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Campbell, George Washington (08 February 1769–17 February 1848), lawyer and statesman, was born in Tongue Parish, Sutherlandshire, Scotland, the son of Archibald Campbell, a physician, and Elizabeth Mackay. He immigrated with his family to America in 1772 and settled with them near the present city of Charlotte, North Carolina, where his father farmed and practiced medicine. After several years of teaching in a small school near his home, he was admitted at the age of twenty-three to the junior class of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) and graduated in 1794 with high honors. He taught in New Jersey for a year or two but soon returned to North Carolina, where he studied law. By 1798 he had moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, a bustling commercial center of about fifty homes, where he achieved immediate success at the bar. Knoxville was the capital of the state for more than another decade, and this fact, in addition to the city’s significant growth during that time, was a factor in his success....

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Cassius Marcellus Clay. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109862).

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Clay, Cassius Marcellus (19 October 1810–22 July 1903), antislavery politician and diplomat, was born in White Hall, Kentucky, the son of Green Clay, a land speculator, and Sally Lewis. Green Clay was one of the wealthiest landowners and slaveholders in Kentucky, and young Cassius was raised in comfort and affluence. He attended Transylvania University (1829–1831) and Yale College (1831–1832), where he received his bachelor’s degree. After returning to Transylvania to study law in 1832–1833, Clay married Mary Jane Warfield in 1833. The marriage produced ten children....

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Henry Clay. Engraving from an original drawing by D. Dickinson, c. 1844. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-954531844).

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Clay, Henry (12 April 1777–29 June 1852), statesman, was born in Hanover County, Virginia, the son of John Clay, a Baptist minister, and Elizabeth Hudson. John Clay died during the American Revolution when Henry was four years old. The following year Henry’s mother married Captain Henry Watkins, a planter and militia officer, and later they moved to Kentucky. Henry received his early schooling at the Old Field School and the St. Paul’s School in Virginia. Although he had a gifted mind, his formal education was extremely limited. Nor did he apply himself to his studies. As he later put it, he “relied too much upon the resources of my genius.” But growing up in Hanover County, he heard ...

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Thomas L. Clingman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111949).

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Clingman, Thomas Lanier (27 July 1812–03 November 1897), politician and businessman, was born in Huntsville, North Carolina, the son of Jacob Clingman, a merchant, and Jane Poindexter. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1832, he studied law at the office of ...

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Alexander Hamilton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-91098).

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Hamilton, Alexander (11 January 1757?–12 July 1804), statesman and first secretary of the treasury, was born in Nevis, British West Indies, the second of two illegitimate sons of James Hamilton and Rachel Faucett Lavien. (The year of birth is often given as 1755, but the evidence more strongly supports 1757.) The father deserted the family when Hamilton was eight; the mother died three years later. Hamilton was apprenticed to a firm of international merchants and proved to be so gifted in commerce that he was soon left in full charge of the business. At fifteen he was “discovered” by a Presbyterian minister, who arranged financial support to send him to the College of New Jersey at Princeton. After a year at a preparatory school he passed the stiff entrance exams at Princeton, but when the president refused to allow him to advance at his own pace rather than with the regular classes, he went to King’s College (now Columbia) in New York instead....

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Marigny, Bernard (28 October 1785–03 February 1868), Creole planter and politician, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Pierre Enguerrand Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville, a Spanish army officer and rich landowner, and Jeanne Marie d’Estréhan, daughter of a distinguished family. He was christened Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville and grew up in the richest family in the French colony of Louisiana. When Marigny was fifteen his father died, at which time Lino de Chalmette, a relative, became his guardian. Already Marigny had developed into an unruly, spoiled young man, so addicted to gambling that Chalmette could not control him. Hence Marigny was dispatched to Pensacola, Florida, and placed in the care of a wealthy merchant named Panton, who found him so impossible that he immediately sent him back. Chalmette then sent Marigny to England, where he lived on an extravagant allowance, mingled with the best society, met Lord Byron, and continued his dissipated ways. Soon he was deeply in debt to London and Parisian gamblers. Returning to New Orleans after his eighteenth birthday, he came into possession of his entire fortune of $7 million but was compelled to liquidate a plantation in order to pay his creditors. Supposedly he maintained an entire street of houses on what he called “Rue de l’Amour” to shelter his numerous mistresses....

