Historical Collections of Virginia

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Title page from Howe's Historical Collections of Virginia (1845).

Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Virginia (Charleston, S.C.: Babcock, 1845), 252-253.[1] The bulk of this biographical sketch is taken from Lieber's Encyclopædia Americana (1833).[2]

Excerpt from "Elizabeth City County," 1845

Page 252

GEORGE WYTHE, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in this county in 1726. "His education was principally directed by his mother. The death of both his parents before he became of age, and the uncontrolled possession of a large fortune, led him for some time into a course of amusement and dissipation. At the age of thirty, however, his conduct underwent an

Page 253

entire change. He applied himself vigorously to the study of the law; and soon after his admission to the bar, his learning, industry, and eloquence, made him eminent. For several years previous to the revolution, he was conspicuous in the House of Burgesses; and in the commencement of the opposition to England, evinced an ardent attachment to liberty. In 1764, he drew up a remonstrance to the House of Commons, in a tone of independence too decided for that period, and which was greatly modified by the Assembly before assenting to it. In 1775, he was appointed a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. In the following year he was appointed, in connection with Mr. Jefferson and others, to revise the laws of Virginia—a duty which was performed with great ability. In 1777, he was appointed Speaker of the House of Delegates, and during the same year judge of the high court of chancery. On a new organization of the court of equity, in the subsequent year, he was appointed sole chancellor—a station which he filled for more than twenty years. In 1787, he was a member of the convention which formed the federal constitution, and during the debates acted, for the most part, as chairman. He was a strenuous advocate of the instrument adopted. He subsequently presided twice, successively, in the college of electors in Virginia. His death occurred on the 8th of June, 1806, in the 81st year of his age. It was supposed that he was poisoned; but the person suspected was acquitted by a jury. In learning, industry, and judgment, Chancellor Wythe had few superiors. His integrity was never stained, even by a suspicion; and from the moment of his abandonment of the follies of his youth, his reputation was unspotted. The kindness and benevolence of his heart were commensurate with the strength and attainments of his mind."

See also


  1. Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Virginia: Containing a Collection of the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, &c., Relating to Its History and Antiquities, Together with Geographical and Statistical Descriptions (Charleston, S.C.: Babcock, 1845), 252-253.
  2. Francis Lieber, ed., Encyclopædia Americana (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Blanchard, 1833), 13:287.