PETER EARLY was born in Culpeper County (now Madison County), Virginia, on June 20, 1773. He attended Lexington Academy and graduated from Princeton University in 1792. He then studied law in Philadelphia, was admitted to the bar, and established a legal career in Washington, Georgia. In 1797 he became a member of the board of trustees of the University of Georgia and commissioner of the Greene County Academy in 1801. Early entered politics in 1801 as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a position in which he served for three terms, until 1807. He was appointed one of the prosecution managers in the impeachment proceedings against Judges John Pickering and Samuel Chase. He also served as a justice of the Superior Court of the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit from 1807 to 1813. The General Assembly elected him Governor of Georgia in 1813. During his gubernatorial tenure, the War of 1812 had started and measures were made to strengthen the state’s defense. Early vetoed the reinstatement of the Alleviating Act, which lengthened the period of relief allowed for debtors. In his veto message he stated that the alleviating system “accustoms men to consider their contracts as imposing no moral obligation… making fraud familiar.” However, his veto, which was extremely unpopular with most Georgians, was defeated, causing him to lose his reelection bid. After leaving the governor’s office, Early was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1816. He served in the senate until his death on August 15, 1817. Governor Peter Early was buried near his mansion on the bank of the Oconee River, and he was reinterred in the Greensboro City Cemetery.
Cook, James F. Governors of Georgia, 1754-2004. 3d ed. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
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