The following section contains brief biographical sketches of prominent individuals mentioned in the David Gelston Papers. We have reproduced this information, largely unedited, from clippings and other sources found in the Collection. However, the reader is reminded that no clear criteria exists for who is represented or what sources were used to compile this list.
ANTHON, JOHN (b. Detroit, Mich., 1784; d. 1863), lawyer. Brother of Charles Anthon. Assisted in founding New York Law Institute; elected its president 1852-1863.
ASTOR, JOHN JACOB (1763- 1848), after emigrating from Germany (1784), set himself up in the fur business. So astute was his management that by 1800, with chartered ships plying the Atlantic and Pacific, he had established the beginnings of a commercial empire. His AMERICAN FUR COMPANY (1808) in less than ten years became the dominant fur trading organization of the western plains and mountains, with headquarters for a time at Astoria, where the Columbia river flows into the Pacific.
Astor’s investments in Manhattan real estate, together with profits made in helping to finance the War of 1812, created the first of the great American fortunes. He sold his control of the fur trade in 1834, and occupied his later years in managing his real estate holdings. His $400,000 bequest set up the Astor Library, since 1895 incorporated as a part of the New York Public Library.
See K.W. Porter, John Jacob Astor, Business Man (2 vols., 1931).
BARLOW, JOEL (b. Redding, Conn., 1754; d. near Cracow, Poland, 1812), poet, statesman. Graduated; Yale, 1778. Versatile, ambitious, he early projected an epic on glories of America, served as chaplain of 4th Massachusetts brigade, helped edit a periodical, engaged in business and joined with the “Hartford Wits” in writing the Anarchiad (1786-1787). The first version of his epic appeared in 1781; entitled The Vision of Columbus, its stately, inflated couplets brought him immediate recognition. Admitted to the bar in 1786, he associated himself with the Scioto Company, a land-speculation, and went to France in 1788 as the company’s agent. His own inexperience and the dishonesty of several of his associates caused the firm to fail; from 1790 to 1792 he lived in London, supporting himself by his pen and becoming identified with the most advanced radical thinkers of the time. His political prose works belong to this period: A Letter to the National Convention of France (1792), Advice to the Privileged Orders (1792); and also the verse epic The Conspiracy of Kings (1792). Proscribed by the British government, he went to Paris; by 1794, through speculation in French bonds, he was a rich man.
Returning to America in 1805, after a decade of activity abroad during which he served as American consul to Algiers, he settled on an estate named “Kalorama” near Washington, D.C. He published The Columbiad in 1807, a reworking of the epic theme of the Vision of Columbus; he also projected a great national institution for research and study of the arts and sciences. Appointed minister to France in 1811 by President Madison, he hoped to persuade Napoleon to give American commerce more generous treatment; after a year of diplomatic evasion he was informed that Napoleon would discuss terms of a treaty with him at Vilna, Poland. The French defeat in Russia ended all hopes of the conference and Barlow left Vilna for Paris. Taken seriously ill between Warsaw and Cracow, he died at the village of Zarnowiec. His epic efforts are rarely read; he is remembered best for a humorous poem, Hasty Pudding, written in 1793 and published in 1796.
BELL, ISAAC (b. New York, N.Y. 1846; d. 1889), cotton merchant, politician. Established one of first brokerage firms to unite operations in the cotton region with Northern speculative market.
BIDDLE, JOHN-He was born in Philadelphia; was an officer in the War of 1812, acquitting himself with bravery; held the position of Paymaster in the army; also that of Indian Agent; and was a Delegate to Congress from the Territory of Michigan, from 1829 to 1831, when he was appointed Resister of the Land Office at Detroit, Michigan. For some years before his death he had been traveling in Europe, and died at White Sulfur Springs Virginia, August 25, 1859, aged about seventy years.
BISHOP, ABRAHAM (b. New Haven, Conn., 1763; d. New Haven, 1844), Jeffersonian politician. Delivered noteworthy addresses against conservatives and Federalists; collector of the port of New Haven, 1803-1829.
BUTLER, PIERCE-He came of the family of the Dukes of Ormond, in Ireland. Before the Revolution he was a Major in British regiment in Boston, but afterwards attached himself to the republican institutions of America. In 1787 he was a Delegate, from South Carolina, to the old Congress, in 1788, a member of the Convention which framed the Constitution of the United States, having signed the same; and, under it, was one of the first Senators from South Carolina, and remained in Congress till 1796. He was one of those who voted for locating the Seat Of Government on the Potomac. On the death of J. E. Calhoun, in 1802, he became again a Senator in Congress, but resigned in 1804. He was opposed to some of the measures of Washington’s administration, but approved of the War of 1812. He died at Philadelphia, February 15, 1822, aged seventy-seven.
CHAUNCEY, ISAAC (b. Black Rock, Conn., 1772; d. Washington, D.C., 1840), naval officer. Organized and commanded U.S. naval forces on Lakes Ontario and Erie, 1812-1815; later held important administrative posts in navy.
CONDIT, JOHN (b. New Jersey, 1755; d. Orange, N.J., 1834), surgeon. Congressman, Democratic-Republican, from New Jersey, 1799-1803, 1819-1820; U.S. Senator, 1803-1817.
CONDIT, JOHN-He was born in 1755; was a soldier and surgeon during the Revolutionary war. He was a member of the New Jersey Legislature for several years; a Representative to Congress, from that State, from 1799 to 1803; a Senator in Congress, from 1803 to 1817; and again a Representative during the years 1819 and 1820. He died May 4, 1834.
COXE, TENCH (b. Philadelphia, Pa., 1755; d. Philadelphia, 1824), merchant, political economist. Brother of William Coxe. A neutralist during the Revolution, he was a member of the Annapolis Convention and the Continental Congress of 1788. A Federalist from 1788 to 1797, he served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and Commissioner of the Revenue. Dismissed by Adams, he turned Republican and served as purveyor of public supplies, 1803-1812. A nationalist in his economic views, he advocated development of native manufactures, a revenue tariff, unrestricted interstate commerce, confinement of import and coast-wise trade to American vessels. His promotion of cotton culture in the South earned him the title of the father of America’s cotton industry.
DALLAS, ALEXANDER JAMES-American statesman: (b. Jamaica W. I., June 21, 1759; d. Philadelphia, Pa., Jan. 16, 1817). He was educated at Edinburgh, studied law in London and settled in Philadelphia in 1783. His legal practice flourished there and he received his first political appointment in 1791 when he was named Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He held this office through four gubernatorial administrations, until 1801. At the same time he began publishing his still standard reports of early United States Supreme Court decisions (1790-1807). From 1801 to 1814 he served as United States District Attorney for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, and in 1814 President James Monroe appointed him Secretary of the Treasury.
