Jurist; born in Bladensburg, Md.
, Nov. 8, 1772; was left an orphan when he was eight years of age, with a small patrimony, and was reared and educated by an uncle.
He began the practice of law at Culpeper Court-house, Va. In 1795 he married a daughter of Dr. George Gilmer
, and settled near Charlottesville, Va.
, where he contracted dissipated habits, from the toils of which, it is said, he was released by hearing a sermon preached by Rev. James Waddell
In 1799 he was chosen clerk of the Virginia
House of Delegates, and in 1802 was appointed chancellor of the eastern district of Virginia
Very soon afterwards he resigned the office, and settled in Norfolk
in the practice of his profession.
He had lately written a series of letters under the title of The British spy
, which were published in the Richmond Argus
, and gave him a literary reputation.
Published in collected form, they have passed through many editions.
The next year he published a series of essays in the Richmond Enquirer
entitled The rainbow
settled in Richmond
in 1806, and became distinguished the following year as one of the foremost lawyers in the country in the trial of Aaron Burr
In the same year he was elected to the Virginia
House of Delegates, and was a prominent advocate of the chief measures of President Jefferson
His chief literary production—Life of Patrick Henry
—was first published in 1817, at which time he was United States attorney for the district of Virginia.
The same year President Monroe
appointed him (Dec. 15) Attorney-General
of the United States
, which office he held continually until 1829, when he removed to Baltimore
In 1832 he was the candidate of the Anti-Masonic party
(q. v.) for the Presidency of the United States
He died in Washington, D. C.
, Feb. 18, 1834.