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Fisher Ames. Oil on wood, c. 1807, by Gilbert Stuart. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George Cabot Lodge.

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Ames, Fisher (09 April 1758–04 July 1808), Federalist party leader, member of Congress, essayist, and renowned orator, was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Ames, Sr., a physician, tavern keeper, and almanac writer, and Deborah Fisher. Intellectually honed, Ames was admitted to Harvard at twelve. Steeped in the classics, he excelled in elocution and participated in a debating club, the Institute of 1770. Graduating in 1774, he served with the Dedham militia at the time of the battle of Bunker Hill but did not see combat. At home he pursued his scholarly interests, reading widely in classical literature and history. He also occasionally taught school. Under the tutelage of the prominent ...

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Cockran, William Bourke (28 February 1854–01 March 1923), orator and U.S. congressman, was born in Carrowkeel, Ireland, the son of Martin Cockran and Harriet Knight, prominent farmers. He attended school in France and college in Ireland. At the age of seventeen he emigrated to the United States. In 1876 he was admitted to the bar and two years later set up practice in New York City. Cockran amassed a substantial fortune through his civil practice. His expertise in public utilities brought clients from the major gas and electric companies in the New York City area. Cockran married three times but remained childless. In 1876 he married Mary Jackson, who died in childbirth in 1877; in 1885 he married Rhoda Mack, who died in 1895; and in 1906 he married Anne L. Ide. In 1887 he bought an estate, “The Cedars,” at Sands Point, Long Island, which remained his chief residence....

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Chauncey Mitchell Depew. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90755).

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Depew, Chauncey Mitchell (23 April 1834–05 April 1928), public speaker, railroad president, and U.S. senator, was born in Peekskill, New York, the son of Isaac Depew, a shipowner, merchant, and farmer, and Martha Mitchell. After graduating from Peekskill Academy in 1852, Chauncey entered Yale where he forsook the Democratic faith of his father and sided with the antislavery forces of the newly created Republican party. After receiving his diploma in 1856, young Depew began the study of law in the office of a Peekskill attorney and was admitted to the bar in 1858. That same year he was a delegate to the Republican State Convention, and in 1862 and 1863 he served in the New York state legislature, becoming a leader of the GOP caucus during his second session. In 1863 he was elected New York’s secretary of state, a post he held for two years. Throughout this period he developed a reputation as a campaign speaker who could sway a crowd in support of the Republican cause. In an age when oratorical skill was a prerequisite to political success, his gift for speaking proved an invaluable asset....

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John Randolph. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-104245).

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Randolph, John (02 June 1773–24 May 1833), member of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. senator, and orator, known as John Randolph of Roanoke, was born at “Cawsons,” in Prince George County, Virginia, the son of John Randolph, a scion of the Virginian landed slaveholding elite, and Frances Bland. Both parents were descendents of the founding father of the Randolphs of Virginia, William Randolph of Turkey Island. The senior John Randolph died in 1775, and in 1778 his widow married ...