James Innes

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Born in 1754 in Caroline County, Virginia, Innes began his studies at the College of William & Mary at the age of sixteen.[1] He read law before the Revolution, perhaps under George Wythe.[2] During the Revolution, Innes served in various military posts, including as captain of the Williamsburg volunteers. He served beside George Washington at Yorktown,[3] and was president of the Board of War in 1779.[4] After the Revolution, Innes practiced law and then entered politics. He sat for three terms on the Virginia General Assembly between 1781 and 1787, and became Attorney General of Virginia in 1786,[5] defeating John Marshall for the position.[6] Innes, however, refused offers of other influential political offices, including the opportunity to be Attorney General of the United States, and John Adams's request that he be minister to France in 1797.[7]

Innes was well known among his contemporaries for his skill as an orator, and was considered "as mesmerizing" a speaker as Patrick Henry.[8] In 1788, he was chosen to make the final argument in favor of the Constitution before the vote on ratification in Virginia, a speech praised even by Patrick Henry, an Anti-Federalist.[9] Unfortunately, as he had the habit of speaking spontaneously and none of his speeches were recorded, no record of Innes' spoken words survives.[10] Innes suffered from ill health, and he died suddenly in Philadelphia on August 2, 1798.[11]


  1. E. Lee Shepard, "Innes, James", American National Biography Online, Feb. 2000, accessed October 11, 2013.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Roger G. Kennedy, Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 118.
  4. Shepard, Innes, James."
  5. Ibid.
  6. Kennedy, Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson, 118.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Shepard, "Innes, James."
  10. Kennedy, Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson, 118.
  11. Shepard, "Innes, James."