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Ayllón, Lucas Vázquez de (1480?–18 October 1526), Spanish judge and founder of the first Spanish colony in North America, was born at Toledo, Spain, the son of Juan Vázquez de Ayllón, a member of a distinguished Mozarabic family, and Inés de Villalobos. Lucas was educated in the law, earning the ...

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Bedford, Gunning, Jr. (1747–30 March 1812), revolutionary statesman, signer of the U.S. Constitution, and federal district judge, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Gunning Bedford and Susannah Jacquett. His upper-middle-class father was associated with the Philadelphia Carpenter’s Company, a labor combination of master workers. Bedford referred to himself as Gunning Bedford, Jr., probably to avoid being confused with his notable cousin and contemporary, Colonel ...

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Benson, Egbert (21 June 1746–24 August 1833), jurist and founding father, was born in New York City, the son of Robert Benson and Catherine Van Borsum. After graduating from King’s College (now Columbia) in 1765, Benson served his legal clerkship in the New York City office of the revolutionary leader ...

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Browne, William (27 February 1737–13 February 1802), Massachusetts Superior Court judge and Loyalist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Browne, Jr., a merchant, and Catherine Winthrop. Both families had lived in Salem for five generations. On the matrilineal side William could trace his lineage back to four colonial governors, the Winthrops and the Dudleys. On the patrilineal side one of William’s great-grandfathers was Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, England. When William was only five years old, his father died, and when William was seven, his mother married Colonel Epes Sargent. Because the Browne family was the most distinguished and popular in Salem, when William entered Harvard at age fourteen, he was ranked third in his class. He lived in Massachusetts Hall, held a scholarship, and was noted as “an excellent scholar.” He graduated in 1755 as valedictorian of his class. Classmate ...

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Burnet, William (02 December 1730–07 October 1791), physician, judge, and member of the Continental Congress, was born in Lyon’s Farms, a town located between Newark and Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of Ichabod Burnet, a physician who emigrated from Scotland, and Hannah (maiden name unknown). He was educated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) when it was located in Newark under Rev. ...

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Dana, Francis (13 June 1743–25 April 1811), public official, diplomat, and jurist, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Dana, a lawyer, and Lydia Trowbridge. Francis entered Harvard College in 1758 and graduated in 1762. He received an M.A. from Harvard in 1765 at the same time that he was studying law in Cambridge with his uncle Edward Trowbridge. Dana was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1767 and became successful in his practice. In 1773 he married Elizabeth Ellery, daughter of ...

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Dyer, Eliphalet (14 September 1721–13 May 1807), politician and jurist, was born in Windham, Connecticut, the son of Thomas Dyer, a politician and farmer, and Lydia Backus. Because of the deepening land shortage in colonial Connecticut, Dyer trained for a professional career rather than enter into farming, and he graduated from Yale College in 1740. As law schools were nonexistent in colonial New England, Dyer entered an apprenticeship to train for the law; in 1746 he was admitted as a Connecticut lawyer. In 1747, following the traditional pattern for young attorneys in eighteen-century Connecticut to enhance their careers by seeking several public offices, Dyer was elected as one of Windham’s two deputies to the Connecticut General Assembly. Serving in the colony’s lower house of the legislature until 1762, he was then elected to the Governor’s Council, where he served continuously until 1784. Dyer’s election to the council, which served as the upper legislative body, signaled his arrival in the front ranks of Connecticut political life at the age of 41....

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Gookin, Daniel (1612–19 March 1687), colonial magistrate and soldier, was the son of Daniel Gookin and Mary Byrd, the daughter of Richard Byrd, canon of Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, England. His father’s family had been in Kent for many generations; Daniel may have been born in Kent or in Carrigaline, County Cork, Ireland, where his father held lands and was an important figure among the English Protestants who had settled in the southern part of Ireland early in the seventeenth century. The elder Gookin also invested in land in Virginia and went over himself in 1621 with fifty employees, passengers, and cattle. He returned to England but later sent Daniel and his younger brother John to manage his lands and to make their own way in the wilderness. Daniel first appears in the Virginia records in 1630 at age eighteen. In 1634–1635 he was granted land in his own right, 2,500 acres in the Nansemond area on the south side of the James River. By 1639 he was a widower; the year of his marriage and the name of his wife are not known. That year he returned to England, where he married Mary Dolling of London. They had nine children. Early in 1641 they returned to Virginia to settle on his property. He was made a burgess and a representative to the Virginia Assembly from Upper Norfolk County and was also appointed captain of train bands, the local militia....

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John Sloss Hobart. Reproduction of a painting by James Sharples . Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110560).

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Hobart, John Sloss (06 May 1738–04 February 1805), revolutionary committeeman and justice of the New York state supreme court, was born in Fairfield, Connecticut, the son of Rev. Noah Hobart and Ellen Sloss. After graduation from Yale College (1757) he resided in New York City. There he married Mary Greenill (Grinnell) (d. 1803) in 1764 and moved to the manor of “Eaton’s Neck,” Long Island, which he had inherited from his mother’s family. In 1765 Hobart was a member of the Sons of Liberty in Huntington, Suffolk County, and served as justice of the peace. In 1774 he was a member of the town and county committees of correspondence. He served in the four New York provincial congresses from May 1775 through May 1777. Hobart was an active participant in the last congress, called the “Convention,” served on several of its committees, and contributed proposals to the state constitution. In April 1777 he was one of six committeemen assigned to prepare a draft of the document. He also was a member of the state council of safety. In May 1777, even though he admitted “not having been educated in the profession of the law,” Hobart was appointed one of two associate justices of the state supreme court, serving with ...

