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Axtell, Samuel Beach (14 October 1819–06 August 1891), politician, lawyer, and jurist, was born near Columbus, Ohio, the son of Samuel Loree Axtell and Nancy Sanders, farmers. Axtell graduated from Western Reserve College in Hudson, Ohio, and, after studying law, was admitted to the bar. He married Adaline S. Williams in 1840, and in 1843 they moved to Mount Clemens, Michigan, where Axtell established a law practice. The couple had at least one child. In 1851 Axtell migrated to California, where he invested in the booming mining industry and practiced law. Politically active as a Democrat, he helped organize Amador County east of Sacramento in 1854 and was elected as the new county’s first district attorney, a post to which he was reelected in 1856 and 1858....

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Barry, William Taylor (05 February 1784–30 August 1835), politician, jurist, and postmaster general, was born in Lunenburg County, Virginia, the son of John Barry, a revolutionary war veteran and farmer, and Susannah Dozier. The family moved to Kentucky, apparently in 1796, and settled in Fayette County. Following a course of study in law at William and Mary College, Barry was admitted to the Kentucky bar and set up practice in Lexington in 1805. That same year he married Lucy Waller Overton, with whom he would have two children before her premature death....

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Bibb, George Mortimer (30 October 1776–14 April 1859), jurist and politician, was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, the son of Richard Bibb, a clergyman, and Lucy Booker. George attended Hampden-Sydney College in 1790–1791 and graduated in 1792 from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). He later attended the College of William and Mary, probably to study law, and apparently he also read law with Richard Venable and practiced briefly in Williamsburg. He moved to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1798, and in 1799 he married Martha Tabb, the daughter of ...

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Brawley, William Hiram (13 May 1841–15 November 1916), South Carolina politician and federal judge, was born in Chester, South Carolina, the son of Hiram Brawley, a planter, and Harriet Foote. He graduated from the South Carolina College in 1860. When South Carolina seceded, he volunteered for military service as a private in the Sixth South Carolina Volunteers. His unit saw action in the reduction of Fort Sumter and was then transferred to the Virginia front. As a result of wounds he received in the battle of Seven Pines (May 1862), his left arm had to be amputated. Discharged from military duty, he went back home to manage his father’s plantation. In 1864, still in poor health, he ran the Union naval blockade and spent the remainder of the war in England and France studying law and literature....

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Breese, Sidney (15 July 1800–27 June 1878), politician and jurist, was born in Whitesboro, New York, the son of Arthur Breese, a lawyer, and Catherine Livingston. After graduating from Union College in Schenectady in 1818, he moved west to Kaskaskia, the backwoods capital of the newly admitted state of Illinois. There he became the assistant of Elias Kent Kane, the secretary of state and an old family friend. Breese read law under Kane’s direction and was admitted to the bar in 1820. When the government moved to Vandalia in December 1820, Breese transported the state archives to the new capital in a small wagon and supervised the opening of a new office for the secretary of state before returning to his law practice in Kaskaskia. The 82-mile journey through uncleared wilderness took a week to complete. In 1823 he married Eliza Morrison; they had fourteen children....

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Brinkerhoff, Jacob (31 August 1810–19 July 1880), politician and jurist, was born in Niles, New York, the son of Henry I. Brinkerhoff and Rachel Bevier, farmers. Raised in rural New York, where he studied law, Brinkerhoff moved to Ohio in 1836 and began a legal practice in Mansfield. Combining politics with law, he served two terms as county prosecutor before he was elected to Congress as an expansionist Democrat. He served two terms (1843–1847), during which he represented a district of northeastern Ohio characterized by antislavery sentiment. Although a party regular on most issues, he broke with fellow Democrats over the joint resolution annexing Texas in 1845. As an opponent of the extension of slavery, he proposed an amendment prohibiting the institution in half of Texas; without it, he believed, northern whites would refuse to settle there. When the House rejected his proposal, he voted against annexation....

