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Bishop, Abraham (05 February 1763–28 April 1844), politician and writer, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Samuel Bishop, a political notable of New Haven, and Mehetabel Bassett. Bishop graduated from Yale College in 1778, when he was fifteen, and was admitted to the bar on 6 April 1785. He did not practice law but followed eventually in the political footsteps of his father, who was a long-term officeholder, having served as town clerk, mayor, deputy in the state assembly, and judge of the county and probate courts. The younger Bishop visited Europe in 1787 and 1788, spending a lengthy period in France, an experience that one commentator suggested led to “the unsettlement of his religious views and the development of his passion for democracy” (Dexter, p. 17)....

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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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English, William Hayden (27 August 1822–07 February 1896), congressman, vice presidential candidate, and historian, was born in Lexington, Indiana, the son of Elisha G. English and Mahala Eastin. Elisha, a landowner and railroad vice president, was a Democrat who served in the Indiana legislature for nearly twenty years and was friends with many important politicians. William benefited from his father’s contacts and status and was influenced by his views....

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Graydon, Alexander (10 April 1752–02 May 1818), author and public official, was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania, the son of Alexander Graydon, who had emigrated from Ireland in 1730 and become a Philadelphia merchant and lawyer, and his second wife, Rachel Marks. When her husband died in 1761, Rachel Graydon and her children moved from the family home in Bristol to Philadelphia, where to augment her slender means she took in boarders. Young Alexander dropped out of the College and Academy of Philadelphia at age fourteen to read law with an uncle but seems equally to have been studying his mother’s boarders, among whom were sophisticated British officers and theater people. His somewhat reckless social life (recalled with evident pleasure in his ...

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Grayson, William John (12 November 1788–04 October 1863), politician and author, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of William John Grayson, a sheriff of the Beaufort District, and Susannah Greene. His father, who had been an officer during the American Revolution, died in 1797 at the age of thirty-seven; eleven months later Susannah Grayson married William Joyner, a widower and wealthy planter of the Beaufort District. Young Grayson early developed an insatiable desire for learning. From 1801 to 1803 he attended private academies in the North in preparation for admission to either Yale or Harvard. Accustomed to the gentility and hospitality of the South, he chose instead the new South Carolina College (now University of South Carolina)....

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Maclay, William (20 July 1737–16 April 1804), surveyor, legislator, and diarist, was born in New Garden Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Maclay and Eleanor Query, farmers, both of whom had emigrated from Lurgan in County Antrim, Ireland, three years earlier. In 1742 the family moved to what became Lurgan Township in Franklin County, three miles north of what is now Shippensburg. John Blair presided over an academy there at which William began his formal education. To further his studies he was sent to ...

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Otero-Warren, Nina (23 October 1882–03 January 1965), suffragist, politician, and author, was born María Adelina Isabel Emilia Otero in Los Lunas, New Mexico, the daughter of Eloisa Luna and Manuel B. Otero, ranchers. Nina grew up within one of the oldest and most traditional New Mexican households. Women were expected to learn the domestic arts and eventually marry well in order to run households of their own. Her family, on both her mother’s and her father’s side, was composed of the most prominent citizens, politicians, and ranchers of the territory; they claimed to be descendants of the original Spanish settlers of New Mexico. Nina’s traditional Hispano and Catholic upbringing proscribed a life of domesticity akin to the life her mother and grandmother had known....

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Rives, William Cabell (04 May 1793–25 April 1868), politician, diplomat, and author, was born in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Robert Rives, a revolutionary war veteran and merchant, and Margaret Jordan Cabell. Rives was educated at Hampden-Sydney College and graduated from William and Mary in 1809. He studied law with ...

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Smith, Richard (22 March 1735–17 September 1803), lawyer, diarist, and member of the Continental Congress, was born in Burlington, New Jersey, the son of Richard Smith, a Quaker merchant and member of the colonial assembly, and Abigail Smith. Richard Smith’s older brother Samuel Smith...

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Van Ness, William Peter (1778–06 September 1826), politician, pamphleteer, and jurist, was born in Claverack (later Ghent), New York, the son of Peter Van Ness, a revolutionary soldier and county judge, and Elbertie Hogeboom. After attending the Kinderhook Academy, Van Ness graduated from Columbia College in 1797. Following several years of legal studies in ...

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Zubly, John Joachim (27 August 1724–23 July 1781), clergyman, politician, and pamphleteer, was born in St. Gall, Switzerland, the son of David Zubly, a Reformed minister, and Helena (maiden name unknown). After completing his studies at the Gymnasium there, he followed his father to London and was ordained at the German Church in London on 19 August 1744. That same year he joined the Swiss German migration to Purrysburg, South Carolina, settling with his father and other Zubly family members who had removed there in 1736. Zubly preached among Swiss-, German-, and English-speaking settlers in South Carolina and Georgia and assisted the Reverend ...