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John Dickinson. Engraving by B. L. Prevost, 1781. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-26777).

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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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Mason, George (1725–07 October 1792), planter and revolutionary statesman, the son of George Mason (c. 1629–c. 1686), a planter, and Ann Thomson. He was probably born at Dogue’s Neck (now called Mason Neck) in the northern part of Stafford County, Virginia, now Fairfax County. Both his namesake father and grandfather had been important planters and sometimes controversial public men in the Potomac River Valley. His mother was the daughter of Stevens Thomson, an English barrister who served as attorney general of Virginia from 1703 until his death early in 1713. Mason’s father drowned in an accident in 1735, leaving his strong-willed and self-reliant mother to manage the large estate. George Mason remained in Virginia for a private education, which he obtained in part in the library of his guardian, the noted legal scholar ...

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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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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....