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WILLIAM WILLIAM S.
WILLIAM WILLIAMs was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, on the 8th of April, 1731. At the age of sixteen he entered Harvard College, and after the usual period was honorably graduated. For some time after his return home, he devoted himself to theological studies, under the direction of his father. In 1755, he belonged to the staff of Colonel Ephraim Williams, the founder of Williams College, in Massachusetts, and was present at the celebrated battle fought at the head of Lake George, between the provincial troops and the French Canadians. During the contest, Colonel Williams was shot through the head by an Indian, and killed. Soon after this occurrence, William Williams returned to Lebanon; and in 1756, was chosen clerk of the town, an office which he continued to hold for the space of forty-five years. About the same time, he was appointed a representative to the General Assembly of Connecticut. In this latter capacity he served for many years, during which he was often appointed clerk of the House, and not unfrequently filled the speaker's chair. In 1780, he was transferred to the Upper House, being elected an Assistant; an office which he held for twenty-four years. Mr. Williams was a member of the Continental Congress during the years 1776 and 1777; and took an honorable part in the deliberations of that body. During his campaign at the north, he had been disgusted with the British commanders, on account of the haughtiness of their conduct, and the little attachment which they manifested for his native country. The impression was powerful and enduring; and led him to form a sincere and devoted wish for the independence of America. The following anecdote has been related as a proof of the patriotic spirit of Mr. Williams. Towards the close of the year 1776, the military affairs of the colonies wore a gloomy aspect. In this doubtful state of things, the Council of Safety for Connecticut was called to sit at Lebanon. Two of the members of this council, William Hillhouse and Benjamin Huntington, quartered with Mr. Williams. One evening, the corversation turned upon the gloomy state of the country, and the probability that, after all, success would crown the British arms. “Well,” said Mr. Williams, with great calmness, “if they succeed, it is pretty evident what will be my fate. I have done much to prosecute the contest, and one thing I have done which the British will never pardon—I have signed the Declaration of Independence. I shall be hung.” Mr. Hillhouse expressed a confident hope, that America would yet be successful. Mr. Huntington observed, that, in case of ill success, he should be exempt from the gallows, as his signature was not attached to the Declaration, nor had he written anything against the British government. To this Mr. Williams replied, his eye kindling as he spoke, “Then, Sir, you deserve to be hanged, for not having done your duty.” Mr. Williams died on the 2d day of August, 1811, in the eighty-first year of his age.
JAMEs Wilson was born in Scotland, about the year 1747. He received an excellent education; studying successively at Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Edinburgh and enjoying the instruction of the distinguished Dr. Blair, and the not less celebrated Dr. Watts.
After completing his studies, he embarked for America and arrived at Philadelphia early in the year 1766. Here he served some time in the capacity of tutor in the Coliege of the city, and acquired the reputation of being a fine classical scholar. He shortly after entered the law office of Mr. John Dickinson, and at the expiration of two years, commenced practice, first at Reading and Carlisle, then at Annapolis, and finally at Philadelphia, where he continued to reside during the remainder of his life. At an early period, Mr. Wilson espoused the cause of the colonies. He was an American in principle from the time that he landed on the American shore. He became a member of the Provincial Convention of Pennsylvania, and in 1775 was unanimously elected a delegate to Comgress. His standing, during the whole course of his attendance on this body, was deservedly high. He evinced great abilit” and fidelity in the discharge of his numerous duties, and voted in favor of independence, in opposition to a majority of his colleagues. The high estimation in which Mr. Wilson was he'd, may be learned from his receiving the appointment of Advocate General for the French government, in the United States. He continued to hold this office, which was both arduous and delicate, for several years, at the close of which, the king of France handsomely rewarded hin by a gift of ten thousand livres. About the year 1782, Mr. Wilson was appointed a Counsellor and Agent for Pennsylvania, in the great controversy between that State and the State of Connecticut, relating to certain lands within the charter boundary of Pennsylvania. He discovered much legal knowledge and tact in the management of this business; and the question was finally settled in favor of Pennsylvania. He was a member of the celebrated Convention of 1787, which assembled in Philadelphia, for the purpose of forming the Constitution of the United States. During the long deliberations on this instrument, he rendered the most important services. He was on the committee which reported the draught of the Constitution, and did much to settle, upon just principles, the great and important points which naturally arose in the formation of a new government. When the State Convention of Pennsylvania assembled to ratify the Federal Constitution, Mr. Wilson was returned 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 it 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 death, which occurred on the 2Sth of August, 1798, at Edenton, in North Carolina, while on a circuit attending to his judicial duties. Mr. Wilson was twice married; the sirst time to a daughter of William Bird, of Berks county, and the second time te a daughter of Mr. Ellis Gray, of Boston.
John Wr'HERspoon, alike distinguished as 7 minister of the gospel, and a patriot of the Revolution, was born in the parish of Yester, a few miles from Edinburgh, on the fifth of February, 17°2. 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 himse. 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 was 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 promp. titude, 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, o: and simple in his manner; an universal scholar, acquainted with human nature; a grave, dignified, solemn o: ;—he brought all the advantages derived from ese 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 sour volumes, octavo.
Oliver Wolcott was born in Connecticut, in 1726 His family was ancient and distinguished; and his an cestors 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 enter