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Bedford, Gunning (07 April 1742–30 September 1797), officeholder, was born in New Castle Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware, the son of William Bedford, a sadler and landowner, and Catherine Jacquett. In 1752 William Bedford, having moved his family to Philadelphia, enrolled his son in the College, Academy, and Charitable School of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania), where Gunning studied in the academy division until 1756. William’s brother also lived in Philadelphia and had a son ...

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Brownson, Nathan (14 May 1742–18 October 1796), physician and politician, was born in Woodbury, Connecticut, the son of Timothy Brownson and Abigail Jenner. He graduated from Yale College in 1761 and practiced medicine in his hometown. In 1769 he married Elizabeth Lewis. The couple moved to St. John Parish, Georgia, in 1774 and began working a 500-acre plantation. Brownson’s wife died in 1775, and the following year he married Elizabeth McLean, with whom he had two children....

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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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Thomas Johnson. Reproduction of a painting by Charles Willson Peale. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ61-2178).

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Johnson, Thomas (04 November 1732–26 October 1819), politician and jurist, was born on his parents’ farm in Calvert County, Maryland, the son of Thomas Johnson and Dorcas Sedgwick. Educated at home, Johnson began his legal studies in Annapolis, where he read law with Stephen Bordley, one of the foremost lawyers in the province, and by working as a scrivener in the office of the clerk of the Maryland Provincial Court. First admitted to the bar of the Annapolis Mayor’s Court in 1756, Johnson gained admission by 1760 to the bars of Frederick and Baltimore counties, the Charles County Court, and the provincial court. While pursuing advancement as an attorney, he became interested in public office and in 1762 was elected to represent Anne Arundel County in the lower house of assembly. He continued to serve in that position through 1774. In 1766 he married Ann Jennings; they had eight children....

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Livingston, William ( November 1723–25 July 1790), colonial politician, governor of New Jersey, and political satirist, was born in Albany, New York, the son of Philip Livingston, the second lord of Livingston Manor, and Catherine Van Brugh. As the scion of an elite New York clan, he headed the family faction that successfully challenged the rival De Lancey family for dominance in the colony. Rarely holding public office himself, Livingston nevertheless masterminded his faction’s protracted battles with the De Lanceys. His success rested in part on his abilities with the pen. He wrote on the model provided by the English Whig pamphleteers, and his essays in the ...

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Mathews, John (1744–26 October 1802), politician and governor of South Carolina, was born in Charlestown (now Charleston), South Carolina, the son of John Mathews, a planter, and Sarah Gibbes. Mathews began his public career in 1760, when he was commissioned an ensign (and later a lieutenant) to fight in the Cherokee War. In 1764 he studied law at Middle Temple in London and, upon completing his degree, returned to South Carolina to begin his practice. He was admitted to the South Carolina bar on 22 September 1766. In the same year he married Mary Wragg, daughter of ...

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Mercer, John Francis (17 May 1759–30 August 1821), planter and officeholder, was born at “Marlborough Point,” Stafford County, Virginia, the son of John Mercer, a lawyer and wealthy landowner, and Ann Roy. John Francis Mercer graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1775. In February 1776 he enlisted in the Third Virginia Regiment. Despite his youth—he was not yet seventeen—his family’s social status enabled him to secure a commission as a first lieutenant. In a little more than a year Mercer achieved the rank of captain. He was wounded in September 1777 at Brandywine. In June 1778 he was commissioned a major and became an aide-de-camp to General ...

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Mifflin, Thomas (10 January 1744–20 January 1800), merchant, soldier, and politician, was born in Philadelphia, the son of John Mifflin and Elizabeth Bagnell, Quakers. His father, a wealthy merchant, held numerous significant political posts including that of provincial councilor. Thomas graduated from the College of Philadelphia in 1760 and then spent four years learning the merchant trade with William Coleman. After visiting England and France during 1764 and 1765, Mifflin formed a mercantile partnership with his brother George and in March 1767 married Sarah Morris, a cousin. The couple quickly took a prominent place in Philadelphia’s elite social circle. Contemporaries described Mifflin as an affable gentleman and fine sportsman. Elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society in 1768, he actively participated in that organization thereafter....

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Paterson, William (24 December 1745–09 September 1806), statesman and Supreme Court justice, was born in County Antrim, Ireland, the son of Richard Paterson, a tin plate worker, and Mary (maiden name unknown). In 1747 the family moved to America, where they finally settled in Princeton, New Jersey, and opened a general store. The College of New Jersey (later Princeton), was located near the Paterson home and inspired in William a desire for education. In 1759, at the age of thirteen, he enrolled there after taking Latin and Greek at a local preparatory school. In college he studied the classics, theology, history, and moral philosophy. Graduating in 1763, Paterson read law with ...

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Pinckney, Charles (26 October 1757–29 October 1824), politician and statesman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Charles Pinckney, a leading lawyer and planter, and Frances Brewton. Educated in Charleston, Pinckney was enrolled in the Middle Temple in London on 4 May 1773, but prerevolutionary tensions prevented his attendance. Instead, he read law in Charleston with his father. In 1779 Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives by, he later said, the unanimous vote of the only two people willing to brave bad weather in Christ Church Parish on voting day—himself and the supervisor of the election. Pinckney also served as a junior officer in the Charleston regiment of militia and, as such, saw action at the abortive American siege of Savannah in October 1779 and the equally unsuccessful defense of Charleston during the following spring....

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Plater, George (08 November 1735–10 February 1792), planter, legislator, and governor of Maryland, was born at “Sotterley,” his father’s plantation near Leonardtown, St. Mary’s County, Maryland, the son of George Plater and Rebecca Addison Bowles. His father was a lawyer, legislator, planter, and wealthy landholder who held a variety of proprietary positions, including service on the governor’s council from 1732 until his death. The younger Plater graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1754....

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Telfair, Edward (1735–17 September 1807), merchant and politician, was born in “Town Head,” Scotland, of unknown parents. He arrived in Georgia in 1766, joining his brother, William, who had emigrated earlier. They formed a partnership with Basil Cowper of Savannah and thus became members of the colony’s small merchant community. His base of operation was Savannah, but he had interests and property in the backcountry, which explains his election in 1768 to the assembly as a representative of upriver St. Paul’s parish. He also held offices in Savannah, and he moved as easily in low-country as upcountry circles. As a merchant he was concerned with the taxes and regulations passed by Parliament in the decade after his arrival, but there is little to indicate what role, if any, he played in the colonial protests of the period....