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turned a member of that body; and, as he was the only one who had assisted in forming that instrument, it devolved upon him to explain to the Convention the principles upon which it was founded, and the great objects which had in view.
In 1789, Mr. Wilson was appointed, by Washington, a judge of the Supreme Court, under the federal constitution. In this office he continued until his weath, which occurred on the 28th of August, 1798, at Edenton, in North Carolina, while on a circuit attending to his judicial duties. Mr. Wilson was twice married; the first time to a daughter of William Bird, of Berks county, and the secand time to a daughter of Mr. Ellis Gray, of Boston.
JOHN WITHERSPOON. John WITHERSPOON, alike distinguished as a minister of the gospel and a patriot of the revolution, was born in the parish of Yester, a few miles from Edinburgh, on the 5th of February, 1722. He was lineally descended from John Knox, the celebrated Scottish reformer, and was sent at an early age to the public school at Haddington, where he applied himself closely to the study of classical literature.
At the age of fourteen, he was removed to the University of Edinburgh; and, on completing his theological studies, he was ordained and settled in the parish of Beith, in the west of Scotland.
Doctor Witherspoon left behind him a sphere of great usefulness and respectability, in retiring from his native land. He arrived in America in August, 1768, and in the same month was inaugurated president of the College of New Jersey. His exertions in raising the character and increasing the funds of this institution, were successful and indefatigable.
On the occurrence of the American war, the college was broken up, and the officers and students were dispersed. Doctor Witherspoon now assumed a new attitude before the American public. On becoming a citizen of the country, he warmly espoused her cause against the British ministry.
He was a delegate to the Convention
which formed the republican constitution of New Jersey, and proved himself as able a politician as he was known to be philosopher and divine. Early in the year 1776, he was chosen a representative to the General Congress, by the people of New Jersey. He took a part in the deliberations on the question of independence, for which he
a warm advocate. To a gentleman, who declared that the country was not yet ripe for a declaration of independence, he replied, “Sir, in my judgment, the country is not only ripe, but rotting.”
For the space of seven years, Doctor Witherspoon continued a delegate from New Jersey to the Continental Congress. Few men acted with more energy or promptitude, or attended more closely and faithfully than he to the duties of his station.
At the close of the year 1779, Doctor Witherspoon voluntarily retired from Congress, and resigned the care and instruction of the students to another. His name, however, continued to add celebrity to the institution over which he had so creditably presided. But he did not remain long in repose. In 1781, he was again chosen to Congress, and, in 1783, he embarked for England, with the view of promoting the interests of the college, for which he had already done so much. He returned to America in 1784, and again withdrew from active life.
Doctor Witherspoon was an admirable model for a young preacher. “A profound theologian, perspicuous and simple in his manner; a universal scholar, acquainted with human nature; a grave, dignified, solemn speaker, — he brought all the advantages derived from these sources, to the illustration and enforcement of divine truth. His social qualities rendered him one of the most companionable of men."
Doctor Witherspoon was twice married; the first time in Scotland, at an early age, to a lady of the name of Montgomery ; and the second time, at the age of seventy years, to a lady who was only twenty-three. He had several children, who all passed, or are passing, honorably through life. He died on the 15th day of November, 1794, in the seventy-third year of his age. His works have been collected in four volumes, octavo.
OLIVER WOLCOTT. OLIVER Wolcott was born in Connecticut, in 1726. His family was ancient and distinguished; and his ancestors successively held a long list of honorable offices in the state. He was graduated at Yale College, in 1747, and the same year received a commission as captain in the army, in the French war.
At the head of a company, which was raised by his own exertions, he proceeded to the defence of the northern frontiers, where he continued until the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle.
At this time, he returned to his native state, and entered upon the study of medicine. He never engaged in the practice of the profession, however, in consequence of receiving the appointment of sheriff of the county of Litchfield. In 1774, he was elected an assistant in the Council of the state, and continued in the office till 1786. He was also for some time chief judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the county, and judge of the Court of Probate for the district of Litchfield. In 1776, he was chosen a delegate from Connecticut to the national Congress, which assembled at Philadelphia. He participated in the deliberations of that body, and had the honor of recording his name in favor of the declaration of independence.
