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Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga. Reproduction of a painting by E. Percy Moran (1862–1935). Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96539).

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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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Archer, John (05 May 1741–28 September 1810), physician, patriot, and public official, was born in Maryland, either near Brinckley’s Mills, Cecil County, or near the present town of Churchville, Harford County, the son of Thomas Archer, a farmer and ironworks agent, and Elizabeth Stevenson. Archer attended the West Nottingham Academy in Cecil County and the College of New Jersey (Princeton), from which he received the A.B. degree in 1760 and the M.A. in 1763. Thereafter he taught school in Baltimore and studied theology. However, after a second examination by the Presbytery of New Castle, in 1764, the presbytery decided that it “cannot encourage him to prosecute his tryals for the Gospel ministry any further,” and he turned his attention to medicine. He became a pupil of Dr. ...

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Arnold, Jonathan (03 December 1741–01 February 1793), political leader of the revolutionary period, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Josiah Arnold and Amy Phillips, occupations unknown. Though he did not attend college, Arnold studied medicine and opened his own practice in Providence in the late 1760s. An early supporter of the revolutionary cause, Arnold commanded a company of volunteer grenadiers in Providence in the alarm following Lexington and Concord in 1775. Elected to represent Providence in the Rhode Island Assembly in 1776 and reelected the following year, Arnold wrote the statute, approved on 4 May 1776, repealing the oath of allegiance to Great Britain required of all public officials. That same year he organized the Revolutionary Hospital of Rhode Island and was appointed its chief surgeon by the governor, a position he held until 1781. He gained a reputation as an innovative doctor and an efficient administrator. In 1781 he was elected assistant to the governor of Rhode Island, largely in honor of his wartime service....

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Ashe, John (1720?–24 October 1781), colonial politician and military officer, was born in the Albemarle Sound region of North Carolina, the son of John Baptista Ashe, an assemblyman, and Elizabeth Swann. In late 1727 the elder Ashe moved south from Beaufort County and purchased a 640-acre plantation near the Cape Fear River. There, John Ashe was tutored in Latin, Greek, and French. Entering Harvard as a member of the class of 1746, he proved to be a rebellious student, continually chafing against authority and chronically absenting himself from class....

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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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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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Blair, John, Jr. (1732–31 August 1800), associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, the son of John Blair, a prominent colonial Virginia statesman, and Mary Monro. Educated at the College of William and Mary, from which he graduated with honors in 1754, Blair pursued the study of law at the Middle Temple in London (1755–1756), where in 1757 he was called to the bar. While in England, he married Jean Blair (no relation) on 26 December 1756....

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Bland, Theodorick (21 March 1742–01 June 1790), revolutionary soldier and politician, was born in Prince George County, Virginia, the son of Theodorick Bland, a planter, and Frances Bolling. In 1753 he was sent to Wakefield in Yorkshire, England, for schooling, remaining there until taking up medical studies in Liverpool in 1759. Two years later he transferred to the University of Edinburgh and received an M.D. degree in 1763. In Edinburgh and later in London Bland cut a fashionable figure, chivied by friends for his “monstrous large Whig.” He was also known as “something of a politician,” and it was with reluctance that he heeded his father’s call to return to Virginia in 1764. There he began his medical practice with all its attendant “distresses, cares and anxieties,” the “immense fatigue” of which caused him to retire from the profession in 1771. Wishing for a “calm, quiet, and philosophical life, in a rural situation,” Bland became a planter in Prince George County....

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Broom, Jacob (1752–25 April 1810), civic leader and delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, was born in Wilmington, New Castle County, then part of Pennsylvania, later Delaware, the son of James Broom, a blacksmith who prospered through real estate ventures, and Ester Willis, a Quaker. Broom was educated as a lawyer and as a surveyor at a private school that later became the College of Wilmington. In 1773 he married Rachel Pierce, a widow from nearby Christiana Hundred. She and six of their eight children survived Jacob....

