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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....


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


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....


Wythe, George (1726?–08 June 1806), jurist and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born probably at “Chesterville,” the family plantation on Back River, Elizabeth City County, Virginia, the son of Thomas Wythe and Margaret Walker, planters. His father died in 1729, and his mother, reputedly a remarkably literate woman, is given credit for George’s early education and for inspiring his lifelong pursuit of learning. It seems that he was largely self-educated; there is no evidence for nineteenth-century assertions that he received some formal schooling at the College of William and Mary or the Eaton-Symmes Free School in Hampton. In his midteens he entered a clerkship to study law with Stephen Dewey, his uncle by marriage. In 1746 he was admitted to practice in county courts, the bottom rung of the profession. Perhaps through another family connection he began practice with Zachary and John Lewis of Spotsylvania County. In December 1747 he married Zachary Lewis’s daughter Anne Lewis, who died the following August....