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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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Howard, Martin (1725–4 or 24 Nov. 1781), Loyalist and chief justice of North Carolina, was born either in Rhode Island or England. Since his father, Martin Howard, Sr., was admitted as a freeman of Newport, Rhode Island, in 1726, it is probable that Howard was born and grew up there. His mother’s name is unknown. At least one biographer said he was educated at an Inn of Court in London, but he is not listed in Jones’s ...

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Leonard, Daniel (18 May 1740–27 June 1829), lawyer, Loyalist, and chief justice of Bermuda, was born in Norton, Massachusetts, the son of Ephraim Leonard, an ironmonger, and Judith Perkins. His family had enjoyed social and political prominence in southern Massachusetts for more than a hundred years, their wealth having come from the iron industry, which they established in Taunton, Massachusetts. In 1760 Leonard entered Harvard College and was ranked second among his class. His scholastic achievement merited his selection as a commencement speaker, and he delivered his speech in Latin. Returning to Taunton he practiced law alongside Samuel White, Speaker of the Massachusetts Assembly. In 1767 Leonard married White’s daughter Anna White, who died at the birth of their daughter in 1768. Leonard, like his father-in-law, became the king’s attorney for Bristol County in 1769. In 1770 he married Sarah Hammock; they had three children....

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Lowell, John (17 June 1743–06 May 1802), politician and judge, was born in Newbury, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend John Lowell, a Congregational minister, and Sarah Champney. After graduating from Harvard College in 1760, he studied law with Oxenbridge Thacher of Boston and was admitted to the bar in 1763. After his marriage in 1767 to Sarah Higginson, daughter of Stephen Higginson of Salem and his wife Elizabeth Cabot, Lowell returned to his native parish, which had separated in 1764 to become the town of Newburyport. There his legal practice flourished, he became active in town affairs as a selectman, committeeman, and justice of the peace, and he built a large mansion, which ...

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Ludlow, George Duncan (1734–13 November 1808), judge and Loyalist official, was born in Queens County, Long Island, New York, the son of Gabriel Ludlow, a wealthy merchant, and Frances Duncan. The family was well established in the province, with strong ties to the Anglican church and to the powerful De Lancey political faction. George Ludlow’s younger brother was ...

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Ludlow, Roger (1590–1664), colonial official and jurist, was the son of Thomas Ludlow of Maiden Bradley, Wiltshire, and Jane Pyle. Educated at Balliol College, Oxford in 1610 and the Inner Temple in 1612, he married Mary Endicott, the sister of John Endicott, an early governor of Massachusetts Bay. The couple had at least six children. In early 1630 Ludlow was elected an assistant of the Bay company, at which time he removed himself and his family to the new colony, helping to establish the town of Dorchester. Regularly reelected an assistant, Ludlow was chosen deputy governor in 1634. He was left out of office in 1635, apparently because of differences with more liberal political developments in the colony concerning the popular election of magistrates, and perhaps because of his plans to move again, this time to the Connecticut River along with other Massachusetts settlers. One of the founders of Windsor, he served during the next year (1636–1637) under the authority of a Massachusetts commission as presiding magistrate for the three towns that were forming the nucleus of Connecticut: Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield. He was reelected a magistrate or assistant for the next seventeen years, except when in 1642 and 1648 he served as deputy governor of Connecticut....

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Thomas McKean. Oil on canvas, after 1787, attributed to Charles Willson Peale. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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McKean, Thomas (19 March 1734–24 June 1817), statesman, jurist, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of William McKean, an innkeeper and farmer, and Letitia Finney. He studied at Francis Alison’s New London Academy (1742–1750), then left to study law (1750–1754) with his cousin David Finney of New Castle, Delaware. He joined the Delaware bar in 1754 and expanded his practice into Pennsylvania (1755) and New Jersey (1765). Following his admittance to practice before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1757, he gained admission to the Society of the Middle Temple in London as a specialiter, which permitted him to earn certification in 1758 as a barrister without attending....

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Morris, Lewis (15 October 1671–21 May 1746), chief justice of New York and royal governor of New Jersey, was born in New York City, the son of Richard Morris, who had recently migrated from Barbados to pursue a career as a merchant, and Sarah Pole. A member of a Welsh gentry family, Richard Morris had fought for Parliament during the English Civil War and then became a sugar planter on Barbados. Orphaned by the deaths of his parents less than a year after his birth, Lewis Morris was raised by his father’s brother Lewis, a strict Cromwellian Quaker and also a sugar planter, who moved from Barbados to New York to care for his nephew. Morris was educated by at least two tutors, one of whom was ...

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Nicolls, Matthias (1626– July 1693), New York government official and jurist, was born in Plymouth, England, and baptized on 29 March 1626, the son of Matthias Nicolls, a minister of the Church of England, and Martha Oakes. The Reverend Mr. Nicolls, who was from the landed gentry, died in 1631. Martha Nicolls moved to Plympton with her son, who in time studied law in London at two Inns of Court, Inner Temple and Lincoln’s Inn. He was admitted to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1649 and for the next fifteen years was a barrister in London. During this period he married Abigail Johns; they had at least four children....