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William Paterson (jurist)

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William Paterson (December 24, 1745September 9, 1806) was a New Jersey statesman and signer of the United States Constitution.

William Paterson was born in County Antrim, northern Ireland, moved to the United States at age 2, and entered Princeton University at age 14. After graduating he studied law with the prominent lawyer Richard Stockton and was admitted to the bar in 1768.

Paterson became an outspoken supporter of American independence. He was selected as Somerset County delegate for the first three provincial congresses of New Jersey, where as secretary he recorded New Jersey's constitution in 1776.

After Independence, Paterson was appointed New Jersey's first attorney general, maintaining law and order and establishing himself as the best lawyer in the state. He was sent to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia where he proposed the New Jersey Plan for unicameral legislative body with equal representation from each state. After the Great Compromise (for two legislative bodies), the Constitution was signed.

He served as governor of New Jersey and in the New Jersey state senate, where he oversaw the revision and codification of the entire state legal system. George Washington appointed him associate justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1793.

Paterson, New Jersey and William Paterson University are named after him.


Preceded by:
Elisha Lawrence
Governors of New Jersey
Succeeded by:
Thomas Henderson
Preceded by:
Thomas Johnson
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
March 11, 1793September 9, 1806
Succeeded by:
Henry Brockholst Livingston

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