Andrew Hamilton

"Andrew Hamilton, lawyer, was a native of Scotland and came to America settling in Accomac County, VA, about 1697, where he was first known as Trent, but finally adopted or else returned to the family name of Hamilton. He was steward of the plantation and at the same time conducted a classical school and married the owner of the plantation who was a widow. This alliance brought him in favor with the families of the province and he began the practice of law.

He appears to have removed to Philadelphia before 1710 as his son James was born there that year. He was made Attorney General of the Province of Pennsylvania in 1717, and a member of the provincial council in March, 1721. He resigned this office in 1724 having in the meantime continued his law practice and in 1727 he was appointed principal clerk of the Supreme Court and recorder of the city. He was a member of the Pennsylvania assembly from Bucks County, 1727-39, and speaker almost continuously. The assembly up to 1729 met in a private residence and Hamilton, with his son-in-law, purchased a square on which they erected a building to be used as a legislative hall. This building, the state house and later called Independence Hall, was not completed and conveyed to the province until after his death.

In 1735, he defended John Peter Zenger, a New York printer, charged with libel, after his lawyers in New York had been stricken from the list of attorneys by the judge. Fearing that Chief Justice DeLancey, a member of the governor’s council and head of the bench, would overawe the advocate appointed by the court he went to New York and volunteered his services in the defense. He set up the truth of the facts in the alleged libel, appealed to the jury, and by his eloquence obtained a verdict of not guilty. This victory for the freedom of the press was hailed by the colonists with delight, and the Common Council presented to Hamilton the freedom of the city. The published account of the trial passed through several editions in England within three months. Hamilton was made a trustee of the general law office and was judge of the vice-admiralty court, 1737-41. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 4, 1741.

 

— Lamb's Biographical Dictionary of the United States, 1900 (edited)

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