William Ellery

Portrait by Artist to Come

QUICK FACTS
BORN:
22 December 1727 in Newport, Rhode Island
  DIED:
15 February 1820 in Newport
Buried at Common Burying Ground and Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island.

William Ellery, American politician and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1727. He graduated from Harvard in 1747, engaged in trade, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1770. He was a member of the Rhode Island Committee of Safety in 1775 – 76, and was a delegate in Congress in 1776 – 81 and again in 1783 – 85.

Just after his first election to Congress, he was placed on the important Marine Committee, and he was made a member of the Board of Admiralty when it was established in 1779. In April 1786 he was elected Commissioner of the Continental Loan Office for the State of Rhode Island, and from 1790 until his death in 1820 at Newport, he was collector of the customs for the district of Newport.

ADAPTED FROM:
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 ed.

 

Washington’s refusal to accept a salary for his services was emblematic of his somewhat ostentatious public virtue. He did open a public expense account, however, and some have claimed that he made money from it by overcharging Congress. In fact, the £150 per month that he requested for expenses was not just for him, but also for his entourage, which sometimes swelled to a crowd. His account books, which still exist, list charges for things like ferry fares, innkeepers’ fees, candlesticks, saddle repair, meat, fruit, mounds of cabbages and beets, and (admittedly) oceans of grog, liquor, and wine. Washington even charged Congress for fifteen shillings Cash paid a beggar by the General’s order. But although he was not averse to placing his headquarters in the occasional mansion, he otherwise made do with precious few luxuries.

Edward G. Lengel
General George Washington: A Military Life (2005)