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Bryan, George (11 August 1731–27 January 1791), politician and jurist, was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of Samuel Bryan, a merchant, and Sarah Dennis. Little is known about his first twenty years in Dublin other than that he was reared in a Presbyterian household while his father developed trade connections in the colonies. Apparently self-educated, Bryan clearly learned much about his father’s commercial activities. Samuel Bryan arranged a partnership for his son with Philadelphia merchant and fellow Presbyterian James Wallace in 1752. George Bryan then migrated to America, but his joint venture lasted only three years....

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Chipman, Nathaniel (15 November 1752–15 February 1843), jurist, U.S. senator, and conservative political leader, was born in Salisbury, Connecticut, the son of Samuel Chipman, a blacksmith and farmer, and Hannah Austin. Chipman entered Yale University in 1773. He joined the Continental army as an ensign during his senior year, in spring 1777, receiving his degree in absentia. Chipman was promoted to lieutenant during the winter at Valley Forge and was present at the battle of Monmouth in June 1778. In October Chipman resigned his commission to study law, complaining that an officer’s salary was insufficient to “support the character of a gentleman” (Chipman, p. 32). One of the first graduates of ...

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Clagett, Wyseman ( August 1721–04 December 1784), New Hampshire lawyer, judge, and revolutionary war leader, was born in Bristol, England, the son of Martha (maiden name unknown) and Wiseman (also spelled Wyseman) Clagett, an attorney of Barnard’s Inn, who inherited the manor of Broad Oakes, Wimbish, Essex, which was sold for the benefit of its creditors in 1749. The younger Clagett received a classical education, studied at the Inns of Court, and was admitted an attorney of the King’s Bench. In 1748, after being commissioned a notary public, he removed to the British colony of Antigua in the West Indies. There he served as a notary and secretary of the colony and enjoyed the patronage of John Weeks, a wealthy planter, who in 1750 left him an annuity of £50 sterling for life....

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Joseph Force Crater Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Crater, Joseph Force (05 January 1889–1930), jurist, was one of four children born in Easton, Pennsylvania, to Frank E. Crater, orchard owner and the operator of a produce market, and his wife (whose name cannot be ascertained). The family was comfortable financially, but Joseph learned the value of hard work from an early age by working long hours for his father. He also loved music, and encouraged by his mother he became a skillful pianist. After attending local public schools, he enrolled at Lafayette College, also in Easton, graduating with honors in 1911. He went on to law school at Columbia University and received his degree in 1916....

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Dane, Nathan (29 December 1752–15 February 1835), lawyer, legislator, and legal writer, was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, the son of Daniel Dane and Abigail Burnham, prosperous farmers. Dane, one of twelve children, received a common school elementary education. He worked on his father’s farm until he entered Harvard College at the unusual age of twenty-two. Dane’s college career from 1774 to 1778 was interrupted by the American Revolution; he apparently performed militia service in Boston during the British siege of the city in 1775–1776. In his academic studies Dane displayed an aptitude for mathematics, which later bore fruit when, as a legislator, he took special interest in taxation, government finance, and census issues. Throughout his life Dane retained the studiousness that marked his college years....

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Dargan, Edmund S. (15 April 1805–24 November 1879), legislator and judge, was born near Wadesboro, in Montgomery County, North Carolina, the son of a Baptist minister, whose given name is unknown, and a woman whose maiden name was Lilly. Dargan’s full middle name is listed in a number of sources as either Strother or Spawn. His father died when Dargan was very young. There was no adequate estate, and to earn a livelihood he became an agricultural laborer. Dargan was a self-educated young man who studied the law in typical nineteenth-century fashion, in the law office of a local practitioner in Wadesboro. After a year of study he was admitted in 1829 to the North Carolina bar. The following year he walked to Alabama, where he settled in Washington in Autauga County. He was admitted to the Alabama bar and served as a justice of the peace in Autauga County for a number of years....