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Maverick, Samuel Augustus (23 July 1803–02 September 1870), politician and landowner, was born in Pendleton, South Carolina, the son of Samuel Maverick, the owner of “Montpelier” plantation, and Elizabeth Anderson. He received his early education locally and then attended Yale College, from which he received his B.A. in 1825. Afterward, he studied law in Winchester, Virginia, then returned to Pendleton, where he was admitted to the bar in 1829 and practiced law....

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Otero, Miguel Antonio (21 June 1829–30 May 1882), politician and businessman, was born in Valencia, New Mexico, then a province of the Mexican Republic, the son of Don Vicente Otero and Dona Gertrudis Chaves y Argon. Vicente Otero was primarily a farmer and merchant but also filled local judicial positions under the Mexican government. Miguel Antonio Otero entered St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, in September 1841 and continued his education there until the outbreak of the Mexican-American War in May 1846, at which time his parents sent for him. In 1847 he enrolled at Pingree College, located in Fishkill on the Hudson, New York. Within a short time he became a teacher at the college and also an assistant to the principal. In 1849 Otero commenced the study of law, first with James Thayer, an attorney living in Fishkill on the Hudson, then with a General Sanford in New York City during the winter of 1849–1850, and finally with Trusten Polk in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1851 to 1852. Otero was admitted to the Missouri bar in the spring of 1852, immediately after which he returned to New Mexico, now a U.S. territory. That same year he took a herd of sheep, presumably the property of his brother, Antonio José Otero, overland to California....

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Potter, Robert (1800?–02 March 1842), North Carolina congressman and Republic of Texas political leader, was born at Brassfields, North Carolina, of parentage unknown to present-day historians, other than the fact that his father was a yeoman farmer. He attended country school at Williamsboro and entered the United States Navy as a midshipman on 2 March 1815. He served various tours of duty aboard the ...

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Van Rensselaer, Solomon (06 August 1774–23 April 1852), soldier, congressman, and public official, was born in Rensselaer County, New York, the son of Henry Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, a revolutionary war general, and Alida Bradt. The Van Rensselaers were one of the powerful Dutch patroon families of New York. Respect for the military profession ran high in the culture and in the family, so Solomon’s father secured for him in 1792 a commission as cornet in the newly formed U.S. light dragoon squadron. The dragoons became part of ...

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James Watson Webb. Illustration in Harper’s Weekly, 1858. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111860).

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Webb, James Watson (02 February 1802–07 June 1884), editor and statesman, was born at Claverack, New York, the son of Brigadier General Samuel Blatchley Webb, a revolutionary war hero and merchant, and Catherine Hogeboom. Orphaned early, he was raised by a sister and brother-in-law in Cooperstown, New York, where he was apprenticed to a merchant. Bored, and conscious of his father’s military fame, Webb obtained an army commission at age seventeen. As a second lieutenant he was stationed at Governor’s Island, New York, and at Detroit....

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Wise, John Sergeant (27 December 1846–12 May 1913), lawyer, politician, and author, was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the son of Henry Alexander Wise, a former congressman from Virginia who was then serving as U.S. minister plenipotentiary to Brazil, and Sarah Sergeant. When Wise was less than a year old, his family returned to Virginia. He grew up on the plantations “Only,” in Accomack County, and “Rolleston,” in Princess Anne County, near the Chesapeake Bay. From 1856 to 1859, during his father’s term as governor, John lived in Richmond. Educated in private schools, he developed a precocious interest in politics and military affairs....