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Allen, Ethan (10 January 1738–12 February 1789), frontier revolutionary leader and author of the first deistic work by an American, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Allen and Mary Baker, farmers. Allen served briefly in the French and Indian War and in 1762 began operating a productive iron forge in Salisbury, Connecticut. That same year he married Mary Brownson, with whom he would have five children. But Allen’s deism and aggressive personal conduct ruined his early prospects: he was warned out of Salisbury in 1765 and Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1767....

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Dickinson, John (08 November 1732–14 February 1808), statesman and political pamphleteer, was born in Talbot County, Maryland, the son of Samuel Dickinson, a plantation owner and merchant, and his second wife, Mary Cadwalader. Owners of extensive properties in Delaware as well as Maryland, the family moved in John’s youth to Kent, near Dover, Delaware. He was tutored at home until the age of eighteen when he began the study of law in the office of John Moland. Three years later he left for London for further legal training at the Middle Temple, the Inns of Court, and Westminster. After completing his studies in 1757, he returned to Philadelphia to open a law office. His extensive knowledge of legal history and precedent as well as his skills in writing and presentation soon earned him an outstanding reputation....

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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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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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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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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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Madison, James (05 March 1751–28 June 1836), "the father of the Constitution" and fourth president of the United States, “the father of the Constitution” and fourth president of the United States, was born in King George County, Virginia, the oldest child of James Madison, Sr., and Nelly Conway, who at the time was visiting her mother’s estate on the Rappahannock River. The senior Madison, a vestryman, a justice of the peace, and Orange County’s leading planter, was the master of 4,000 acres and perhaps 100 slaves. Although without a formal education of his own, he was determined to provide his namesake with the training and accomplishments appropriate for one who was expected to assume a place among the great Virginia gentry. In 1762, at age eleven, the younger Madison (who would subscribe himself “James Madison, Jr.,” until his father’s death in 1801) began five years of study at Donald Robertson’s boarding school in King and Queen County. From there, encouraged by the Reverend Thomas Martin, who gave him two more years of tutoring at home, he traveled north to Princeton, where he passed examinations with the freshman class in September 1769 and completed the next three years in two....

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Martin, Luther ( February 1748–08 July 1826), lawyer and politician, was born near New Brunswick, New Jersey, the son of Benjamin Martin and Hannah (maiden name unknown), farmers. Luther Martin graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1766. For the next three years he served as schoolmaster at the Queen Anne’s County Free School on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. During this time Martin began studying law with books borrowed from a local attorney....

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McClurg, James (1746–09 July 1823), physician and delegate to the Federal Convention of 1787, was born in Elizabeth City County, Virginia, the son of Walter McClurg, a British naval surgeon (mother’s name unknown). His father had been sent to Hampton, Virginia, to open a hospital for inoculation against smallpox. Since the practice of inoculation had been introduced into the American colonies only a few years earlier, this was probably the first hospital of its kind in America....

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Morris, Gouverneur (30 January 1752–06 November 1816), framer of the Constitution and diplomat, was born at the family manor, “Morrisania,” in what is now The Bronx, New York, the son of Lewis Morris, Jr., a judge of the court of vice-admiralty in New York, and his second wife, Sarah Gouverneur, daughter of a Speaker of the New York Assembly. His grandfather, ...

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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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Revere, Paul ( December 1734–10 May 1818), craftsman, patriot, and businessman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Paul Revere, a goldsmith, and Deborah Hichborn (or Hitchborn). Revere’s father, born Apollos Rivoire, emigrated from France to Boston in 1715 at the age of thirteen and apprenticed with John Coney, a prominent local gold/silversmith. Shortly before his marriage he changed his name, first to Paul Rivoire and then to Paul Revere. The son’s birth date has long been the source of confusion since only his baptismal date, 22 December 1734 OS and 1 January 1735 NS, is recorded. Revere’s early life, fairly typical of boys of his day and economic status, included basic schooling at the North Writing School. During his teens he entered into a formal agreement with fellow North End youths to ring the bells at Christ Church for a fee. Revere’s own words, “My Father was a Goldsmith. … I learned the trade of him,” confirm that as the eldest surviving son, he apprenticed with his father, thus beginning his most enduring occupation. Though overshadowed by the fame of his son, the elder Revere’s skill as a gold/silversmith may actually have equaled that of his son. The younger Revere noted that his father died “in the year 1754, he left no estate, but he left a good name.” Just nineteen years old, Revere ran the shop with the help of his mother. In 1756 he received a commission as a second lieutenant of artillery and spent the better part of a year on an unsuccessful expedition to capture the French fort at Crown Point on Lake Champlain....