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Simon Bradstreet. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98949).

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Bradstreet, Simon (Feb. or Mar. 1604–27 March 1697), colonial statesman and governor of Massachusetts, was born in Horbling, Lincolnshire, England, and was baptized on 18 March 1604, the son of Simon Bradstreet, vicar of Horbling, and Margaret (maiden name unknown). In 1617 he entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge (of which his father had been a fellow), and received the degrees of B.A. in 1620 and M.A. in 1624. Between 1621 and 1624 he served as assistant to ...

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Cooke, Elisha (16 September 1637–31 October 1715), politician and colonial agent, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Cooke, a wealthy tailor, and Elizabeth Leverett. Elisha graduated from Harvard in 1657 and began practicing as a physician. He added to his inheritance by accumulating considerable wealth in shares in ships, a saw mill in Maine, and various landholdings. In June 1668 he married Elizabeth Leverett, the daughter of Governor ...

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De Lancey, Oliver (16 September 1718–27 October 1785), colonial politician and Loyalist, was born in the province of New York, the youngest son of Etienne (Stephen) De Lancey and Anne van Cortlandt, who established the De Lanceys as a prominent New York mercantile family. The eldest son, ...

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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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Dulany, Daniel (1685–05 December 1753), lawyer and officeholder, was born in Queen’s County, Ireland, the son of Thomas Dulany (occupation unknown). His mother’s name is unknown. He is often called Daniel Dulany, the Elder, to distinguish him from his son Daniel Dulany, Jr....

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Dummer, William (1677–10 October 1761), politician, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, and farmer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Jeremiah Dummer, a silversmith, and Anna (or Hannah) Atwater. Born to wealthy parents, he was part of Boston’s Puritan elite. On 20 April 1714, he married Catherine Dudley, the daughter of Governor ...

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Galloway, Joseph (1731–29 August 1803), colonial statesman and Loyalist, was born in West River, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the son of Peter Bines Galloway and Elizabeth Rigbie. The family owned large estates in Maryland and Pennsylvania. After the early death of his father, Joseph Galloway moved to Philadelphia, where as a precocious teenager he began to practice law in 1747. In 1748 he was welcomed as the forty-sixth member of the city’s most exclusive club, “The Colony in Schuylkill” (known after the Declaration of Independence as “The Schuylkill Fishing Company of the State of Schuylkill”). Fishing company members, about sixty gentlemen in 1748, hunted and fished in the wilderness west of the city along the Schuylkill River, an area known for its abundant fish and game. They socialized and conducted society business in a meetinghouse near the river. Galloway’s election to this company indicates his position within the elite of the city’s aristocracy. He relinquished his former select status as a leading Quaker in 1753 when he married Grace Growdon, the daughter of Lawrence Growdon, an Episcopalian, a social coup fostering Galloway’s own wealth and influence. Joseph Galloway was a highly self-educated man, familiar with the classics and greatly interested in science; from 1769 to 1775 he served as vice president of the American Philosophical Society. He was recognized as an authority on land titles and thereby accumulated much land for himself. Gradually, though, his political ambition took precedence....

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Harrison, Benjamin (1726?–24 April 1791), Virginia planter, legislator, governor, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born at the family seat, “Berkeley,” Charles City County, Virginia, the son of Benjamin Harrison and Anne Carter, daughter of Robert “King” Carter, one of the largest landowners in the colony. The Harrisons were among the early settlers in Virginia, and Benjamin “the Signer” was the fifth of that name in a direct line of descent. His father and grandfather had been prominent in the affairs of colonial government. His son, ...

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Logan, James (20 October 1674–31 October 1751), provincial councilor, scholar, and William Penn's secretary in America, provincial councilor, scholar, and William Penn’s secretary in America, was born in Lurgan, County Armaugh, Ireland, the son of Scottish Quakers Patrick Logan, a minister and teacher, and Isabel Hume. His father, who earned an A.M. from Edinburgh University, taught him Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and at age thirteen he was apprenticed to Edward Webb, a Quaker linen draper in Dublin. Logan returned to Lurgan six months later, then moved with his family to Bristol when his father was appointed master of the Friar Meetinghouse School. He replaced his father in this position in 1693 and later earned the respect of William Penn when the colonial proprietor served on the school’s supervisory board. Penn invited Logan to be his secretary in Pennsylvania, and he was with the Penn family aboard the ...

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Ludlow, Gabriel George (16 April 1736–12 February 1808), Loyalist soldier and politician, was born in Queens County, Long Island, New York, the son of Gabriel Ludlow, a wealthy merchant, and Frances Duncan. His grandfather immigrated to New York from England in 1694 and established the family’s wealth by operating a successful coasting trade out of New York City and acquiring vast land holdings on the west side of the Hudson River. The Ludlows were prosperous members of New York’s colonial gentry....

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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....

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Robinson, John (03 February 1704–11 May 1766), planter, Speaker of the House of Burgesses, and treasurer of Virginia, was born at “Hewick” plantation, Middlesex County, Virginia, the son of John Robinson, a planter and a member of the Virginia Council, and Catherine Beverley. Young Robinson studied at the College of William and Mary. In 1723 he married Mary Storey, who apparently died within a few years, probably in childbirth. They had no surviving children. By 1727 Robinson had moved to King and Queen County, possibly at the time of his marriage to Lucy Moore. Although the dates of both the wedding and the construction of the house are unknown, the Robinsons subsequently resided at “Pleasant Hill” across the Mattaponi River from “Chelsea,” the home of Lucy’s father, Augustine Moore. The new couple had at least two children. The date of Lucy Robinson’s death is uncertain, possibly 1755. Robinson married Susanna Chiswell in 1759. They also had at least two children....

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Rodney, Caesar (07 October 1728–26 June 1784), Speaker of the colonial assembly and president of the state of Delaware, was born on a farm near Dover in Kent County, Delaware, the son of Caesar Rodeney, a planter, and Elizabeth Crawford. (His father and grandfather both spelled their name Rodeney.) Little is known of Rodney’s education except that in 1743 he attended the Latin school in Philadelphia....

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Shippen, Edward (1639– August 1712), merchant, religious martyr, and political leader, was born in Yorkshire, England, the son of William Shippen, a prominent landholder, and Mary Nunnes (or Nuns). Although his older brother earned degrees at Oxford and became an Anglican clergyman, Edward in 1668 emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, a wilderness town of about 3,500. In 1671 he married Elizabeth Lybrand; they had eight children during their seventeen years together. Not long after he joined an artillery company, Shippen converted to his wife’s faith and became a member of the Society of Friends....

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Stoughton, William (30 September 1631–07 July 1701), colonial politician and lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, was born, probably in England, the son of Israel Stoughton and Elizabeth Clarke. The family soon immigrated to Dorchester, Massachusetts, where Stoughton’s father became a large landowner and outspoken politician before returning to England in 1644 to enlist in the parliamentary army. Stoughton followed him after graduating from Harvard in 1650. He studied at Oxford, becoming a fellow of New College and receiving an M.A. on 30 June 1653. He was appointed minister of the Sussex parish of Rumboldswycke near Chichester in 1659 but lost his Oxford fellowship following the restoration of Charles II and returned to Massachusetts in 1662. There he continued to preach, as in a famous election sermon of 1668 delivered before the Massachusetts General Court in which he proclaimed that “God sifted a whole Nation that he might send choice Grain over into this Wilderness” ( ...