William Paterson (judge)

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William Paterson
William Paterson copy.jpg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
March 4, 1793 – September 9, 1806
Nominated by George Washington
Preceded by Thomas Johnson
Succeeded by Henry Livingston
2nd Governor of New Jersey
In office
October 29, 1790 – March 30, 1793
Preceded by Elisha Lawrence (Acting)
Succeeded by Thomas Henderson (Acting)
United States Senator
from New Jersey
In office
March 4, 1789 – November 13, 1790
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by Philemon Dickinson
Attorney General of New Jersey
In office
1776–1783
Governor William Livingston
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Joseph Bloomfield
Personal details
Born (1745-12-24)December 24, 1745
County Antrim, Ireland
(now United Kingdom)
Died September 9, 1806(1806-09-09) (aged 60)
Albany, New York, U.S.
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Cornelia Bell (m. 1779; her death 1783)
Euphemia White (m. 1785; his death 1806)
Parents Richard Paterson
Alma mater Princeton University

William Paterson (December 24, 1745 – September 9, 1806) was a New Jersey statesman and a signer of the United States Constitution. He was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and the second governor of New Jersey.

Born in County Antrim, Ireland, Paterson moved to the United States at a young age. After graduating from the College of New Jersey and studying law under Richard Stockton, he was admitted to the bar in 1768. He helped write the 1776 Constitution of New Jersey and served as the New Jersey Attorney General from 1776 to 1783. He represented New Jersey at the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, where he proposed the New Jersey Plan, which would have provided for equal representation among the states in Congress.

After the ratification of the Constitution, Paterson served in the United States Senate from 1789 to 1790, helping to draft the Judiciary Act of 1789. He resigned from the Senate to take office as Governor of New Jersey. In 1793, he accepted appointment by President George Washington to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He served on the court until his death in 1806.

Early life[edit]

William Paterson was born December 24, 1745 in County Antrim, now in Northern Ireland, to Richard Paterson. Paterson moved to what is now the United States at age 2, and entered the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) at age 14. After graduating, he studied law with the prominent lawyer Richard Stockton and was admitted to the bar in 1768. He also stayed connected to his alma mater and helped found the Cliosophic Society with Aaron Burr.[1]

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Paterson was selected as the Somerset County delegate for the first three provincial congresses of New Jersey, where, as secretary, he recorded the 1776 New Jersey State Constitution.[2] After Independence, Paterson was appointed as the first Attorney General of New Jersey, serving from 1776 to 1783, maintaining law and order and establishing himself as one of the state's most prominent lawyers.[3] He was sent to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he proposed the New Jersey Plan for a unicameral legislative body with equal representation from each state. After the Great Compromise (for two legislative bodies: a Senate with equal representation for each state, and a House of Representatives with representation based on population), the Constitution was signed.[2]

United States Senator[edit]

Paterson, who was a strong nationalist who supported the Federalist party, went on to become one of New Jersey's first U.S. senators (1789–90).[2] As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he played an important role in drafting the Judiciary Act of 1789 that established the federal court system.[2] The first nine sections of this very important law are in his handwriting.[4]

Governor of New Jersey[edit]

In 1790, he became the first person ever to resign from the U.S. Senate, when he did so in order to succeed fellow signer William Livingston as governor of New Jersey.[2] As governor, Paterson pursued his interest in legal matters by codifying the English statutes that had been in force in New Jersey before the Revolution in Laws of the State of New Jersey. He also published a revision of the rules of the chancery and common law courts in Paterson, later adopted by the New Jersey Legislature.[4][3]

United States Supreme Court[edit]

President George Washington nominated Paterson for the Supreme Court of the United States on February 27, 1793, to the seat vacated by Thomas Johnson. Washington withdrew the nomination the following day, having realized that since the Judiciary Act of 1789 (the law creating the Supreme Court) had been passed during Paterson's current term as a Senator, the nomination was a violation of the Ineligibility Clause (Article I, Section 6) of the Constitution. Washington re-nominated Paterson to the Court on March 4, 1793, after his term as Senator had expired; Paterson was immediately confirmed by the Senate and received his commission.[5]

He resigned the governorship to become an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1793–1806). On circuit he presided over the trials of individuals indicted for treason in the Whiskey Rebellion, a revolt by farmers in western Pennsylvania over the federal excise tax on whiskey, the principal product of their cash crop. Militia sent out by President Washington successfully quelled the uprising, and for the first time the courts had to interpret the provisions of the Constitution with regard to the use of troops in civil disturbances. Here, and in fact throughout his long career, Paterson extolled the primacy of law over governments, a principle embodied in the Constitution he helped write.[6] He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1801.[7]

Paterson served on the Supreme Court until his death in 1806.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Paterson's eldest daughter, Cornelia Bell Paterson Van Rensselaer (1780–1844), painted by Nathaniel Rogers, 1825
Paterson's granddaughter, Euphemia White Van Rensselaer (1816–1888), painted by George P. A. Healy, 1842

In 1779, Paterson married to Cornelia Bell (1755–1783), daughter of John Bell, a wealthy Somerset County Landowner.[8][2] Together, they had three children, but she died in 1783 shortly after giving birth to their only son:

  • Cornelia Bell Paterson (1780–1844), who married Stephen Van Rensselaer III (1764–1839) after the death of his first wife, Margaret Schuyler (1758–1801)[9]
  • Frances Van Paterson (1781–1783), who died young[10]
  • William Bell Paterson (1783–1832), who married Jane Eliza Neilson[10][4]