Dallas came to office at a highly critical period in government finance. The treasury was bankrupted by the War of 1812, and there was no definite financial policy to guide it back to solvency. When he resigned in 1816 public credit had been restored, his recommendations for a second national bank had become law, and his heavy taxation measures had brought the treasury an operating surplus of some $20,000,000. Dallas also served as acting Secretary of War during Monroe’s illness in 1815.
DAGGETT, DAVID (b. Attleboro, Mass., 1764; d. New Haven, Conn., 1851), lawyer, politician, jurist. Best known for his opinion in the case of Prudent Crandall (1833) that free Negroes were not citizens of the United States.
DAGGETT, DAVID-Born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, December 31, 1764; graduated at Yale College in 1783, and was Professor of Law in that institution for many years, and subsequently received the degree of LL.D. from that institution. He was State’s Attorney and Mayor of New Haven, and frequently a member of the Legislature, and member of the Council; and also served as a Presidential Elector on several occasions. From 1813 to 1819 he was a Senator in Congress, from Connecticut; from 1826 to 1832 he was a Judge of the Supreme Court of the State, and was Chief Judge from 1832 to 1834, when he attained the age of seventy years. He died April 12, 1851.
DAVIS, MATTHEW LIVINGSTON (b. probably New York, N.Y., 1773; d. Manhattansville, N.Y., 1850), politician, journalist. Friend, henchman and unwise biographer of Aaron Burr.
DAYTON, JONATHAN-A native of New Jersey; graduated at Princeton College in 1776; was a member of the Convention, in 1787, which formed the Constitution and signed that instrument; was a Representative in Congress from 1791 to 1799; Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1795 to 1797; and was a Senator of the United States, from New Jersey, from 1799 to 1805. He was a distinguished statesman, and died at Elizabethtown, New Jersey, October 9, 1824, aged about sixty-eight years.
DAYTON, JONATHAN (b. Elizabeth-Town, N.J., 1760; d. Elizabeth, N.J., 1824), Revolutionary soldier, lawyer, politician. Son of Elias Dayton. Congressman, Federalist, from New Jersey, 1791-1799; U.S. senator, 1799-1805. Indicted, 1807, for complicity in Aaron Burr’s schemes, but released on none prosequi. Dayton, Ohio is named for him.
DEARBORN, HENRY, American soldier: (b. Hampton, N. H., March 1751; d. Roxbury, Mass., June 6, 1829.) He was practicing medicine at Portsmouth when, on hearing the news of the battle of Lexington, April 20, 1775, he immediately marched with 60 volunteers, and was at Cambridge early the next day, a distance of 65 miles. He was made a captain, was at the battle of Bunker Hill 17 June, and accompanied Arnold on the expedition through the woods of Maine to Quebec. He served as major under Gates at the capture of Burgoyne, and distinguished, himself and his regiment by a gallant charge at the battle of Monmouth in 1778. In 1779 he served in Sullivan’s expedition against the Indians, in 1780 with the army of New Jersey, in 1781 at Yorktown, and in 1782 was on garrison duty at Saratoga. He was twice member of Congress, and for eight years, during the presidency of Mr. Jefferson, Secretary of War. In 1809 he was made collector of Boston and on January 27, 1812, became senior major-general in the United States Army. Resigning his commission in the army in 1815, he was appointed, May 7, 1822, Minister to Portugal, where he remained two years, and was recalled at his own request.
DEARBORN, HENRY (b. Hampton, N.H., 1751; d. Roxbury, Mass., 1829), physician, soldier. Served with distinction in the Revolution, eventually joining Washington’s staff. Represented the District of Elaine in Congress, 1793-1797, and served as Secretary of War, 1801-1809. Given command of the northeast area from the Niagara River to the New England coast in 1812, it was soon apparent that the military ability he had once shown himself to possess, had disappeared with age and disuse. His failure to implement his own plans for invasion of Canada directly contributed to Hull’s defeat at Detroit. After another American defeat at Queenstown, mismanagement of a proposed attack at Kingston, and the near-capture of Sackett’s Harbor, Dearborn was removed in July 1813.
DEARBORN, HENRY ALEXANDER SCAMMELL (b. Exeter, N.H., 1783; d. Portland, Maine, 1851), lawyer, politician, author. Son of Henry Dearborn. Collector of the port of Boston, 1812-1829.
DEARBORN, HENRY A. S.-Born in 1783, in Exeter, New Hampshire; was educated at William and Mary College, Virginia, and commenced the study of law in Washington, while his father was Secretary of War under Jefferson. He finished his studies at Salem, Massachusetts, and commenced to practice in that city. He removed to Portland, and superintended the erection of the forts in the harbor. He was appointed Collector of Boston by President Madison (having been previously made Deputy Collector by his father, when Collector), as an inducement for his father to accept the command of the army, and he held the office until removed by General Jackson in 1829. In 1812 he was Brigadier of Militia, and had the command of the troops in Boston Harbor. In 1821 was a member of the Convention for revising the Constitution of Massachusetts. In 1829 was a Representative in the Legislature from Roxbury, and the same year chosen Executive Counselor, and the following year a State Senator. From 1831 to 1833 he was a Representative in Congress. He was soon appointed Adjutant-General of Massachusetts, and continued in that office until 1843, when he was removed for lending some of the State arms during the Dorr Rebellion in Rhode Island. In 1847 was chosen Mayor of Roxbury, which office he held until his death. While in the Custom-house, in Boston, he wrote and published three volumes on the “Commerce of the Black Sea.” He also wrote a biography of Commodore Bainbridge.
EDDY, THOMAS (b. Philadelphia, Pa., 1758; d. 1827), insurance broker. Promoted reforms of prisons, hospitals, schools, and penal code of New York; supported DeWitt Clinton’s Erie Canal project.
ELLERY, WILLIAM-He was born in Newport, Rhode Island, December 22, 1727; graduated at Harvard College in 1747; was a lawyer by profession; a Delegate to the Continental Congress, from 1776 to 1780 and from 1783 to 1785; was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and also the Articles of Confederation; In 1786 he was appointed Commissioner of Loans for Rhode Island; was elected Chief Justice of the State; and in 1789 he was appointed by Washington Collector of Newport, which office he held until his death, which occurred, February 15, 1820.
ELLERY, WILLIAM (b. Dec. 22, 1727, Newport, RI.; d Feb. 5 , 1820, Newport), merchant. Rhode Island naval officer who became a lawyer twenty-three years after graduating from Harvard in 1747, signer of the Declaration of Independence whose home was burned in retaliation by the British, Federalist who was very much part of the states’ rights movement in Rhode Island. Newport County common pleas court clerk 1768-1769), member of the Continental Congress (1776-1781, 1783-1785); member of the nation’s first admiralty board (1779-1782), Chief Justice of the Superior Court (1785) but did not take the bench because he was needed in Congress, commissioner of Rhode Island’s Continental Loan Office (1786-1790); Newport customs collector (1790 until death). Uncle of Christopher Every.
EMMET, THOMAS ADDIS (b. Cork, Ireland, 1764; d. New York, N.Y., 1827), lawyer. Brother of Robert I. Emmet, the Irish patriot. Graduated Trinity College, Dublin, 1782; M.D., Edinburgh, 1784. After study at the Temple, was admitted to Irish bar, 1790. Became an Irish national idol for activities on behalf of Society of United Irishmen. After arrest, 1798-1802, he was exiled to the Continent; emigrated, 1804, to the United States. Over opposition of Federalist lawyers, Emmet was admitted to the New York bar where he was very successful. In 1812 he served as state Attorney General.
EUSTIS, WILLIAM (b. June 10, 1753, Cambridge, Mass.; d Feb. 6, 1825, Boston) physician, Revolutionary Army surgeon, Massachusetts Democrat who defeated John Quincy Adams in the1802 congressional race by a vote of 1,899 to 1,840, Secretary of War at the outbreak of the War of 1812, “in whom,” Henry Clay said, “there exists no sort of confidence.” State Representative (1788-1794), U.S. Representative (1801-1805, 1820-1823); Secretary of War in both the Jefferson and Madison cabinets (1807-1813) resigning, some say by request, and being soothed by appointment as minister to the Netherlands (1814-1818); Governor (1823 until death) after being defeated in three earlier tries.
EUSTIS, WILLIAM-Was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, June 10, 1753. After graduating at Harvard College in 1782, he studied medicine with Dr. Joseph Warren. At the beginning of the war he was appointed Surgeon of a regiment, and afterwards Hospital Surgeon. In 1777, and during most of the war, he occupied, as a hospital, the spacious house of Colonel Robinson, a royalist, opposite to West Point; Arnold had his headquarters in the same house. At the termination of the war he commenced the practice of his profession in Boston. In 1800 he was elected a Representative in Congress, from Massachusetts, serving until 1805. In 1809 he was appointed Secretary or War by President Madison, and continued in office until 1813, when, on account of the surrender of Hull, he resigned. In 1815 he was sent as Ambassador to Holland. After his return, he was a Representative in Congress from 1820 to 1823. He was chosen governor of Massachusetts in 1823 and died in Boston, after a short illness, February 6, 1825.
FEW, WILLIAM (b. near Baltimore, Md., 1748; d. Fishkill-on-the-Hudson, N.Y., 1828), statesman, Revolutionary soldier, banker. Raised in North Carolina; removed to Georgia, 1776. Georgia delegate to Continental Congress and member of Constitutional Convention; U.S. Senator from Georgia, 1789-1793. Removed to New York, 1799, and engaged in banking.
FEW, WILLIAM-Born in Maryland, June 8, 1748. When he was ten years of age he removed with his father to North Carolina, where he received a good education. He was a Colonel in the Revolutionary army, and distinguished himself in several actions with the British and Indians. He settled in Georgia in 1776, and in 1778 was Surveyor-General of the State, and Presiding Judge of the Richmond County Court; in 1780 he was sent as Delegate to Congress, and remained in that body until the peace; and was again appointed in 1786; and in the next year he assisted in forming the National Constitution, which he duly signed; after the adoption of which, he was elected a Senator in Congress, serving from 1789 to 1793 in 1796, he was a member of the Convention which framed the Constitution of the State of Georgia, and subsequently served three years; upon the Bench, as well as in the Legislature of that State. He resided during his latter years in the City of New York, of which he was Mayor, and whence he went to the Legislature of that State, and where he also held the office of Commissioner of Loans. He died at Fishkill, New York, July 16, 1828.
FISH, NlCHOLAS (b. New York, N.Y., 1758; d. 1833), Revolutionary officer, lawyer. Lifelong friend of Alexander Hamilton; distinguished in Saratoga and Yorktown campaigns; an active Federalist politician.
FISH, PRESERVED (b. Portsmouth, R.l., 1766; d. New York, N.Y., 1846), merchant, ship-owner. A founder, 1815, of Fish & Grinnell, foremost New York shipping firm; president, Tradesman’s Bank, 1836-1846.
FISK, JAMES (b. Greenwich, Mass., 1763; d. Swanton, Vt., 1844), lawyer, politician. Congressman (Democrat) Republican, from Vermont, 1805-1809, 1811-1815; served as Vermont federal collector of revenue, 1818-1826.
FISK, JONATHAN-He was a Representative in Congress, from New York, from 1809 to 1811, and again from 1813 to 1815, when he was appointed United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
FLOYD, WILLIAM-He was born in Suffolk County, New York, December 17, 1734; was a delegate to the Continental Congress, from 1774 to 1783, and signed the Declaration of Independence; was a Representative in Congress, from New York, from 1789 to 1791, a Presidential Elector in 1800, 1804, and 1820; and for three years a member of the New York State Senate; in 1801 he was a member of the State Constitutional Convention. He died in Oneida County, New York, August 4, 1821
GADSDEN, JAMES (b. Charleston, S.C., 1788; d. Charleston, 1858), soldier, politician. Grandson of Christopher Gadsden. Settled in Florida, 1822-1839. As president of the South Carolina Railroad Co., 1840-1850, he hoped to form the Southern railroads into one system connected by a route to the Pacific along the southern U.S. frontier. This would make the West tributary to the South and inaugurate direct trade with Europe. He promoted this idea through a series of so called railroad and commercial conventions but realized that purchase of Mexican territory was necessary to secure the most practicable westward route. As minister to Mexico under President Pierce, Gadsden was authorized to buy as much border land as possible for $50,000,000. The Gadsden Purchase was the result of this offer (1853-1854).
GENET, EDMOND CHARLES (b. France, 1763; d. 1834), diplomat. A precocious scholar and fashionably liberal in his ideas, Genet succeeded his father in 1781 as premier commis of the bureau of interpretation, department of foreign affairs at Versailles. By the time he was 25, he had made the rounds of the most important courts in Europe. After he was expelled as charge d’affaires at St. Petersburg, 1792, the Girondist ministry of France appointed him minister plenipotentiary to the United States, where he hoped to press French rights to fit out privateers under the treaties of 1718, a matter of current concern to Washington and his advisers. Arriving at Charleston, S.C., April 1793, he journeyed to Philadelphia, Pa. where he was first made welcome by Jefferson and other French sympathizers.
His efforts soon made him a storm center of politics. He worked in South Carolina with dissatisfied local politicians; sent Andre Michaux to Kentucky to encourage an expedition down the Mississippi to take Louisiana from Spain; planned to send the French fleet to recapture St Pierre and Miquelon and so provoke a rebellion in Canada. These energetic enterprises proved abortive. He had, however, stimulated the formation of local Jacobin clubs which soon spread and contributed to the growth of the Democratic-Republican party. Recalled home at request of U.S. governments he remained in this country, becoming a citizen. He settled on Long Island, N.Y., 1794; c. 1800, he moved to a farm in Rensselaer Co., N.Y.
