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Bollan, William (1710?–1782), colonial agent and lawyer, was born in England and emigrated from there to America while a teenager. He pursued a legal career by studying as an apprentice under the tutelage of Massachusetts attorney Robert Auchmuty. Little is known of Bollan’s early life and career. However, by 1733 he had begun to gain prominence as an attorney, as evidenced by his acquisition of Harvard College and Boston’s Anglican parish, King’s Chapel, as clients. Bollan was an Anglican, which placed him in a religious minority in Congregational-dominated Boston. By the mid-1730s he had begun to venture into land speculation in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island....

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Carter, Landon (18 August 1710–22 December 1778), patriot and diarist, was born in Lancaster County, Virginia, the son of Robert “King” Carter, a planter-merchant member of the King’s Council, and Elizabeth Landon. The young Landon was sent to England for schooling when aged nine. Showing special promise as a scholar, he continued there for seven years before returning to Virginia in 1726, where he enrolled at the College of William and Mary in 1727 before settling to learn the tobacco planter and consignment business as assistant and companion to his aged father. In 1732 Carter’s father died, and Carter received a large inheritance. That year he married Elizabeth Wormeley. After Elizabeth’s death in 1740, he married Maria Byrd in 1742, and they had one child. Following Maria’s death in 1744, he married Elizabeth Beale in 1746; they had three children before she died around 1755. In all he had eight children. Carter was a widower for a long period at the end of his life, the years of his diary keeping. The three marriages brought substantial increases in property holding....

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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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Hale, Nathan (06 June 1755–22 September 1776), martyr of the American Revolution, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, the son of Richard Hale and Elizabeth Strong, successful farmers. A sickly infant, he barely survived his first year, but as he grew he became an outdoorsman and a powerful athlete. He enjoyed reading, and his father decided to prepare him for the ministry, first by hiring Rev. Joseph Huntington to tutor him and then by sending him in 1769 to Yale College. At Yale he was widely admired by his teachers and fellow students. Dr. ...

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Hopkinson, Francis (02 October 1737–09 May 1791), author, composer, and judge, was born in Philadelphia, the son of Thomas Hopkinson, a lawyer and Pennsylvania councillor, and Mary Johnson. Hopkinson’s father emigrated from England in 1731. Hopkinson matriculated in the first class of the College of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania) in 1751; he graduated in 1757 and, with other members of his class, received an M.A. degree three years later....

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Kennedy, Archibald (1685–14 June 1763), New York colonial official and pamphleteer, was born in Craigoch, Ayrshire, Scotland, the son of Alexander Kennedy, a justice of the peace. His mother’s name is unknown. He was a descendant of a younger branch of the earldom of Cassilis (the first earl was David Kennedy, 1509). Nothing is known of Kennedy’s early life. He probably arrived in America in the entourage of a fellow Scotsman from Ayrshire, Governor ...

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Knox, William (1732–25 August 1810), Anglo-American government official and pamphleteer, was born at Monaghan, Ireland, the son of Thomas Knox, a physician, and Nicola King. Although William’s paternal family was descended from Scots Presbyterian settlers in northern Ireland, his father converted to the Anglican Church of Ireland. Consequently, William spent his childhood and early manhood within the privileged ranks of the Anglo-Irish establishment. His mature personality—as well as his ideas about secular and religious affairs—were heavily influenced by the Anglicized form of Calvinism that Thomas Knox, by example as well as instruction, systematically impressed upon his son. After receiving his early education in the local Anglican schools of Monaghan, William attended Trinity College, Dublin. Here in the Irish capital he also served his political apprenticeship under the tutelage of Sir Richard Cox, a prominent leader of the Irish parliamentary opposition during the Anglo-Irish political crisis of 1753–1756....

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Lafayette, James (1748–09 August 1830), patriot spy, also known to history as James Armistead, was born in slavery; little is recorded of his parentage or early life except that he belonged to William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. In the summer of 1781 James was attending his master while Armistead worked as a commissary in Richmond, supplying patriot forces under the command of the ...

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Livingston, William ( November 1723–25 July 1790), colonial politician, governor of New Jersey, and political satirist, was born in Albany, New York, the son of Philip Livingston, the second lord of Livingston Manor, and Catherine Van Brugh. As the scion of an elite New York clan, he headed the family faction that successfully challenged the rival De Lancey family for dominance in the colony. Rarely holding public office himself, Livingston nevertheless masterminded his faction’s protracted battles with the De Lanceys. His success rested in part on his abilities with the pen. He wrote on the model provided by the English Whig pamphleteers, and his essays in the ...

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Marshall, Christopher (06 November 1709–04 May 1797), pharmacist and revolutionary leader, was born in Dublin, Ireland. His parents’ names are unknown. He received a classical education in England and developed an interest in chemistry. Marshall, a Quaker, married Sarah Thompson in 1735; they had three sons. His second marriage to Abigail, a Philadelphia Quaker, ended with her death in 1782. After moving to Philadelphia in 1727, Marshall started a pharmaceutical company. He was a religious man and in 1758 served as one of Philadelphia’s overseers of the poor....

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Thomas Paine. Reproduction of an engraving by W. Sharpe, 1793, after a painting by George Romney. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2542).

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Paine, Thomas (29 January 1737–08 June 1809), author of political pamphlets of the Age of Revolution, was born Thomas Pain in Thetford, England, the son of Joseph Pain, a Quaker corset maker, and Frances Cocke, an Anglican. Enrolled by his parents in 1743 at the Thetford Grammar School, Paine left school seven years later to begin an apprenticeship in his father’s shop. In 1756 he ran away to enlist on the privateer ...

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Wolcott, Roger (04 January 1679–17 May 1767), colonial governor and literary figure, was born in Windsor, Connecticut, the son of Simon Wolcott and Martha Pitkin, merchants and farmers. The youngest of nine children, Wolcott was educated at home by his mother, then apprenticed to a clothing shop in 1694. He established his own clothier enterprise at age twenty. In 1702 he married Sarah Drake. They had fifteen children before her death on 21 January 1748. Wolcott purchased a large estate in Windsor in 1702 where, following the eighteenth-century pattern of Hartford-area merchant-farmers, he established both a clothing manufactory and a farm....

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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 ...