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De Lancey, James (27 November 1703–30 July 1760), jurist and politician, was born in New York City, the son of Stephen De Lancey, a Huguenot refugee who had established a leading mercantile house in New York, and Anne Van Cortlandt, heiress to a portion of one of the great New York manorial landholdings. James, at twenty, was sent to London for advanced education at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Lincoln’s Inn....

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Devens, Charles, Jr. (04 April 1820–07 January 1891), soldier, jurist, and politician, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Devens, Sr., a hardware merchant and town clerk, and Mary Lithgow. Charles Devens attended the Boston Latin School before being admitted to Harvard University. He graduated in 1838 and went on to Harvard Law School. He was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1840 and practiced from 1841 to 1849 in Franklin County, Massachusetts. From 1848 to 1849 he served in the state senate, and from 1849 to 1853 he held the post of U.S. marshal for the District of Massachusetts. While serving as marshal he became involved in a runaway slave dispute. After a U.S. Commissioner ruled that the slave was to be returned to his owner, Devens, as U.S. marshal, was required to carry out the order. This duty was most repugnant to him, and for several years he worked unsuccessfully for the release of the slave by offering to pay for his freedom. Eventually the slave gained his freedom during the Civil War, and Devens was able to find him a position in the federal government during the ...

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Dick, Robert Paine (05 October 1823–12 September 1898), jurist and politician, was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of John McClintock Dick, a jurist, and Parthenia P. Wilson. Dick received his college preparatory training at the Caldwell Institute and entered the sophomore class at the University of North Carolina, graduating with distinction in 1843. He then studied law with his father, by then a state superior court justice, and George C. Mendenhall. He began his legal practice in 1845, working first in Wentworth and later in Greensboro. In 1848 Dick married Eloise Adams of Pittsylvania County, Virginia; the couple had five children....

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Duane, James (06 February 1733–01 February 1797), jurist and statesman, was born in New York City, the son of Anthony Duane, a merchant, and his second wife Althea Kettletas, a marriage that united two prosperous merchant families until Duane’s mother died when he was three years old. He received a classical education from the catechist of Trinity Church and proceeded without university schooling to a clerkship in the law office of ...

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Dudley, Paul (03 September 1675–25 January 1751), colonial politician and jurist, was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, the son of colonial governor Joseph Dudley and Rebecca Tyng. Paul Dudley enrolled at Harvard when he was eleven and received a degree in 1690, followed by an M.A. in 1693. He then studied law in England at the Inner Temple. In 1703 Dudley wed Lucy Wainwright. None of their children survived to adulthood....

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Elmer, Jonathan (29 November 1745–03 September 1817), physician, jurist, and legislator, was born in Cedarville, Cumberland County, New Jersey, the son of Daniel Elmer, a surveyor, and Abigail Lawrence. Jonathan was born into a locally prominent family. Because he was physically frail, it was decided to give the boy a classical education. He was probably tutored by his grandfather, the Presbyterian minister Daniel Elmer, and also by the Reverend William Ramsay, whose death Jonathan eulogized in print in 1772. Ramsay apparently instilled in him the dual influences of republican ideology and New Light presbyterianism....

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Gaston, William Joseph (19 September 1778–23 January 1844), statesman and jurist, was born in New Bern, North Carolina, the son of Alexander Gaston, a native of Ireland and British Navy surgeon who settled in America, and Margaret Sharpe, an Englishwoman and a dedicated Catholic. Active in the American revolutionary cause, the elder Gaston was killed by a band of Tories in 1781 in the presence of his wife, to whom was left the responsibility of raising the couple’s two children, who also witnessed his death. Margaret Gaston exerted a powerful influence on her son, nurtured him in the Catholic faith, and in 1791 sent him to the newly established Georgetown College in Maryland. Ill health, however, soon forced the young Gaston to return home. After studying at the New Bern Academy for a year, he eventually enrolled at Princeton, where in 1796 he graduated at age eighteen with highest honors. Again returning to New Bern, Gaston studied law under Francis Xavier Martin, earned admission to the bar in 1798, and immediately took over the law practice of brother-in-law ...