HAY, GEORGE (b. Williamsburg, Va., 1765; d. 1830), jurist, Virginia legislator. Son-in-law of James Monroe. As U.S. Attorney for district of Virginia, conducted prosecution of Aaron Burr for treason. Later a federal judge in eastern Virginia, he was an able political writer on the Jeffersonian side.
HOFFMAN, JOSIAH OGDEN (b. Newark, NJ., 1766; d. 1837), lawyer. Leader of Federalist party in N.Y. assembly, 1791-1797. Associate Judge, N.Y. Superior Court, 1828-1837.
HUNTER, ANDREW-He was born in New York City in 1794, and graduated at Columbia College in 1812; he soon after entered the navy as a midshipman, but in three years he resigned, and studied law. He commenced to practice in Orange County, and was appointed District Attorney, but removed to New York City in 1826, and was a partner of Hugh Maxwell and became eminently successful in his profession. In 1828 he was a representative in the Legislature; from 1829 to 1835 was District Attorney; and was appointed United States District Attorney by President Harrison. From 1837 to 1841 he was a Representative in Congress, and was a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs; he was re-elected in 1848, and in 1854 was appointed Attorney-General of the State. He was remarkable for his eloquence and learning and for more than a quarter of a century occupied a high position at the bar of New York. He died in that city, May 1, 1856.
HOPKINSON, JOSEPH (b. Nov. 12, 1770, Philadelphia, Pa.; d. Jan. 15, 1842, Philadelphia). Lawyer who was associated with Daniel Webster in one celebrated case of the time and was counsel for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase (1804-1805) in his impeachment trial before the U.S. Senate; also a song writer who gave the country “Hail Columbia” (1798); Pennsylvania Federalist except for one brief period (1820-1823) in New Jersey where he served in the state assembly. In Pennsylvania: U.S. Representative (1815-1819), federal judge for the state’s eastern district (1828-1842), state constitutional convention chairman (1837), secretary of the University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees (1790-1791) and a trustee (1806-1819, 1822-1842). Son of Francis Hopkinson.
HOPKINSON, JOSEPH-Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 12, 1770; was educated at the University of his native State from which institution as well as from Nassau Hall and Harvard University, he subsequently received the degree of LL.V. He studied law and commenced to practice at the age of twenty at Easton and afterwards at Philadelphia, and became eminent in his profession. He was the leading counsel of Dr. Rush in his famous suit against William Cobbett in 1799. and was also engaged by Judge Chase in his impeachment case before the United States Senate. In 1815 he was a Representative in Congress from Pennsylvania, and served until 1819, after which he resided in Borden town, New Jersey until appointed by President John Quincy Adams, Judge of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. When he returned to Philadelphia, and held this office until his death. In 1837 he was a member of the Constitutional Convention of the State; was one of the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania; was President of the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, and Vice President of the American Philosophical Society. He published many interesting addresses, and wrote the song “Hail, Columbia.” He died at Philadelphia, January 15, 1842.
HUNTER, ANDREW (b. York Co., Pa., 1751; d. Washington, D.C., 1823), Presbyterian chaplain in both army and navy. Commended by Washington for conduct at battle of Monmouth; first chaplain-schoolmaster in U.S. Navy, 1811-1823; taught also in College of New Jersey (Princeton).
HUNTINGTON, JEDEDIAH (b. Newport, RI. 1743; d. 1818), merchant, Revolutionary brigadier-general. Son of Jabez Huntington. Collector, Port of New London, 1789-1818.
INGERSOLL, RALPH ISAACS (b. Feb. 8, 1789, New Haven, Conn.; d. Aug. 26, 1872, New Haven). Lawyer, Connecticut Democrat. State representative (1820-1825) and House Speaker (1824-1825), U.S. Representative (1825-1833), New Haven County State’s Attorney (1833), minister to Russia (1846-1848), Mayor, of New Haven (1851).
JONES, WILLIAM (b. Newport, RI., 1753; d. 1822), merchant. Revolutionary soldier and Federalist governor of Rhode Island, 1811-1817. Defied national government over War of 1812 and other policies.
KEARNEY, JOHN-Deputy Collector at Port of New York, ca. 1806.
L’HOMMEDIEU, EZRA (b. Southold, N.Y., 1734; d. Southold, 1811), lawyer, New York legislator, agriculturist. Brother-in-law of William Floyd. Continuously in public service from 1775 until his death, he was the principal author of the measure establishing the reconstituted University of the State of New York, 1787.
L’HOMMEDIEU, EZRA (b. Aug. 30, 1734, Southold, N.Y.; d. Sept. 27, 1811, Southold) Lawyer, farmer, New York Federalist, and follower of John Jay. Delegate to the Provincial Congress (1775-1777), state assemblyman (1777-1783), Continental Congress (1779-1783, 1787-1788), state senate (1784-1792, 1794-1809), Suffolk County clerk (1784 until death), regent of the University of the State of New York (1787 until death) state constitutional convention delegate (1801).
LIVINGSTON, EDWARD (1764-1836), jurist and statesman, was perhaps the most distinguished member of the New York Livingston family, which for several generations contributed notably to public affairs in America. After graduation from the College of New Jersey (1781) he practiced law in New York City. As a Jeffersonian Republican in Congress (1795-1801), he opposed Jay’s Treaty and the Alien and Sedition Acts. During his service as Mayor of New York City (1801-1803) a confidential clerk misappropriated public funds, and Livingston resigned his office, met the deficit, and moved to New Orleans, where he resumed law practice. He served President Jackson as Secretary of State (1831-1833), minister to France (1833-1835), and, as a trusted adviser.
Livingston’s penal code for Louisiana (published in 1833), although not adopted by the state that had requested it, brought him international fame, anal became the model of state penal codes: in the U.S. and elsewhere. It was remarkable in its provisions for remedies rather than vindictive punishment. The eminent legal historian Sir Henry Alaine called Livingston “the first legal genius of modern times.”
LIVINGSTON, EDWARD (b. Columbia Co., N.Y. 1764; d. Dutchess Co., N.Y., 1836), lawyer, statesman. Son of Robert R. Livingston (1718-1775). Graduated College of New Jersey (Princeton), 1781; studied law at Albany under John Lansing. Practiced law in New York City post 1785. Congressman, (Democrat) Republican, from New York, 1795-1801. Acting (1801-1803) simultaneously as U.S. Attorney for New York and as mayor of New York City, he was held responsible for the defalcation of an agent and gave up all his own property to be sold in order to make restitution of the loss to the Treasury. Removing to New Orleans, La., 1804, he began practice of the law there, struggling meanwhile under a weight of private as well as public debt. Falsely accused of abetting Aaron Burr in his 1806 activities, Livingston no sooner cleared himself of these charges before he, was brought into controversy with President Jefferson over the rights to certain alluvial lands at New Orleans which Livingston claimed. Dispossessed of the property, he published pamphlets on the subject and complained of his treatment in the courts and before Congress.
