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Birney, James Gillespie (04 February 1792–18 November 1857), lawyer and reformer, was born near Danville, Kentucky, the son of James Birney and Martha Reed (both of Irish extraction), owners of a prosperous plantation worked by slave labor. When James was three, his mother died, leaving him and an infant sister to be raised by a widowed aunt who came from Ireland. His aunt’s opposition to slavery was one of the early influences on James’s thinking, although he became a slave master himself at age six when he was given a slave his own age, Michael, as a birthday present. Michael remained with him until Birney’s mid-life conversion to the abolitionist cause; he was then freed, given back wages for his years of service, and set up in a livery stable business. When James was seven his father and grandfather Reed both backed an unsuccessful attempt to write an emancipation clause into the state constitution....

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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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Earle, Thomas ( April 1796–15 July 1849), lawyer and reformer, was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, the son of Pliny Earle, a manufacturer of machinery for textile factories, and Patience Buffum. Earle studied in the public schools and at the Leicester Academy. After he left school he worked briefly for a family business in nearby Worcester and in 1817 moved to Philadelphia. He worked as a commission merchant until 1824, when the company that he worked for failed. Earle then read law with ...

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Meigs, Return Jonathan (14 April 1801–19 October 1891), lawyer, abolitionist, and state librarian of Tennessee, was born near Winchester, Clark County, Kentucky, the son of John Meigs and Parthenia Clendinen. After the death of his father in 1807, he lived part of the time with his uncle James Lemme in Bourbon County, where he studied the classics under the tutelage of George Wilson. Subsequently he studied law and was admitted to the bar in Frankfort, Kentucky, in 1822....

Article

Stewart, Alvan (01 September 1790–01 May 1849), lawyer and abolitionist, was born in South Granville, New York, the son of Uriel Stewart, a farmer. His mother’s name is unknown. In 1795 the family moved to Westford, Vermont, where Alvan attended common school and at age seventeen began studying anatomy and medicine. He then attended the University of Vermont, teaching school during the winters to support himself. In 1811 he went to Canada to teach, but when anti-American sentiment increased and the War of 1812 began, he returned to the United States. Stewart graduated from college in 1813, taught common school for a short period of time, and then began the private study of law in Cherry Valley, New York. After completing his studies, he practiced there for sixteen years....