Wythe, George

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Wythe, George

George Wythe. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
George Wythe.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

"There is no country in the world … such as the United States itselfin which capital, management, labor and resources may be joined together for more production, to the mutual advantage of all concerned."
—George Wythe

George Wythe was an attorney, judge, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and first professor of law in the United States. A mentor to Thomas Jefferson, Wythe educated a number of men who went on to achieve prominence in law and politics. Wythe was born in 1726 in Elizabeth City, Virginia. After his admission to the Virginia bar in 1746, Wythe settled in Williamsburg, then the seat of government in the colony. He became active in politics, serving as a member of the House of Burgesses from 1754 to 1755 and from 1758 to 1768. He later served as clerk of the house from 1769 to 1775. An ardent supporter of independence, Wythe drafted a fiery motion opposing the Stamp Act of 1764. However, the house was compelled to rewrite the motion and adopt a softer tone. Wythe attended the Continental Congress in 1775 and 1776 and signed the Declaration of Independence.

During these years of politics and revolution, Wythe maintained a successful law practice. Many students sought his counsel, including Jefferson, who studied law with Wythe in the 1760s and viewed him as his mentor. As Jefferson rose in stature and power, Wythe became part of his circle. In 1776 Wythe, Jefferson, George Mason, and Edmund Pendleton revised the Virginia Code.

Jefferson used his influence to have Wythe appointed the first law professor in the United States. Wythe taught at the College of William and Mary from 1779 to 1789. One of his first students was John Marshall, later chief justice of the United States. While teaching, Wythe also pursued a judicial career and presided as a judge in the Virginia Chancery Court from 1778 to 1788. In 1789 he was appointed chancellor of Virginia, which required him to move to Richmond. Wythe established a private law school there and had as one of his pupils the future U.S. senator from Kentucky, Henry Clay. Wythe resigned as chancellor in 1792. He published a selection of his court decisions in Decisions of Cases in Virginia by the High Court of Chancery in 1795.

Wythe died on June 8, 1806, in Richmond, Virginia, of poisoning. His grandnephew and heir, George Wythe Sweeney, was acquitted of the murder. At trial the only witness was an African American, who was disqualified from testifying under the laws of Virginia.

Further readings

Brown, Imogene E. 1981. American Aristides: A Biography of George Wythe. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press.

Callahan, Dennis J. 2003. "America's First Law Professor Played Unsung Role in Marbury." Student Lawyer 31 (February).

Carrington, Paul D. 1997. "A Tale of Two Lawyers." Northwestern University Law Review 91 (winter).

Kirtland, Robert Bevier. 1986. George Wythe: Lawyer, Revolutionary, Judge. New York: Garland.

References in periodicals archive ?
Mason's notes (January 13, 1777), Jefferson's letters to George Wythe (November 1, 1778) and Skelton Jones (July 28, 1809), and his "Autobiography" are in basic agreement.
City Council approved an amendment for this project in FY2013 to provide Athletic Field Improvements for lighting and other improvements at George Wythe and Thomas Jefferson High Schools.
Benedictine College -- Atchison, KS Biola University, Torrey Honors Institute -- La Mirada, CA Boston College -- Chestnut Hill, MA Central Washington University -- Ellensburg, WA Christendom College -- Front Royal, VA Columbia College -- New York, NY Faulkner University -- Montgomery, AL George Wythe University -- Salt Lake City, UT Gutenberg College -- Eugene, OR Hillsdale College -- Hillsdale, MI Kentucky State University -- Frankfort, KT Mercer University -- Macon, GA New St.
I am murdered; George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson, and the killing that shocked a new nation.
These men were recipients of a lifetime of mentorship by George Wythe, whose association with William and Mary ranged from serving as its burgess, then on its board of visitors, and then as a member of its faculty as "America's first law professor.
The Founding Fathers had their preceptors, like George Wythe, who instilled in them the doctrines of liberty, and subsequent generations were the beneficiaries of a small-town, one-room-schoolhouse, family-centered culture that both furnished a proper education and instilled values that perpetuated and strengthened our civilization.
Perhaps it should be remembered in this context that our founding fathers, in so far as they were lawyers, had only "read the law" according to Blackstone, or, as Thomas Jefferson and Chief Justice John Marshall of the United States Supreme Court, had taken-a few months classes of law under George Wythe at William and Mary, the only college in the country at that time where any law was taught.
After serving an apprenticeship with George Wythe, the famous chancellor of Virginia with whom other notables such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison had apprenticed, Clay returned to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and established himself in the central bluegrass region, settling in Lexington.
By the time Jefferson's seven-year-old grandson, George Wythe Randolph, peeked in the greenhouse window, Jefferson looked like a monster with no nose, eyes, hair, or ears.
The moot court George Wythe founded as an adjunct to his law lectures at William and Mary was run on those lines: "Mr.
Michael Platt, George Wythe College and Universitat Greifswald.
This probably wouldn't seem to be a remarkable honor except that George Wythe wasn't present at the momentous occasion on August 2, 1776, when the other members of the Second Continental Congress signed their names to the noble resolution passed on July 4, 1776.