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Bedford, Gunning, Jr. (1747–30 March 1812), revolutionary statesman, signer of the U.S. Constitution, and federal district judge, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Gunning Bedford and Susannah Jacquett. His upper-middle-class father was associated with the Philadelphia Carpenter’s Company, a labor combination of master workers. Bedford referred to himself as Gunning Bedford, Jr., probably to avoid being confused with his notable cousin and contemporary, Colonel ...

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Benson, Egbert (21 June 1746–24 August 1833), jurist and founding father, was born in New York City, the son of Robert Benson and Catherine Van Borsum. After graduating from King’s College (now Columbia) in 1765, Benson served his legal clerkship in the New York City office of the revolutionary leader ...

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Burnet, William (02 December 1730–07 October 1791), physician, judge, and member of the Continental Congress, was born in Lyon’s Farms, a town located between Newark and Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of Ichabod Burnet, a physician who emigrated from Scotland, and Hannah (maiden name unknown). He was educated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) when it was located in Newark under Rev. ...

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Dana, Francis (13 June 1743–25 April 1811), public official, diplomat, and jurist, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Dana, a lawyer, and Lydia Trowbridge. Francis entered Harvard College in 1758 and graduated in 1762. He received an M.A. from Harvard in 1765 at the same time that he was studying law in Cambridge with his uncle Edward Trowbridge. Dana was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1767 and became successful in his practice. In 1773 he married Elizabeth Ellery, daughter of ...

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Dyer, Eliphalet (14 September 1721–13 May 1807), politician and jurist, was born in Windham, Connecticut, the son of Thomas Dyer, a politician and farmer, and Lydia Backus. Because of the deepening land shortage in colonial Connecticut, Dyer trained for a professional career rather than enter into farming, and he graduated from Yale College in 1740. As law schools were nonexistent in colonial New England, Dyer entered an apprenticeship to train for the law; in 1746 he was admitted as a Connecticut lawyer. In 1747, following the traditional pattern for young attorneys in eighteen-century Connecticut to enhance their careers by seeking several public offices, Dyer was elected as one of Windham’s two deputies to the Connecticut General Assembly. Serving in the colony’s lower house of the legislature until 1762, he was then elected to the Governor’s Council, where he served continuously until 1784. Dyer’s election to the council, which served as the upper legislative body, signaled his arrival in the front ranks of Connecticut political life at the age of 41....

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John Sloss Hobart. Reproduction of a painting by James Sharples . Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110560).

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Hobart, John Sloss (06 May 1738–04 February 1805), revolutionary committeeman and justice of the New York state supreme court, was born in Fairfield, Connecticut, the son of Rev. Noah Hobart and Ellen Sloss. After graduation from Yale College (1757) he resided in New York City. There he married Mary Greenill (Grinnell) (d. 1803) in 1764 and moved to the manor of “Eaton’s Neck,” Long Island, which he had inherited from his mother’s family. In 1765 Hobart was a member of the Sons of Liberty in Huntington, Suffolk County, and served as justice of the peace. In 1774 he was a member of the town and county committees of correspondence. He served in the four New York provincial congresses from May 1775 through May 1777. Hobart was an active participant in the last congress, called the “Convention,” served on several of its committees, and contributed proposals to the state constitution. In April 1777 he was one of six committeemen assigned to prepare a draft of the document. He also was a member of the state council of safety. In May 1777, even though he admitted “not having been educated in the profession of the law,” Hobart was appointed one of two associate justices of the state supreme court, serving with ...

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Lowell, John (17 June 1743–06 May 1802), politician and judge, was born in Newbury, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend John Lowell, a Congregational minister, and Sarah Champney. After graduating from Harvard College in 1760, he studied law with Oxenbridge Thacher of Boston and was admitted to the bar in 1763. After his marriage in 1767 to Sarah Higginson, daughter of Stephen Higginson of Salem and his wife Elizabeth Cabot, Lowell returned to his native parish, which had separated in 1764 to become the town of Newburyport. There his legal practice flourished, he became active in town affairs as a selectman, committeeman, and justice of the peace, and he built a large mansion, which ...

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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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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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Wentworth, John (30 March 1719–17 May 1781), judge, patriot, and first Speaker of the Revolutionary Congress of New Hampshire, was born in the part of Dover, New Hampshire, that in his lifetime became Somersworth (now Rollinsford), the son of Captain Benjamin Wentworth (occupation unknown) and Elizabeth Leighton. He was generally known as “Colonel John” or “Judge John,” which distinguished him from his contemporary, political rival, and distant relative, Governor ...

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K. R. Constantine Gutzman

Yates, Robert (27 January 1738–09 September 1801), statesman and jurist, was born in Schenectady, New York, the son of Joseph Yates and Maria Dunbar. His great-grandfather had immigrated to Albany, New York, c. 1700, and Robert Yates was associated with that city throughout his life. Yates’s family provided him a decent upbringing and a good education, but the family was of the middling gentry. Even at the height of his career, Yates was not among the Empire State’s social elite. He had a classical education in New York, then read law in the office of ...