As chairman of the New Orleans committee of public defense, Livingston organized the people of Louisiana in their resistance to British invasion, 1814. At the battle of New Orleans he served Andrew Jackson as aide-decamp, interpreter and adviser. Commissioned, 1821, to revise the Louisiana penal law, he completed a code in 1825 which aimed at the prevention rather than the punishment of crime. Although it was not adopted, the publication of the code brought him wide fame. As a Democrat, he represented the New Orleans district in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1823-1829, and was chosen by the legislature to be U.S. Senator, 1829-31. As U.S. Secretary of State, 1831-1833, he drafted the celebrated 1832 proclamation to the South Carolina nullifiers; he also secured an admission by the French Government in 1831 of the justice of American claims for spoliation under the Berlin and Milan decrees. His last public service was as U.S. Minister to France, 1833-1835.
LOWNDES, WILLIAM-He was a native of Charleston, South Carolina, having been born February 7, 1782; educated by a private tutor; served in the State Legislature in 1806 and 1808; and was a Representative in Congress, from that State, from 1811 to 1822, when, from ill health, he resigned. In 1818 he was Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means. He died while on a voyage, with his family, from Philadelphia to London in the ship Moss, October 27, 1822, aged forty-two. He had a memory of uncommon power, was an eloquent debater, and stood in the first rank of American statesmen. Henry Clay once expressed the opinion that he was the wisest man he had ever known in Congress.
LOWNDES, WlLLIAM (b. Colleton Co., S.C., 1782; d. at sea, 1822), planter, South Carolina legislator. Son of Rawlins Lowndes, Congressman, (Democrat) Republican, from South Carolina, 1811-1822. With Langdon Cheves, John C. Calhoun and others, formed nucleus of the “War Hawks.” A very able congressional debater, he spoke with particular effectiveness in the debate over Missouri, 1820. Highly respected by his contemporaries, he was nominated by the South Carolina legislature for the presidency in December, 1821.
MEIGS, HENRY-Born in New Haven, Connecticut, October 28, 1782; graduated at Yale College in 1798; educated a lawyer, and was elected a Representative in Congress from New York City, from 1819 to 1821, and for many years was an active officer, Recording Secretary and Trustee of the America Institute in New York. It was said of him, as something remarkable, that he never wore an overcoat, never had a sore throat or headache, and, when seventy years of age, did not use glasses. Died in New York, May 20, 1861.
MEIGS, JOSIAH (b. Middletown, Conn., 1757; d. Washington, D.C., 1822), lawyer, editor, educator, public official. Father of Charles D. Meigs; brother of Return J. Meigs (1740-1823). Graduated Yale, 1778. Edited New Haven Gazette, 1784-1788, in which appeared many of the literary productions of the “Hartford Wits.” Resident in Bermuda, 1789-94, he returned to be professor of mathematics and science at Yale but resigned in 1800 because of the excessive Federalist tone of the university. Removing to Georgia, he served as president of the state university, 1801-1810. Appointed surveyor-general of the United States, 1812, he was made Commissioner of the General Land Office, 1814, and from 1819 until his death, was President of the Columbian Institute.
MILLER, MORRIS S.-He was a Representative in Congress from New York, from 1813 to 1815 and in 1819 was appointed a Commissioner to superintend a treaty with the Seneca Indians. He was also Judge of a County Court, and died at Utica, November 15, 1824, aged forty-five years.
MILLER, SAMUEL (b. near Dover, Del., 1769; d. 1850), Presbyterian clergyman, educator, author. Brother of Edward Miller. Educated chiefly at home; attended University of Pennsylvania. Ordained, 1793, he served as collegiate pastor in New York City until 1809 and was sole pastor of the Wall Street congregation until 1813. Thereafter he was professor of church history, Princeton Theological Seminary, of which he had been a founder. His writings covered a broad range; chief among them was the very important Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century (1803). Long the official historian of the Presbyterian General Assembly, he became its moderator, 1806.
MUHLENBERG, JOHN PETER GABRIEL (b. Trapper Pa., 1746; d. Philadelphia, Pa., 1807), Lutheran pastor, Revolutionary soldier, politician. Son of Henry M. Muhlenberg; grandson of John Conrad Weiser Receiving Anglican orders from the bishop of London, 1772, he was pastor of the German Lutheran congregation at Woodstock, Va., until 1776; post 1774, he was associated with the leaders of the Revolutionary party and served in the House of Burgesses. Having raised and commanded a Virginia regiment composed of Shenandoah Germans, he was commissioned brigadier general in the Continental Army, February 1777. Distinguished as a brigade commander at Brandywine, Germantown and Monmouth, he supported Wayne in the assault on Stony Point, 1779, and served through 1780 as second-in-command to Baron von Steuben. On Oct. 14, 1781, he commanded the American brigade that stormed one of the two British redoubts at Yorktown. Leaving the army as brevet major-general, he was elected to the Council of Pennsylvania, 1784, was vice-president of the state, 1785-1788, and was influential in securing early adoption of the U.S. Constitution. He served as representative-at-large, ( Democrat ) Republican, 1789-1791, and as congressman from Montgomery Co., Pa., 1793-1795, 1799-1801. Elected to the U.S. Senate, February, 1801, he resigned a month later. He was Collector of Customs for Philadelphia, 1802-1807.
MUHLENBERG, JOHN PETER GABRIEL.-Son of Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg; was born at the Trappe, Pennsylvania, October 1, 1746. He was sent to Halle, in Germany, with his two younger brothers, Frederick A. and Henry E., in 1762, for education. The three brothers were devoted to the Christian ministry. Peter was ordained Deacon in the Church of England, on April 21, 1772, by the Bishop of London; a few days after, Priest, in company with William Whites afterwards Bishop. Returning to America he was settled over a charge in Dunmore, now Shenandoah County, Virginia. In 1774 he was elected to the House of Burgesses of that Colony. At the breaking out of the Revolution, his ardent sympathies with it carried him into the army. In his farewell sermon he told his people, “There was a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to fight, and that now was the time to fight.” He raised the Eight Virginia Regiment, and was made Colonel of it. His first campaign was in South Carolina and Georgia. On February 21, 1777, he was made Brigadier-General, in which capacity he served with distinguished gallantry at Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Stony Point, in Virginia, and at Yorktown, where he commanded the First Brigade of Light Infantry, in making the final assault with which, he was wounded. In the last promotion he was made, Major-General. After the war he was a Presidential Elector in 1797; member of the First, Third, and Sixth Congresses from Pennsylvania; and United States Senator in 1801, which office he resigned in 1802. He left the Senate in 1802, and was appointed Supervisor of Revenue for Pennsylvania in that year; Collector of the port of Philadelphia in 1803, holding which office he died October 1, 1807.
NEWTON, THOMAS-Born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1769; he was a Representative in Congress, from Virginia, from 1801 to 1829, and again from 1831 to 1833. He served for many years as Chairman of the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures. He died in Norfolk, Virginia, August 6, 1847.
NEWTON, THOMAS (b. Virginia, 1768; d. Norfolk, Va., 1847), lawyer, Virginia legislator. Congressman, ( Democrat ) Republican from Virginia, 1801-1830, 1831-1833. Active in support of the interests of the seacoast commercial classes, Newton vigorously supported the War of 1812 and all legislation which assisted American commerce.
OSGOOD, SAMUEL (b. Andover, Mass., 1747/48; d. New York, N.Y., 1813), Revolutionary soldier, Massachusetts and New York legislator. Able member of finance committees in Continental Congress, 1781-1784 opposed Constitution as leading to excessive consolidation. First U.S. Postmaster General, 1789-1791; supported Jefferson post 1800.
OSGOOD, SAMUEL-He was a native of Massachusetts; graduated at Harvard College in 1770; was a member of the Board of War during the early years of the Revolution. July 1770 and 1776 he was an Aid to General Ward. From 1780 to 1784 was a delegate to the Continental Congress, and in 1785 was appointed by that body first Commissioner of the Treasury. In 1789 he was appointed, by Washington, Postmaster General, and retained the office two years. He held other public offices; published a work on “Chronology,” “Remarks on Daniel and Revelations, ” “Letters on Episcopacy,” and other subjects. Died at New York, August 12, 1813, aged sixty-five years.
PINKNEY, WILLIAM (b. Annapolis, Md., 1764; d. Washington, D.C., 1822), lawyer, Maryland legislator, diplomat. Father of Edward C. Pinkney. Studied law with Samuel Chase; was admitted to the bar, 1788. Pinkney rose rapidly to a commanding position in his profession and was considered the most talented advocate of his time despite his personal affectations and the flamboyant character of his oratory. Inordinately vain, he wished to excel in everything and concealed his profound researches into precedents behind a screen of affected carelessness and haste of preparation. He appeared in 72 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He served as joint commissioner with Christopher Gore in England, 1796-1804, working to adjust maritime claims under the seventh article of the Jay Treaty. Returning home, he was briefly Attorney General of Maryland. Joint commissioner with James Monroe to treat with the British over reparations for ship seizures and impressment, 1806-1807, he was concerned in the formulation of a proposed treaty which Jefferson angrily repudiated. He then engaged in frustrating and futile negotiations with the British over the Leopard-Chesapeake affair and the issue of the Orders in Council while serving as U.S. Minister to Great Britain, 1807-1811. He was an able U.S. attorney general 1811-1814. Served in the militia (1814), and sat in Congress from Maryland, 1815-1816. Effective as U.S. Minister to Russia, 1816-18, he became U.S. Senator from Maryland in 1819 and served until his death. Here he performed his greatest work for his country as an interpreter of the Constitution. His speeches in opposition to Rufus King during the debates over the Missouri Compromise were an important factor in bringing the Compromise about. Meanwhile, he reached the heights of his forensic career in the Supreme Court in his arguments in McCulloch vs. Maryland (1818-189) and Cohens vs. Virginia ( 1821).
RODNEY, CAESAR A.-He was a Representative in Congress, from Delaware, from 1803 to 1805. He was appointed Attorney-General of the United States by President Jefferson; and in 1812 commanded a company of Volunteers in defense of Baltimore; again a Representative in Congress, from Delaware, from 1819 to 1821; and a Senator of the United States from 1821 to 1823, in which year he was appointed United States Minister to Bueuos Aires, where he died June 10, 1824.
RODNEY, CAESAR AUGUSTUS (b. Dover, Del., 1772; d. Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1824), lawyer, statesman, diplomat. Son of Thomas Rodney; nephew of Caesar Rodney. Congressman, (Democrat ) Republican, from Delaware, 1803-1805; was a House manager in impeachment proceedings against John Pickering and Samuel Chase. U.S. Attorney General, 1807-1811, he served in the Delaware militia during the War of 1812. After service, 1817-1818, as a U.S. Commissioner investigating the political status of the newly established South American republics, he was congressman again very briefly in 1821, and U.S. Senator, 1822. Appointed first U.S. Minister to the Argentine Republic, he arrived in Buenos Aires, November 1823, but soon fell dangerously ill and died in office.
SANDS, JOSHUA-He was born in Queens County, New York, in 1758, and was a member of the New York Senate, from King’s County, from 1792 to 1799 and a Representative in Congress from 1803 to 1804, and again from 1825 to 1827. During the War of 1775 he was a member of the Brooklyn Home Guards; in 1797 he was appointed, by President Adams, Collector of Customs for the Port of New York; and was at one time a Magistrate in King’s County; and he also took an active part, with two brothers, in the Revolutionary War to its close. Died in his native county, September 13, 1835. He was the father of the present Commodore Sands.
SHALER, WILLIAM (b. Bridgeport, Conn. c. 1773; d. Havana, Cuba, 1833), sea captain. Friend and partner of Richard J. Cleveland. Shaler held a number of U.S. consular offices of which the most notable was the post of U.S. Consul-General at Algiers, 1815- 1828. He had previously served as U.S. Commissioner with Stephen Decatur (1779-1820) in the arbitrary negotiation of the U.S. Algiers treaty of 1815. He was author of Sketches of Algiers (1826).
SMITH, JOHN COTTON-He was born in Sharon, Connecticut, February 12, 1765, and graduated at Yale College in 1783. He studied law, and was admitted to practice, in Litchfield County, in 1786. He was a member of the General Assembly in 1793, and from 1796 to 1800 was a member of the lower house, and in 1799 was elected Speaker. He was a Representative in Congress, from Connecticut from 1800 to 1806, when he resigned; was a Presidential Electoral 1809; and was again a member of the Legislature until 1809, when he was chosen a member of the Council. He also held the several offices of Governor of Connecticut, from 1812 to 1817, Lieutenant Governor, and Judge of the Superior Court. He received the degree of LL.D from Yale College; was a member of the Northern Society of Antiquarians in Copenhagen; also of the Connecticut Historical Society, and of various religious associations. He died at Sharon Connecticut, November 7, 1845 and had devoted the latter years of his life to agricultural and literary pursuits.
SMITH, SAMUEL (b. July 27, 1752 Carlisle; Pa.; d. April 22, 1839, Baltimore, Md.) merchant, shipper, Revolutionary and War of 1812 officer, Maryland Democrat, U.S. Representative (1793-1803, 1816-1822), U .S. Senate (1803-1815, 1822-1833) and four times elected President pro tem of the Senate (1805-1808); Mayor of Baltimore (1837).
