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William Paterson - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Friday, December 20, 2019

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Birth: December 24, 1745
Death: September 9, 1806 (age 60)
Colony: New Jersey
Occupation: Lawyer, Politician, Judge
Significance: Signed the United States Constitution (at the age of 41); Served as Attorney General of New Jersey (1776-1783); Served as United States Senator from New Jersey (1789-1790); and Served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1793-1806)

William Paterson Portrait in the Second Bank of the United States Portrait Gallery

William Paterson was one of seven immigrants (who were not native to the American Colonies) to sign the Constitution of the United States. Paterson was born in County Antrim, Ireland before immigrating to America as a young child, two years later. Paterson and his family settled in Pennsylvania before Paterson moved to New Jersey to attend college at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) where he studied law. During the American Revolution, Patterson served in the New Jersey State Legislature, and he was appointed as the first Attorney General of the State of New Jersey after Independence was declared.

Paterson was named as a representative of New Jersey to serve as a member of the Constitutional Convention which met in Philadelphia during the Summer of 1787. At the Constitutional Convention, Patterson was a strong defender of the small states, and he led the fight against proportional representation. He proposed the New Jersey Plan which would have given each state equal representation in congress. After the great compromise gave states equal representation in the Senate and proportional representation in House of Representatives, Paterson supported and sign the Constitution of the United States.

After the ratification of the United States Constitution, Paterson was elected as the first U.S. Senator for the State of New Jersey, a job he held for only a year.  When he was elected Governor of New Jersey, Paterson became the first person to ever resign from the U.S. Senate.

George Washington named Paterson an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1793, a job he held until his death in 1806.

William Paterson in Philadelphia

Paterson first lived in Philadelphia when he helped to write the United States Constitution as a member of the Constitutional Convention, which met at Independence Hall in 1787. Paterson also worked in Old City Hall as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States while Philadelphia was the Capital city of the United States. Today, you can also see a statue commemorating Paterson for his role in the creation of the United States Constitution in the Signers' Hall exhibit of the National Constitution Center. Signers' Garden pays tribute to the Founding Fathers, including those such as Paterson who signed the Constitution of the United States. The National Constitution Center, Old City Hall, Signers' Garden and Independence Hall are all visited along The Constitutional Walking Tour!

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