In 1785, he married Euphemia White (1746–1832),[8] sister of Anthony Walton White (1750–1803), daughter of Anthony White (1717–1787), a New Jersey landholder and judge of the Somerset court, and the granddaughter of Lewis Morris (1671–1746), Chief Justice of New York from 1715 to 1733 and Governor of New Jersey from 1738 to 1746.[11][12]

Death and interment[edit]

On September 9, 1806, Paterson, aged 60, died from the lingering effects of a coach accident suffered in 1803 while on circuit court duty in New Jersey. He was on his way to the spa at Ballston Springs, New York, to "take the waters", when he died at the Albany, New York home of his daughter, Cornelia, and son-in-law, Stephen (1764–1839). He was laid to rest in the Van Renssalaer family vault in 1806. When the city acquired the property, Paterson's remains were relocated to Albany Rural Cemetery Menands in Albany County, New York. He shares this cemetery with Associate Justice Rufus W. Peckham and President Chester A. Arthur.[13][14]

Descendants[edit]

Through his eldest daughter, his grandchildren included Cortlandt Van Rensselaer (1808–1860), a noted Presbyterian clergyman,[9] and Henry Bell Van Rensselaer (1810–1864), a politician and general in the Union Army during the American Civil War, who married Elizabeth Ray King, a granddaughter of Rufus King.[9]

Through his son, his grandchildren included twin brothers, William Paterson (1817–1899), who married Salvadora Meade, a Spanish-born woman living in Philadelphia,[15] and Stephen Van Rensselaer Paterson (1817–1872),[16] who married Emily Sophia King (1823–1853), daughter of Charles King (1789–1867), the president of Columbia University, and the second son of U.S. Senator Rufus King. Both grandsons members of the Princeton University class of 1835 and William was admitted to the bar in 1838. He later served as a member of the New Jersey Assembly from 1842 to 1843, Secretary of the New Jersey Constitutional Convention of 1844, a lay judge of the Court of Errors and Appeals, and mayor of Perth Amboy for ten years in between 1846 and 1878.[16]

Honors[edit]

Both the city of Paterson, New Jersey, and the college, William Paterson University, are named after him.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Daily Princetonian Special Class of 1991 Issue 27 July 1987 — Princeton Periodicals". princeton.edu. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Vile, John R. (October 10, 2013). The Men Who Made the Constitution: Lives of the Delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810888654. Retrieved February 21, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Haskett, Richard C. (1950) William Paterson, Attorney General of New Jersey: Public Office and Private Profit in the American Revolution. William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd. Ser., 7 (January): pp. 26–38.
  4. ^ a b c O'Connor, John E., William Paterson: Lawyer and Statesman, 1745–1806 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1979), pp. 108, 117
  5. ^ Myers, Gustavus (1912). History of the Supreme Court of the United States. C. H. Kerr. Retrieved February 21, 2017. 
  6. ^ Wright, Jr., Robert K.; MacGregor, Jr., Morris J. (1987). Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History. p. 166. LCCN 87001353. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter P" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 28, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Epstein, Lee; Segal, Jeffrey A.; Spaeth, Harold J.; Walker, Thomas G. (July 29, 2015). The Supreme Court Compendium: Data, Decisions, and Developments. CQ Press. ISBN 9781483376639. Retrieved February 21, 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c Reynolds, Cuyler (1914). Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York, Volume 3. New York: Lewis Publishing Company. pp. 1166, 1341. 
  10. ^ a b Wood, Gertrude Sceery, William Paterson of New Jersey, 1745–1806 (Fair Lawn, N.J.: Fair Lawn Press, 1933), pp. 49, 199
  11. ^ Marcus, Maeva (1985). The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1800. Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231088695. Retrieved February 21, 2017. 
  12. ^ Lefferts, Elizabeth Morris, comp., Descendants of Lewis Morris of Morrisania (New York: Tobias A. Wright, 1907)
  13. ^ "Christensen, George A. (1983) Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices, Yearbook". Archived from the original on September 3, 2005. Retrieved September 3, 2005.  Supreme Court Historical Society at Internet Archive.
  14. ^ See also, Christensen, George A., Here Lies the Supreme Court: Revisited, Journal of Supreme Court History, Volume 33 Issue 1, Pages 17 – 41 (February 19, 2008), University of Alabama.
  15. ^ Bond, Gordon. "To Cast A Freedman's Vote: How a Handyman from Perth Amboy Made Civil Rights History" (PDF). metuchen-edisonhistsoc.org. Retrieved February 21, 2017. 
  16. ^ a b "Manuscript Group 718, William Paterson (1817–1899), Student and author". www.jerseyhistory.org. The New Jersey Historical Society. Retrieved February 21, 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Legal offices
New office Attorney General of New Jersey
1776–1783
Succeeded by
Joseph Bloomfield
Preceded by
Thomas Johnson
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
1793–1806
Succeeded by
Henry Livingston
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
New seat
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from New Jersey
1789–1790
Served alongside: Jonathan Elmer
Succeeded by
Philemon Dickinson
Political offices
Preceded by
Elisha Lawrence
Acting
Governor of New Jersey
1790–1793
Succeeded by
Thomas Henderson
Acting