From the time of the adoption of that measure until 1786, he was either in attendance upon Congress, in the field in defence of his country, or, as a commissioner of Indian affairs for the northern department, assisting in settling the terms of peace with the Six Nations. In 1786, he was chosen lieutenant-governor of Connecticut, an office which he continued to hold for ten years, at the expiration of which he was raised to the chief magistracy of the state. He died on the 1st of December, 1797, in the seventy-second year of his age.
Mr. Wolcott was possessed of great resolution of character, and his attainments in literature were of a superior order. He was also distinguished for his love of order and religion. In 1755, he was married to a Miss Collins, of Guilford, an estimable woman, with whom he enjoyed much domestic felicity, for the space of forty years.
GEORGE WYTHE. GEORGE WYTHE was born in the county of Elizabeth City, Virginia, in the year 1726. His mother, who was a woman of superior acquirements, instructed him in the learned languages, and he made considerable progress in several of the solid sciences, and in polite literature. Before he became of age, he was deprived of both his parents ; and, inheriting considerable property, he became addicted, for several years, to dissipated courses and habits of profligacy. But, at the age of thirty, he abandoned entirely his youthful follies, and applied himself with indefatigable industry to study, never relapsing into any indulgence inconsistent with a manly and virtuous character.
Having studied the profession of law, he soon attained a high reputation at the bar, and was appointed from his native county to a seat in the House of Burgesses. He took a conspicuous part in the proceedings of this assembly, and some of the most eloquent state papers of the time were drawn up by him. The remonstrance to the House of Commons, which was of a remarkably fearless and independent tone, was the production of his pen. By his patriotic firmness and zeal, he powerfully contributed to the ultimate success of his country.
In 1775, Mr. Wythe was elected a delegate from Virginia to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He assisted in bringing forward and urging the Declaration of Independence, and affixed his name to that deathless instrument. During this latter year, he was appointed, in connection with Thomas Jefferson, Edward Pendleton, and others, to revise the laws of the state of Virginia. In the year 1777, Mr. Wythe was chosen speaker of the House of Delegates, and during the same year was made judge of the High Court of Chancery. On the new organization of the Court of Equity, in a subsequent year, he was appointed sole chancellor, a station which he filled, with great ability, for more than twenty years.
In the course of the revolution, Mr. Wythe suffered much in respect to his property. By judicious management, however, he contrived to retrieve his fortune, and preserve his credit unimpaired. Of the Convention of
1787, appointed to revise the federal constitution, he was an efficient member. During the debates, he acted for the most part as chairman. He was a warm advocate for the constitution, and esteemed it the surest guaranty of the peace and prosperity of the country. He died on the 8th of June, 1806, in the eighty-first year of his age, after a short but very excruciating sickness. By his last will and testament, Mr. Wythe bequeathed his valuable library and philosophical apparatus to his friend, Mr. Jefferson, and distributed the remainder of his little property among the grandchildren of his sister, and the slaves whom he had set free,
PERSONS DISTINGUISHED IN AMERICAN HISTORY.
AMES, FISHER, one of the most eloquent of American writers and statesmen, was born at Dedham, in Massachusetts, in the year 1758. He was educated at Harvard College, where he received his degree in 1774. About seven years afterwards, he began the practice of the law, and an opportunity soon occurred for the display of his superior qualifications both as a speaker and essay-writer. He distinguished himself as a member of the Massachusetts Convention for ratifying the constitution in 1788, and from this body passed to the House of Representatives in the state legislature. Soon after, he was elected the first representative of the Suffolk district in the Congress of the United States, where he remained with the highest honor during the eight years of Washington's administration. On the retirement of the first president, Mr. Ames returned to the practice of his profession in his native town. During the remaining years of his life, his health was very much impaired; Lut his mind still continued