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 William Paterson

William Paterson

Birth
County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Death 9 Sep 1806 (aged 60)
Albany, Albany County, New York, USA
Burial Menands, Albany County, New York, USA
Plot Section 14, Lot 1
Memorial ID 2431 · View Source
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Signer of the US Constitution, US Senator, 3rd Governor of New Jersey, US Supreme Court Justice. Born at Antrim in what today is northern Ireland. His father Richard Paterson brought the family to America, two years after his birth, landing in what today is Delaware where he began selling household goods, first as a traveling peddler and eventually purchasing a general store in Princeton. At fourteen he became a student at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) which was just across from his father's store. He studied the classics, history, political theory and moral philosophy. Graduated in 1763 he began to study law with Richard Stockton and was admitted to the bar in 1768. From the first he was an outspoken supporter of American independence although he did not involve himself in politics during his early years as an attorney. In 1775 he was chosen as a delegate from Somerset County to the First Provincial Congress of New Jersey where he was named secretary a post he held through the Third Congress where he officially recorded the first constitution of New Jersey in 1776. Not long after independence was declared, he was appointed as the first attorney general for the state by Governor William Livingston. He married Cornelia Bell, daughter of a wealthy landowner, and their first child would marry Stephen Van Rensselaer who would continue the line of a several generations of the family in Congress when Henry Bell Van Rensselaer also followed his grandfather's lead. His personal life held tragedy with the death of his second daughter followed by his first wife days after the birth of his son. He immersed himself in his clients and the next year in 1784 he married Euphemia White. When the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia, in 1787, his reputation earned him a seat on the delegation of five sent by New Jersey, and where he would play a pivotal role. He introduced the New Jersey Plan which called for equal representation from each state and would become a central to hammering out the Great Compromise which led to our present balance of representation in Congress today. He was a signer of the Constitution in September 1787. He was elected to the first Senate and served from 1789-90 when he resigned after the death of William Livingston to succeed him as Governor of New Jersey. He was chosen by US President George Washington in 1793 to sit as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court to which he would devote the last 13 years of his life building a stable and powerful federal judiciary. He died at the home of his daughter in Albany where he was first buried in the family vault at the Van Rensselaer Manor House, but was later reinterred in the family lot at Menands when the home was demolished.

Bio by: D C McJonathan-Swarm


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 2431
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William Paterson (24 Dec 1745–9 Sep 1806), Find A Grave Memorial no. 2431, citing Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, Albany County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .