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William Paterson
New Jersey

Gov. William Paterson

  • November 13, 1790 - March 3, 1793
  • Federalist
  • December 24, 1745
  • September 9, 1806
  • Other
  • Princeton University
  • Married twice--Cornelia Bell, Euphemia White; two children
  • Senator, Supreme Court


William Paterson, signer of the U.S. Constitution, was born in County Antrim, Ireland on December 24, 1745. In 1747 his family moved to the United States, and eventually settled in Princeton, New Jersey. Paterson’s early education was attained in private schools, and later he attended Princeton University, where he graduated in 1763. He went on to study law, was admitted to the bar in 1768, and then established a successful legal career. Paterson first entered politics in 1775, serving as secretary and delegate to the New Jersey Provincial Congress, a position he held until 1776. He also served as a member of the New Jersey Legislative Council from 1776 to 1777; was a member of the 1776 State Constitutional Convention; and served as the New Jersey attorney general from 1776 to 1783. He also was a delegate to the 1787 U.S. Constitutional Convention; and served in the U.S. Senate from 1789 to 1790. Paterson next won election to the governorship in 1790. He went on to win reelection to three consecutive one-year terms. During his tenure, the first state prison was established in Trenton; the state legal system was improved; and a manufacturing plan was implemented. After securing an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, Paterson resigned from the governorship on March 3, 1793. He served on the federal bench until death. Governor William Paterson was buried in the Van Rensselar lot in the Albany Rural Cemetery in Albany, New York.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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