PATERSON, William

1745–1806

Biography

PATERSON, William, a Delegate and a Senator from New Jersey; born in County Antrim, Ireland, December 24, 1745; immigrated to the United States in 1747 with his parents, who settled in New Castle, Pa.; moved about through the colonies before settling in Princeton, N.J., in 1750; attended private schools; graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in 1763; studied law; admitted to the bar in 1768 and commenced practice in New Bromley, N.J., in 1769; delegate and secretary to the Provincial Congress 1775-1776; member, State legislative council 1776-1777; delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1776; attorney general of New Jersey 1776-1783, when he resigned; moved to Raritan, N.J., in 1779; elected as a Delegate to the Continental Congress in 1780, but declined, owing to his duties as attorney general; moved to New Brunswick, N.J., in 1783; delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 and one of the signers of the Constitution; again elected as a Delegate to the Continental Congress in 1787, but declined; elected to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1789, to November 13, 1790, when he resigned, having been elected Governor of New Jersey; reelected Governor and served until 1793, when he resigned to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and served until his death in Albany, N.Y., September 9, 1806; interment in the Van Rensselaer Manor House vault, near Albany, N.Y.; manor house destroyed around 1900; reinterred in Van Rensselaer lot, Albany Rural Cemetery, Albany, N.Y.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Forbes Library

Northampton, MA
Papers: 1 item (March 10, 1789) in Stephen Strong collection.

Library of Congress
Manuscript Division

Washington, DC
Papers: 1760-1806. Ca. 125 items. In part, typewritten transcripts and photocopies. Personal and family correspondence, legal and business papers, essays, and notes, relating in part to the Constitutional Convention and the New Jersey Plan. Also 2 items (August 23, 1790; February 2, 1791) in George Washington papers.

Massachusetts Historical Society

Boston, MA
Papers: 1 item (May 29, 1790) in Livingston papers.

New Jersey Historical Society

Newark, NJ
Papers: 1776-1833. 12 items and 1 volume. Correspondence and documents of and about Paterson; docket account book (1785-1788) kept as a lawyer; memorandum book of expenditures (1777-1779); and genealogical records.
Additional Papers: Correspondence in Chew family papers, 1735-1796; Miscellaneous manuscripts, 1664-1956; New Jersey Legislative minute books, 1751-1808; William Nelson papers, 1690-1875; Parker family papers, 1680-1936; Jacob Stern Thomson papers, 1765-1844; Edwin A. Ely autograph collection, ca. 1663-1810; Walter N. Eastburn collection, 1743-1956; Stevens family papers, 1663-1959; in William Paterson (grandson) papers, 1833-1897, an incomplete manuscript biography of elder Paterson; and documents signed by Paterson in Quick-Garretson family papers, 1763-1868.

New Jersey State Library

Trenton, NJ
Papers: 1790-1792. 5 boxes. Chancery Court records involving Paterson as lawyer and state attorney general.

New York Public Library

New York, NY
Papers: 1786-1804. 1 volume. Handwritten transcripts made in 1880 of correspondence (1783-1804), largely on affairs of federal judiciary, judicial opinions, articles on paper money, notes for speeches, notes on the Constitutional Convention, and notes on debates in the U.S. Senate, 1789-1790. Formerly part of the Bancroft collection.

New York State Historical Association
Special Collections

Cooperstown, NY
Papers: 1 item (April 28, 1789) in Charles Stuart papers.

Pierpont Morgan Library

New York, NY
Papers: 1785. 2 items.

Princeton University
Seeley G. Mudd Library

Princeton, NJ
Papers: In Paterson family papers, 1750-1867. Includes material relating to Princeton University. Finding aid.

Rutgers University Libraries
Special Collections and University Archives

New Brunswick, NJ
Papers: 1756-1898. 611 items; 4 volumes. Correspondence (1766-1813), legal papers (1770-1790), political essays, draft of his Laws of the State of New Jersey. Includes 4 microfilm reels of originals held by William Paterson College and photocopies of originals at Princeton University. Additional papers include case files, dockets, documents relating to land claims and transactions, addresses, appointments, and other papers relating to service as governor (1790-1793), and family papers. Available on 3 microfilm reels.
Additional Papers: Correspondence in William Livingston papers, 1686-1839, on 13 microfilm reels of originals at the Massachusetts Historical Society; and in New Brunswick Bridge Company records, 1790-1875.

Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of American History

Washington, DC
Papers: 1 item (September 1, 1789) in Hull collection of letters concerning the Adams family.

William Paterson College
Sarah Byrd Askew Library

Wayne, NJ
Papers: 1689-1841. 247 items. Chiefly legal papers from Paterson's career as a New Jersey attorney and judge and a small amount of personal business correspondence and account books. Available on 3 microfilm reels. Finding aid.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Boyd, Julian P. "William Paterson [1745-1806]: Forerunner of John Marshall." In The Lives of Eighteen from Princeton, edited by Willard Thorp, pp. 1-23. 1946. Reprint. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1968.

"Extracts from Unpublished Letters of Governor Paterson." Somerset County Historical Quarterly 2 (July 1913): 181-85; (October 1913): 271-76; 3 (January 1914): 1-6; 4 (April 1914): 83-88.

Haskett, Richard C. "Prosecuting the Revolution." American Historical Review 59 (April 1954): 578-87.

___. "Village Clerk and County Lawyer: William Paterson's Legal Experience, 1763-1772." Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society 66 (July 1948): 155-71.

___. "William Paterson, Attorney General of New Jersey: Public Office and Private Profit in the American Revolution." William and Mary Quarterly, 3d. ser. 7 (1950): 26-38.

___. "William Paterson, Councillor at Law." Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1952.

Hickox, Charles F., III, and Andrew C. Laviano. "William Paterson." Journal of Supreme Court History (1992): 53-61.

Honeyman, A. Van Doren. "Early Career of Governor William Paterson." Somerset County Historical Quarterly 1 (July 1912): 161-79; (October 1912): 241-56.

O'Connor, John E. "William Paterson and the Ideological Origins of the Revolution in New Jersey." New Jersey History 94 (Spring 1976): 5-22.

___. William Paterson, Lawyer and Statesman, 1745-1806. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1979.

Paterson, William. Glimpses of Colonial Society and the Life at Princeton College, 1766-1773, by One of the Class of 1763. Edited by W. Jay Mills. 1903. Reprint. Detroit: Grand River Books, 1971.

___. Laws of the State of New Jersey. Newark: M. Day, 1800.

Rosenberg, Leonard Boyne. "The Political Thought of William Paterson." Ph.D. dissertation, New School For Social Research, 1967.

___. "William Paterson: New Jersey's Nation-Maker." New Jersey History 85 (Spring 1967): 7-40.

Shriner, Charles Anthony. William Paterson. Paterson, NJ: Paterson Industrial Commission, 1940.

Wood, Gertrude Sceery. William Paterson of New Jersey, 1745-1806. Fair Lawn, NJ: Fair Lawn Press, 1933.

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