Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PETERS, Richard, clergyman, born in Liverpool, England, in 1704; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 10 July, 1776. His father, Ralph, was town-clerk of Liverpool. The son was educated at Westminster school, and at Oxford and Leyden, and after studying law took orders in theChureh of England in 1730-'1, and came to this country on account of domestic troubles about 1735. He was employed for some time in Christ church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as assistant minister, but, having resigned in 1737, he became secretary to the land office, was secretary to a succession of governors, and was one of the provincial council until his death, in the summer of 1762 he was invited to officiate in the United churches of Philadelphia, and was chosen to be rector at the close of the year. He made a visit to England in 1764, for the benefit of his health chiefly, and returned to Philadelphia at the close of 1765. He received the degree of D.D. from the University of Oxford in 1770. Conscious of the infirmities of age, he resigned his rectorship in September, 1775. He was one of those that, with Benjamin Franklin, founded the Public academy, out of which grew the College of Philadelphia. He was one of the original trustees of the latter, president of the board in 1756-'64, an incorporator of the Philadelphia library, and one of the original managers of the Pennsylvania hospital. Bishop White speaks of Dr. Peters "with respect and affection," he haying been one of the assistant ministers in the United churches during the latter years of Dr. Peters's rectorship. Bishop White says that he had adopted the fantastical notions of Jacob Bochman, the German cobbler, in regard to the "inward light" and kindred topics, and he was a public opponent of George Whitefield during the latter's evangelistic journey through the country. He published "The Two Last Sermons preached at Christ Church," printed by Franklin (Philadelphia, 1737); and other discourses.--His nephew, Richard, jurist, born at his father's seat of Belmont, Philadelphia, 22 June, 1744; died there, 22 August, 1828, was a son of William Peters, who was for many years register of the admiralty, and a judge of the courts of common pleas, quarter sessions, and orphans' court. The son was graduated in 1761 at the College of Philadelphia (now University of Pennsylvania), from which he received the degree of LL.D. in 1827, and of which he was a trustee in 1788-'91. He studied law, came to the bar in 1763, and soon rose to eminence in his profession. In 1771 he became register of the admiralty, retaining this post until the war for independence was begun. When most of the leaders of the Philadelphia bar went over to the side of the king in the early days of the Revolution, he remained true to the cause of the colonies. He commanded a company of provincial troops in 1775, on 13 June, 1776, was elected by congress secretary of the Continental board of war, and later was also a commissioner of war, in which post he rendered important services to the patriot cause. Peters discovered that Benedict Arnold was applying to his own use funds that had been placed in his hands for the purchase of the clothing and subsistence for the army, and an attempt on Peters's part to stop this robbery produced between him and Arnold an open quarrel. In a letter to a friend he wrote: "I did not conceal, but wrote to headquarters my want of confidence in Arnold. When his traitorous conduct at West Point became public, neither Colonel Pickering nor myself were the least surprised." In 1780 Peters was one of those that subscribed £5,000 each to the Pennsylvania bank for the provisioning of the army. In December, 1781, when he resigned his post in the war office, congress voted him their "thanks for his long and faithful services." In 1782-'3 he was a member of the Continental congress; in 1787 he became a member of the assembly, and he was the speaker of this body in 1788-'90, in which capacity he and General Thomas Mifflin, the speaker of the senate, were the representatives of Pennsylvania that met General Washington as he entered the state on his way to New York to be inaugurated as first president of the United States. In 1791 he was the speaker of the state senate. On the formation of the Federal government he was tendered the comptrollership of the treasury, but declined it. On 11 April, 1792, he was commissioned judge of the United States district court for Pennsylvania, which office he held until his death. Judge Story wrote of him : "I have learned much in his school, and owe him many thanks for his rich contribution to the maritime jurisprudence of our country." One of Mr. Peters's important works was his active instrumentality in securing the act of succession for the ministers of the Protestant Episcopal church in the United States. In 1785 he went to England to obtain from the British prelates ordination to the office of bishop for three priests of the American church, and it was largely through his energy and endeavor that this end was accomplished. Judge Peters was a practical farmer, one of the founders of the Philadelphia agricultural society, and its first president, retaining the place till his death, a period of more than thirty years. The "Memoirs" of the society contain more than one hundred papers by him. Judge Peters had a high reputation as a wit, and was a great favorite in society. At both his city home and his country-seat, Belmont, he extended a princely hospitality, and he was visited by the most eminent men of his own country, and by distinguished foreigners. One of his most frequent guests was Gem Washington, with whom Judge Peters was on terms of the closest intimacy from 1776 till General Washington's death. The French traveller, Chastellux, designares Belmont as a "tasty little box in the most charming spot nature could embellish." This estate, containing more than 200 acres, is now included in Fairmount park, and during 1876 was the site of the Centennial exhibition buildings. He was instrumental in constructing the first permanent bridge over the Schuylkill river, serving as the first president of the bridge company. Judge Peters published "Admiralty Decisions of the District Court of the United States for the Pennsylvania Districts, 1780-1807" (Philadelphia, 1807). See "Address on the Death of Hon. Richard Peters," by Samuel Breck (Philadelphia, 1828).-The second Richard's son, Richard, lawyer, born at Belmont, Philadelphia, in August, 1780; died there, 2 May, 1848, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1800. He was the solicitor of Philadelphia county in 1822-'5, and was one of the founders of the Philadelphia saving fund society, the oldest institution of that kind in Pennsylvania, if not in this country. He succeeded Henry Wheaton as reporter of the United States supreme court, and published "Reports of the United States Circuit Court, 1803-'18" (Philadelphia, 1819); " Reports of the United States Supreme Court, 1828-'43" (17 vols., 1828-'43) ; "Condensed Reports of Cases in the United States Supreme Court from its Organization till 1827" (6 vols., 1835); and "Full and Arranged Digest of Cases determined in the Supreme, Circuit, and District Courts of the United States from the Organization of the Government" (3 vols., 1838-'9 ; new ed., 2 vols., 1848). He edited "Chitty on Bills of Exchange " (3 vols., 1819) and Bushrod Washington's "Circuit Court Reports" (4 vols., 1826-'9).
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