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Dane, Nathan (29 December 1752–15 February 1835), lawyer, legislator, and legal writer, was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, the son of Daniel Dane and Abigail Burnham, prosperous farmers. Dane, one of twelve children, received a common school elementary education. He worked on his father’s farm until he entered Harvard College at the unusual age of twenty-two. Dane’s college career from 1774 to 1778 was interrupted by the American Revolution; he apparently performed militia service in Boston during the British siege of the city in 1775–1776. In his academic studies Dane displayed an aptitude for mathematics, which later bore fruit when, as a legislator, he took special interest in taxation, government finance, and census issues. Throughout his life Dane retained the studiousness that marked his college years....

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Root, Jesse (28 December 1736–29 March 1822), politician and jurist, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, the son of Ebenezer Root and Sarah Strong. As the youngest of eight children, Root was directed by circumstances to pursue his worldly fortune within the ranks of the growing professional classes rather than as a farmer amidst the mounting land shortage in mid-eighteenth-century Connecticut. In 1756 Root graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in preparation for the ministry. He continued his theological studies under the tutelage of the Reverend Samuel Lockwood, the Congregational minister for Andover, Connecticut, and was formally licensed as a Congregational preacher by the Hartford South Association on 29 March 1757. In May 1758 Root married Mary Banks of Newark, New Jersey; they would have nine children....

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Swift, Zephaniah (27 February 1759–27 September 1823), congressman and jurist, was born in Wareham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, the son of Roland (or Rowland) Swift and Mary Dexter. While still young, Swift moved with his parents to Lebanon, Connecticut. He entered Yale College at fifteen and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1778; he received a master of arts degree, also from Yale, in 1781. After completing his college education, Swift studied law and was admitted to the Connecticut bar....

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Toulmin, Harry (07 April 1766–11 November 1823), clergyman, statesman, and judge, was born in Taunton, England, the son of Joshua Toulmin, a Unitarian clergyman, and Jane Smith, a bookstore proprietor. Toulmin attended Hoxton Academy, but much of his education came from spending time in his mother’s bookstore....

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Wheaton, Henry (27 November 1785–11 March 1848), scholar, diplomat, and Supreme Court reporter, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Seth Wheaton, a prosperous merchant, civic leader, and later president of the Rhode Island branch of the Bank of the United States, and Abigail Wheaton (a cousin). Wheaton entered Rhode Island College (now Brown University) at age twelve, studied law at his father’s urging, and graduated in 1802. After three years in the offices of Providence attorney Nathaniel Searles, he gained admission to the Rhode Island bar in 1805 at age nineteen. His father then sent him for a year abroad to become familiar with the languages, history, and literature of Europe. While in France and England, Wheaton studied civil law at Poitiers and attended the law courts, including the Court of Admiralty at Westminster. He returned to Providence in 1806, embarking on six years of law practice and increasing political involvement, including writings on local, state, national, and international affairs. In 1811 Wheaton married his cousin Catherine, the daughter of Dr. Levi Wheaton, his uncle and mentor. They had three children....