Wiliiam Paterson, Governor, U.S.Senator, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Signer of the US Constitution

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William Paterson

Death: Died
Cause of death: effects of a carriage accident
Place of Burial: Menands, Albany County, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Husband of Cornelia Paterson and Euphemia Paterson
Father of Cornelia Bell Paterson Van Rensselaer

Occupation: lawyer; politician
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Wiliiam Paterson, Governor, U.S.Senator, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Signer of the US Constitution


William Paterson (December 24, 1745 – September 9, 1806) was a New Jersey statesman, a signer of the United States Constitution, and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, who served as the 2nd governor of New Jersey, from 1790 to 1793.

William Paterson was born on December 24, 1745, in County Antrim, in Ireland, moved to what is now the United States at age 2, and entered the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) at age 14. After graduating, he studied law with the prominent lawyer Richard Stockton and was admitted to the bar in 1768.

Paterson became an outspoken supporter of American independence. He was selected as Somerset County, New Jersey delegate for the first three provincial congresses of New Jersey, where as secretary he recorded the 1776 New Jersey State Constitution.

After Independence, Paterson was appointed as the first Attorney General of New Jersey, serving from 1776-1783, maintaining law and order and establishing himself as one of the state's most prominent lawyers. He was sent to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he proposed the New Jersey Plan for a unicameral legislative body with equal representation from each state. After the Great Compromise (for two legislative bodies: a Senate with equal representation for each state, and a House of Representatives with representation based on population), the Constitution was signed.

Paterson went on to become one of New Jersey's first US. senators (1789–90). He was a strong nationalist who supported the Federalist party. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he played an important role in drafting the Judiciary Act of 1789 that established the federal court system. The first nine sections of this very important law are in his handwriting.

He resigned from the U.S. Senate in 1790 in order to succeed fellow signer William Livingston as governor of New Jersey. As governor, he pursued his interest in legal matters by codifying the English statutes that had been in force in New Jersey before the Revolution in Laws of the State of New Jersey. He also published a revision of the rules of the chancery and common law courts in Paterson, later adopted by the New Jersey Legislature.

He served as Governor of New Jersey and in the New Jersey Senate, where he oversaw the revision and codification of the entire state legal system. George Washington appointed him associate justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1793, where he served until his death (from the lingering effects of a coach accident suffered in 1803 while on circuit court duty in New Jersey) on September 9, 1806 in Albany, New York, aged 60. He is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery in Albany.

Paterson, New Jersey, and William Paterson University are named after him.


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Wiliiam Paterson, Governor, U.S.Senator, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Signer of the US Constitution's Timeline

Age 34
June 4, 1780
Age 35
Manhattan New York County (Manhattan) New York, USA
Age 40
September 17, 1787
- September 17, 1787
Age 42
Independence Hall, Philadelphia,

The Signers of the U. S. Constitution

New Hampshire
John Langdon
Nicholas Gilman

Rufus King
Nathaniel Gorham

Roger Sherman
William Samuel Johnson

New York
Alexander Hamilton

New Jersey
William Livingston
David Brearley
William Paterson
Jonathan Dayton

Benjamin Franklin
Thomas Mifflin
Robert Morris
George Clymer
Thomas FitzSimons
Jared Ingersoll
Gouverneur Morris
James Wilson

George Read
Gunning Bedford, Jr.
John Dickinson
Richard Bassett
Jacob Broom

James McHenry
Daniel Carroll
Dan of St. Thomas Jenifer

John Blair
James Madison, Jr.
George Washington

North Carolina
William Blount
Richard Dobbs Spaight
Hugh Williamson

South Carolina
John Rutledge
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney
Charles Pinckney
Pierce Butler

William Few
Abraham Baldwin

Biographies of the Founding Fathers

Colonial Hall now contains 103 biographical sketches of America's founding fathers. At this time we have divided them up into 3 groups:
As you will see there are still many biographies that need to be added to our site, including a new category: Other Founding Fathers.

The biographies on this site are primarily from 1 of the following 2 sources:
Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, by the Rev. Charles A. Goodrich. Published in 1829.
The United States Manual of Biography and History, by James V. Marshall. Published by James B. Smith & Co., in Philadelphia in the year 1856.
The U.S. Constitution at the National Archives

Age 61
Menands, Albany County, New York, United States