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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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Bulloch, Archibald (1730–1777), lawyer and revolutionary war leader, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of James Bulloch, a clergyman, member of the South Carolina Assembly, merchant, and Colleton County planter, and Jean Stobo. Although little is known about his early years, it is believed that he received a liberal education and studied law. Prior to his move to Georgia in 1758, he was admitted to the bar and acquired a rice plantation near Purrysburg on the Savannah River. In 1764 he married Mary De Veaux; they had four children. President ...

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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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Butler, Pierce (11 July 1744–15 February 1822), U.S. senator and member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, was born in County Carlow, Ireland, the son of Sir Richard Butler, a baronet and member of the Irish Parliament, and Henrietta Percy. Because Butler was third in line to inherit his father’s lands and title, his parents purchased a commission in the army for him when he was eleven. By the age of fourteen he was on active duty with the Twenty-second Regiment of Foot in Canada, where in 1758 he took part in the capture of the French fortress of Louisbourg. In 1762 he transferred to the Twenty-ninth Regiment, in which he held the rank of major by 1766. Two years later, while stationed in South Carolina, he tried to elope with a fifteen-year-old heiress, but her stepfather forestalled the marriage. In 1771 Butler married Mary Middleton, the daughter of Thomas Middleton and Mary Bull. Also an heiress, she brought extensive landholdings in the southern part of the colony near Beaufort as well as a connection with some of the leading local families. Butler and his wife had eight children, five of whom survived to adulthood....

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Carroll, Charles (22 March 1723–23 March 1783), politician and landowner, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of Charles Carroll, a physician, and Dorothy Blake. The Carrolls and the Blakes were among the most prominent Roman Catholic families in Maryland. In 1734 Dr. Carroll sent his son to Europe for a Catholic education at the English College at Bairro Alto, Lisbon, Portugal. In 1738, after a violent falling out with other Carrolls in Annapolis, Dr. Carroll became a member of the Anglican church and transferred his son to Eton. After Eton the young Charles Carroll went to Clare College, Cambridge, returning to Annapolis in 1746. From 1751 until 1753 he studied law at the Middle Temple, London....

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Carter, Landon (18 August 1710–22 December 1778), patriot and diarist, was born in Lancaster County, Virginia, the son of Robert “King” Carter, a planter-merchant member of the King’s Council, and Elizabeth Landon. The young Landon was sent to England for schooling when aged nine. Showing special promise as a scholar, he continued there for seven years before returning to Virginia in 1726, where he enrolled at the College of William and Mary in 1727 before settling to learn the tobacco planter and consignment business as assistant and companion to his aged father. In 1732 Carter’s father died, and Carter received a large inheritance. That year he married Elizabeth Wormeley. After Elizabeth’s death in 1740, he married Maria Byrd in 1742, and they had one child. Following Maria’s death in 1744, he married Elizabeth Beale in 1746; they had three children before she died around 1755. In all he had eight children. Carter was a widower for a long period at the end of his life, the years of his diary keeping. The three marriages brought substantial increases in property holding....

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Cutts, Samuel (08 December 1726–29 May 1801), merchant and revolutionary activist, was born probably in Kittery, Maine, the son of Major Richard Cutt, a merchant, and Eunice Curtis. The fourth of ten children, he was of the first generation to change the spelling of the family name from Cutt to Cutts. His great-grandfather was Robert Cutt, who with two brothers had come, in the 1640s to the Piscataqua River region of northern New England where they soon became one of the dominant mercantile and landholding families. One of Robert’s brothers, ...

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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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Dayton, Jonathan (16 October 1760–09 October 1824), revolutionary war officer and congressman, was born in Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth), New Jersey, the son of Elias Dayton, a wealthy merchant and revolutionary war general, and Hannah Rolfe. Dayton probably attended Elizabethtown Academy (a grammar school). He entered the College of New Jersey (Princeton) about 1774 and graduated in 1776, although he missed the commencement because he had joined the Continental army....