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.

 

The Revolutionary leaders never intended to create an original and peculiar indigenous culture. Despite all their talk of American exceptionalism and American virtue in contrast with European corruption, they were seeking not to cut themselves off from Europe’s cultural heritage but to embrace it and in fact to fulfill it. It is a mistake to view America’s post-Revolutionary emulation of Europe as a legacy of helpless dependence passed on from colonial days. Americans imitated European styles and forms not because in their naïveté they could nothing else but because they wanted to.... Their revolution was very much an international affair, an attempt to fulfill the cosmopolitan dreams of the Enlightenment.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)