Wythe, George, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born, in 1726, in Elizabeth county, Virginia. 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 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 connexion with Mr. Jefferson and others, to revise the laws of Virginia—a duty which was performed with great ability. In 1777, he was elected speaker of the house of delegates, and, during the same year, was appointed judge of the high court of chancery of the state. On the new organization of the court of equity, in a 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 eighty-first 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.
- American Biographical and Historical Dictionary
- Biographie Universelle
- Encyclopedia Americana
- Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography
- Lempriere's Universal Biography
- National Cyclopaedia of American Biography
- Remonstrance to the House of Commons
- Francis Lieber, ed., Encyclopædia Americana, (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Blanchard, 1833), 13:287.
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