SMITH, SAMUEL-He was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, July 27, 1752. He was a distinguished merchant of Baltimore, and contributed largely to the advancement of that city, of which he was once Mayor. He rose from the rank of Captain to that of Brigadier- General in the Revolutionary War. In 1776 he was a member of the Convention for framing the Constitution of Maryland; and was a Representative in Congress, from that State, from 1793 to 1803, and again from 1816 to 1822; and a Senator in Congress from 1803 to 1815, and again from 1822 to 1833, serving as Chairman of the Committee on Finance. Daring a part of the Ninth and Tenth Congresses, he acted as President pro tem, of the Senate. He died suddenly, at Baltimore April 25, 1839.
SMITH, WILLIAM STEPHENS (b. New York, N.Y., 1755; d. Lebanon, N.Y., 1816), Revolutionary soldier, lawyer, diplomat. As aide to Washington, he supervised evacuation of New York City by the British, 1783. Secretary of ligation in London, 1785-1788. He married Abigail, daughter of the then American minister, John Adams, 1786. Returning to the United States, he plunged heavily into land speculation and politics, held several federal offices, dabbled in South American filibustering activities and was congressman, Federalist, from New York, 1813-1816.
SWIFT, JOSEPH GARDNER (b. Nantucket, Mass., 1783; d. Gevera, N.Y., 1865), military engineer. Brother of William H. Swift. Graduated West Point 1802, in the first class. Chief engineer of the U.S. Army, 1812-1818, he resigned because of conflict over appointment of Simon Bernard and worked thereafter on railroad and harbor improvement projects. An engineer of distinction, he exerted influence over George W. Whistler, William G. McNeil and other younger professionals.
SUMTER, THOMAS-A distinguished soldier of the American Revolution, was a citizen of South Carolinas and was promoted by Governor Rutledge, in 1781, from the office of Colonel to that of Brigadier-General. For his services he received the thanks of Congress, and the applause of his country. He was a Representative in Congress, from South Carolina, from 1789 to 1793, and was one of those who voted for locating, the Seat of Government on the Potomac, and on 1801 he was elected a Senator in Congress, serving until 1809, when he was appointed Minister to Brazil. He died suddenly, June 1, 1832, aged ninety-seven.
SUMTER, THOMAS (b. near Charlottesville, Va., 1734; d. near Stateburg, S.C., 1832), Revolutionary officer, South Carolina partisan leader and legislator. After military experience in the campaigns of Braddock and Forbes and in fighting against the Cherokees, he settled as a storekeeper near Eutaw Springs, S.C., c. 1765. A provincial congressman and for a time Lieutenant Colonel in the Continental service, he is remembered principally for his leadership of partisan troops against British and Tory forces in the Carolinas, 1780 and 1781-1782. Feared by the enemy and called the “Gamecock of the Revolution,” he played a role whose importance was out of all proportion to the small numbers he commanded. His campaigns were of material assistance to the later American victory at Yorktown.
STRONG, CALEB-Born in Northampton, Massachusetts, January, 1745 and graduated at Harvard College in 1864. In consequence of poor health he did not commence the practice of law for eight years afterwards. He spent his life at South Hampton where his paternal ancestors had lived from the year 1659. In 1775 he was a member of the Committee of Safety; and in 1780 he was chosen one of the Council of Massachusetts. In 1779 he assisted in forming the Constitution of that State; and in 1787 he also assisted in forming the Constitution of the United States, but did not sign that instrument. From 1789 to 1797 he was a Senator in Congress, and from 1800 to 1807 he was Governor of the State; also, from 1812 to 1816; and a Presidential Elector in 1809. Governor Strong was a man of impeccable moral character, and he possessed a vigorous and well-cultivated mind. He died November 7, 1819.
TALLMADGE, NATHANIEL P. – Senator from New York. Appointed March 4, 1833, Resigned March 3, 1839. Appointed March 4, 1839, resigned again, the same day.
THAYER, NATHANlEL (b. Lancaster, Mass., 1808; d. Boston, Mass., 1883), financier, philanthropist, benefactor of Harvard.
THOMPSON, JEREMlAH (b. Rawdon, Yorkshire England, 1784; d. New York, N.Y., 1835), merchant shipowner. Organizer (1817, with Benjamin Marshall and others) of regular American packet-ship sailing between New York and Liverpool.
TIBBETS, GEORGE-He was a Representative in Congress, from New York, from 1803 to 1805, and a member of the State Assembly, from Rensselaer County in 1802 and 1820, and of the State Senate, from 1815 to 1818.
TOMPKlNS, DANlEL D. (b. Scarsdale, N.Y., 1774; d. Staten Island, N.Y., 1825), lawyer, New York legislator. Graduated Columbia, 1795. Beginning practice in New York City, he was elected to Congress as a (Democrat) Republican in 1804 but resigned almost at once to accept appointment as a Justice of the New York Supreme Court. Elected Governor of New York, 1807, he served through 1817. His administration was marked by liberal and popular reform measures in the school system, the militia and in the criminal code, and also by the complete abolition of slavery in the state. Handicapped during the War of 1812 by lack of money and a hostile Assembly as well as by the incompetence of the U.S. command, he handled the defense of the state as successfully as any man could have done, pledging his personal credit for much of the necessary money. He served as Vice President of the United States, 1817-1825, without particular distinction. For many years he was DeWitt Clinton’s most able antagonist in New York state politics.
TOMKINS, DANIEL D.-He was born in Westchester County, New York, June 21, 1774. His father was a farmer and he was his seventh son. He graduated at Columbia College in 1795, then studied law and was admitted to practice in the City of New York in 1797. In 1821 he was a member of the “Constitutional Convention” of the state, and also served the State Legislature. He was elected a Representative in Congress, from 1805 to 1807, but resigned to accept an appointment as Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the State. In 1807 he was elected Governor of the State, and held that office ten years. His aid in support of the National Government, during the War of 1812, gave him prominence as a statesman. He prorogued the State Legislature in 1812 for the space of ten months, to prevent the establishment of the Bank of America in the City of New York; his opposition postponed, but did not defeat the measure, and a charter was granted in 1813. In 1817 he resigned the office of Governor, and was elected Vice President of the United States and served two years; by virtue of which office he was also President of the Senate. He died in New York, June 11, 1825.
TRUMBULL, JONATHAN (b. March 26, 1740, Lebanon, Conn.; d. Aug. 7, 1809, Lebanon), Lawyer, Continental Army paymaster and secretary to General Washington during the Revolution, Connecticut Federalist who was the first Comptroller of the U.S. Treasury (1778-1779), and annually was reelected governor for eleven years (1797 until death). Speaker of Connecticut’s colonial legislature before the Revolution. After the war he was a member of the First, Second, and Third Congress (1789-1795) and Speaker in the Second, U.S. Senate (1795-1796), resigning to become Lieutenant Governor (1796) and moving into the statehouse upon the death of Governor Wolcott (1797). Brother of the following Joseph Trumbull.
