmund (09 September 1721–26 October 1803), lawyer, jurist, and revolutionary political leader, was born in Caroline County, Virginia, the son of Henry Pendleton and Mary Taylor, farmers. Edmund’s father died four months before his birth. After two years of formal schooling, Pendleton at the age of fourteen entered an apprenticeship to Benjamin Robinson, clerk of the Caroline County court. As a student under Robinson’s tutelage, Pendleton received the fundamental education of a public official and attorney, preparing legal documents and observing the operations of the court system. As a law student, Pendleton paid less attention to the principles of jurisprudence and more to the tactics of debate and practical pleading. These skills were to serve him well. ...

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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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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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Scott, John Morin (1730?–14 September 1784), lawyer and politician, was born in New York City, the son of John Scott, a New York merchant, and Marian Morin. Scott was educated at Yale College and received a B.A. in 1746 and an A.M. in 1749. He then began three years of legal training with ...