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William Samuel Johnson

(1727 - 1819)

Stamp Act Congress of 1765


Library of Congress

JOHNSON, William Samuel, a Delegate and a Senator from Connecticut; born in Stratford, Conn., on October 7, 1727; was tutored privately by his father; graduated from Yale College in 1744 and from Harvard College in 1747; studied law; was admitted to the bar and practiced in Stratford; member, colonial house of representatives 1761, 1765, and of the upper house 1766, 1771-1775; served as a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress held in New York City in October 1765; was Connecticut agent extraordinary to the court of England 1767-1771 to determine the State title to Indian lands; judge of Connecticut Supreme Court 1772-1774; Member of the Continental Congress 1785-1787; delegate to the constitutional convention in 1787; served as the first president of Columbia College of New York City 1787-1800; elected to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1789, to March 4, 1791, when he resigned; died in Stratford, Conn., on November 14, 1819; interment in the Episcopal Cemetery. - - Biographical Data courtesy of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

William Samuel Johnson  - A Stan Klos Biography



 

JOHNSON, William Samuel, jurist, born in Stratford, Connecticut, 7 October, 1727; died there, 14 November, 1819, was graduated at Yale in 1744, studied law, and, when admitted to the bar, took high rank in his profession. In 1761, and again during two sessions in 1765, he represented Stratford in the general assembly, and in the latter year was sent as a delegate to the Stamp-act congress in New York. In May, 1766, he was chosen to the upper house or governor's council, and at the ensuing October session of the assembly was appointed a special agent at the court of Great Britain, to present the defence of the colony with regard to its title to the territory that was occupied by the remnant of the Mohegan tribe of Indians. He accepted the mission, but so many were the delays interposed by his opponents that he was unable to return to this country until the autumn of 1771.

In the following year, after resuming his seat in the council, he was appointed one of the judges of the superior court of the colony, but retained the office for only a few months. After the battle of Lexington he and another colonist were deputed to wait on General Gage, with a letter frown the governor of Connecticut, the object of which was to stay hostilities and to inquire if means could not be adopted to secure peace; but the embassy was unsuccessful. He retired from the governor's council before the Declaration of Independence, and, not being able conscientiously to join in a war against England, lived in retirement in Stratford until the conclusion of peace, he then resumed the practice of his profession, and from November, 1784, till May, 1787, served as a member of the Continental congress.

In the latter year he was placed at the head of the Connecticut delegation to the convention for the formation of a Federal constitution, and was chairman of the committee of five appointed to revise the wording of the instrument and arrange its articles. Among other suggestions he proposed the organization of the senate as a separate body. In the same year he resumed his place in the upper house of the Connecticut assembly, and he held it until 1789, when he was elected the first United States senator from that state. He rendered important service in drawing up the bill for the judiciary system, but resigned in March, 1791, in order to devote his entire time to the discharge of the duties of president of Columbia college, to which office he had been elected in May, 1787. Resigning this office also, in 1800, on account of failing health, he retired to Stratford, where he remained until his death.

When in England he made the acquaintance of many eminent men, including Dr. Samuel Johnson, whose correspondent he became on his return to the United States. He received the degree of D. C. L. from Oxford in 1776, and that of LL.D. from Yale in 1788. He was the earliest graduate of the latter college to receive an honorary degree in laws, as his father had been the first to receive a similar degree in divinity. Dr. Johnson added to superior mental endowments a fine personal presence and a musical voice. His oratory was deemed by his contemporaries as well-nigh perfect. Forty-three of his letters, written during his sojourn in Great Britain, have been published by the Massachusetts historical society in the "Trumbull Papers." See a "Sketch" by , John T. Irving (1830), and "Life and Times of W. S. Johnson," by Reverend E. Edwards Beardsley, D.D. (Boston, 1876). -William Samuel's great-grandson, Woolsey, physician, born in New York city. 8 February, 1842; died there, 21 June, 1887, was graduated at Princeton in 1860, and studied medicine for a year at the Albany medical school, and subsequently at the New York college of physicians and surgeons, where he was graduated in 1863. He then spent three Years in the further study of his profession in Paris, London, Berlin, and "Vienna, and on his return began to practise in New York city. He was surgeon of the Eve and ear infirmary, and consulting physician at the New York hospital. In 1881 he was appointed by Mayor Grace health-commissioner of the city of New York, his term expiring 1 5lay, 1887. During this period Dr. Johnson did effective work.


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