TRUMBULL, JONATHAN-Born in Lebanon, Connecticut, March 26, 1740, and graduated at Harvard College in 1759. In 1775 he was appointed, by Congress, Paymaster in the Northern Department of the Army, and not long after was attached to the family of Washington as Secretary and first Aid, with whom he continued until the close of the war. He was for several years a Representative in the State Legislature of Connecticut, and Speaker of the House; was a Presidential Elector in 1797, 1801, and 1805; and a Representative in Congress, from that State, from 1789 to 1790; elected Speaker of the House of Representative: in 1791, and continued in that station till he was transferred to the United States Senate in 1795, where he served only one year, having been elected Lieutenant-Governor of Connecticut, and in 1798 Governor, in which position he remained until his death, which occurred August 7, 1809.
TUCKER, THOMAS TUDOR (b. June 25, 1745, Port Royal, Bermuda; d May 2, 1828, Washington, D.C.), Physician, Continental Army surgeon, South Carolina Federalist. Member of the Continental Congress (1787-1788), U.S. Representative in the First and Second Congress (1789-1793), Jefferson-appointed U.S. Treasurer (1801 until death). Uncle of the elder Henry St. George Tucker.
VAN NESS, WILLIAM PETER (b. Claverack, Columbia Co., N.Y., c. 1778; d. 1826), politician, jurist. Graduated Columbia, 1797; studied law in office of Edward Livingston. Began practice in New York City, 1800, as protege of Aaron Burr. A loyal follower of Burr in politics, Van Ness defended his patron in An Examination of the Various Charges Exhibited against Aaron Burr (1803, under pseudonym “Aristides”) and served him as second in his duel with Alexander Hamilton, 1804. Subsequently an associate of Martin Van Buren, he served as U.S. Judge for the Southern District of New York, 1812-1826. He was co-editor of the annotated Laws of the State of New York (1813) and wrote several other works.
VAN VECHTEN, ABRAHAM (b. Catskill, N.Y., 1762; d. 1837), lawyer, Federalist New York legislator and public official. Studied law with John Lansing; was first lawyer admitted to practice under the New York constitution, 1785; practiced in Albany, N.Y. Held leading position at New York Constitutional Convention, 1821. Gave notable opinion in Gibbons vs. Ogden ( 9 Wheaton, 1) in which he was sustained by Chief Justice Marshall.
WATSON, ELKANAH (b. Plymouth, Mass., 1758; d. 1842), merchant, promoter, agriculturist. Apprenticed to John Brown (1744-1780) of Providence, R.I., c. 1774, he remained in the employ of the Browns after he came of age. Embarking for France to carry money and dispatches to Benjamin Franklin, 1779, he entered business on his own at Nantes, and for a time was very successful. Failing in 1783, he returned to America and made an unsuccessful attempt to raise capital for establishment of an American canal system. After a second failure in business at Edenton, N.C., he settled in Albany, N.Y., 1789, organized the Bank of Albany, and became a leading citizen of that community. Continuing to urge his plans for canals, he persuaded several prominent New Yorkers to join him in a tour of central New York, 1791, during which he projected a plan for a canal in that region. Retiring, from active business c. 1802, he moved to Pittsfield, Mass., where he devoted himself to scientific agriculture. He staged the “Cattle Show” (1810) which preceded incorporation of the Berkshire Agricultural Society, sponsor of the first county fair in America. He thereafter helped make the county fair an American institution. He was author of Men and Times of the Revolution (1856).
WELLS, JOHN (b. Cherry Valley, N.Y., c. 1770; d. New York, N.Y., 1823), lawyer. Graduated College of New Jersey (Princeton), 1788. Editorial associate of William Coleman on the N.Y. Evening Post, he edited The Federalist, bringing out the fifth edition of the papers in 1802. Post 1804, he shared with Thomas A. Emmet the bulk of the commercial law practice which had hitherto gone to Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr; he was frequently engaged as special counsel by the City of New York. His argument in the celebrated case of Gibbons vs. Ogden (1819), that the grant by the State of New York of a monopoly of the navigation of its waters by steam was unconstitutional since Congress alone had the right to regulate commerce, was unsuccessful. However, Daniel Webster and William Wirt, pursuing the same argument on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, secured a reversal of the original decision, 1824.
WILLIAMS, ELISHA (b. Pomfret, Conn., 1773; d. probably Waterloo, N.Y., 1833), lawyer, politician. Admitted to the New York bar, 1793; practiced in Spencertown and Hudson, N.Y.; displayed brilliant oratorical gifts. Elected to New York Assembly for Columbia County, 1800, he served at nine sessions down to 1828. A Federalist leader, he was strongly anti-democratic in the New York Constitutional Convention in 1821. In 1815 he founded Waterloo, Seneca Co., N.Y.
WILSON, PETER (b. Banff, Scotland, 1746; d. New Barbados, N.J., 1825), philologist, educator, New Jersey legislator. Educated at University of Aberdeen. Emigrated to New York City, 1763. Principal of Hackensack (N.J.) Academy of Erasmus Hall Academy, Flatbush, L.I., N.Y., c. 1792-1805. Professor of Greek and Latin, Columbia College, 1789-1792; of Greek and Latin and Grecian and Roman antiquities, 1797-1820. Wrote treatises on prosody and edited classic texts.
WIRT, WILLIAM (b. Bladensburg, Md., 1772; d. Washington, D.C., 1834), lawyer, author. Admitted to the Virginia bar c. 1792, he began practice in Culpeper Co., Va. After a modest success, he removed to Richmond, Va., c. 1800; his name first came prominently before the public when he served as counsel for James T. Callender in a famous trial under the Alien and Sedition Acts. After brief service as a chancellor, 1802-1803, he removed his residence to Norfolk. His literary career began with the serial publication of The Letters of the British Spy in the Richmond Argus; published anonymously, they purported to be contemporary observations of an English traveler and were, in fact, shrewd social commentary in essay form. First published as a book, 1803, the letters went through numerous editions. Removing to Richmond, 1806, Wirt appeared for the prosecution in the trial of Aaron Burr and gained much professional prestige. After publication of another series of essays, which did not acquire the popularity of the British Spy, Wirt published Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (1817), his most serious literary effort. Although his material was acquired largely from men who had known Henry, he presented it in a most ornate and overstrained manner. Also in 1817 he was appointed U.S. Attorney General and held that post for twelve consecutive years. He was the first holder of that office to organize its work and to make a systematic practice of preserving his official opinions so that they might serve as precedents. He returned to private life in 1829 on the accession of President Andrew Jackson, but was later an unwilling candidate of the Anti-Masons for the presidency, 1832.
WOOLSEY, MELANCTHON TAYLOR (b. New York State, 1780; d. Utica, N.Y., 1838), naval officer. Nephew of John H. Livingston. Entered navy as midshipman, 1800. Served on Great Lakes, 1808-1825. In War of 1812 commanded at Sacketts Harbor, and was second-in-command under Isaac Chauncey. In charge of Pensacola navy yard, 1826-1830; commanded Brazil Squadron as commodore, 1832-1834.