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William Paterson

William Paterson

William Paterson was a remarkable Scottish lawyer, trader, and politician who lived from 17 August 1658 to 22 January 1719. He is regarded as one of the most influential men in British history, having been involved in numerous important events and accomplishments in his life. Paterson spent much of his adulthood in London and became an esteemed member of British high society, but his roots were in Scotland, where he was born and raised.

Early Life

William Paterson was born on a farm in Tinwald Parish, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, in the year 1658. His father, John Paterson, was a Presbyterian follower, and his mother was Cissel Anderson. William was educated at home from an early age and showed early signs of great intelligence and curiosity. He was said to have an inquiring mind and a keen appetite for knowledge, which led him to read extensively and broaden his horizons beyond the borders of his small village.

Paterson’s parents died when he was still young, and he was sent to live with his uncle in London. Initially, Paterson began working as a clerk in a London trading firm, which gave him a better understanding of trade and commerce. As a result, he became increasingly interested in the wide world of trade, finance, and economics.

Business Ventures

William Paterson eventually became a wealthy and successful businessman in his own right. He established the Company of Scotland to colonize the region that would become Panama. The venture ultimately failed, largely due to unforeseen circumstances, but Paterson did not allow this defeat to deter him.

In addition, Paterson played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Bank of England in 1694. He saw the potential for a centralized banking system that would benefit both businesses and individuals and worked tirelessly to rally support for the formation of the new bank. His efforts proved successful, and the Bank of England remains one of the most influential financial institutions in the world today.

Political Advancements

William Paterson did not limit himself to commerce and finance. He was also fascinated by politics and worked tirelessly to advance his vision of a fairer, more equitable society.

In 1703, Paterson was elected as a Member of Parliament for Dumfries Burghs. He used his position to promote policies that would benefit ordinary citizens and push for reforms that would make the British Empire more equitable and just.

Perhaps more importantly, Paterson was also a fierce advocate for the rights of the Scottish people. He believed that they had been treated unfairly by the English government and that the two countries should be granted greater autonomy. His efforts in this regard were eventually successful, leading to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1707.

Personal Life

William Paterson’s personal life was also full of accomplishments. He was a noted author and poet, publishing several books of prose and verse during his lifetime. He married and had children, and was known to be a loving and devoted husband and father.

Paterson was also deeply religious. He was raised in a Presbyterian household and remained a devout Presbyterian throughout his life. He saw his faith as a guiding force and believed that his work was part of a divine mission to improve society for all people.


William Paterson’s legacy is one of perseverance, intelligence, and vision. He recognized the potential for great change in the world and worked tirelessly to bring his ideas to fruition. He understood that change is not always easy and that setbacks are to be expected, but he never gave up on his dreams.

Today, Paterson is remembered as one of Scotland’s greatest sons. His contributions to business, finance, and politics helped shape the world we live in today. His influence can be felt in everything from international trade to the establishment of democratic institutions.


William Paterson was a remarkable and accomplished individual who led an extraordinary life. He was a man of great intelligence, passion, and vision, and his contributions to society continue to be felt to this day. From his work in business and finance to his tireless advocacy for social and political reform, William Paterson was a true giant among men.

Founding Father: William Paterson

William Paterson was born in County Antrim, Ireland, on December 14, 1745. When he was almost 2 years old, his family moved from Ireland to America. While his father traveled around the country, selling tin products, William Paterson’s family lived in New London, other areas of Connecticut, and Trenton, New Jersey.

In 1750, William Paterson settled in Princeton, NJ. There, William Paterson became a manufacturer of tin goods and a merchant. William Paterson’s wealth allowed him to go to local private schools and then the College of New Jersey. He received his Bachelor of Arts in 1763 and a Master of Arts 3 years later.

Afterward, Paterson studied law under Richard Stockton, who signed the Declaration of Independence, in the city of Princeton. Soon after, William Paterson began practicing law at New Bromley, in Hunterdon County. Afterward, William Paterson moved to South Branch, which was in Somerset County, and then relocated near New Brunswick at Raritan estate in 1779.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, William Paterson joined the New Jersey patriots’ vanguard. He also served in the provincial congress between 1775 and 1776, the constitutional convention in 1776, the legislative council from 1776 to 1777, and the council of safety in 1777. During the last year, William Paterson also held a militia commission.

Between 1776 and 1783, William Paterson was attorney general of New Jersey, a job that took up so much time that he could not accept his election in 1780 to the Continental Congress. Meantime, the previous year, William Paterson had married Cornelia Bell, and he had three children with her before her death in 1783. Two years later, William Paterson got remarried to Euphemia White.

From 1783, when William Paterson moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey, until 1787, he devoted a lot of his time and energy in law and did not enter the public spotlight. Afterward, he was chosen to be the representative of New Jersey at the Constitutional Convention.

He only acted as New Jersey’s representative until late July of that year. Until then, William Paterson took careful notes of all the proceedings. More importantly, William Paterson was very prominent because of his support and co-authorship of the New Jersey Plan, sometimes called the Paterson Plan, which stated the small states’ rights against the large. William Paterson only returned to the Constitutional Convention to sign the Constitution. After supporting the ratification of the Constitution in New Jersey, William Paterson started his career in the new American government.

In 1789, William Paterson was elected to the United States Senate between 1789 and 1790, where he played an important role in writing the Judiciary Act of 1789. William Paterson’s next position after being a judge was the governor of his New Jersey from 1790 to 1793. Here, he started writing what later became the volume called the Laws of the State of New Jersey in 1800. He also started to revise the practices and rules of the common law courts and chancery.

Between 1793 and 1806, William Paterson served the United States Supreme Court as an Associate Justice. At that time, federal judges had to ride the circuit or travel around. Here William Paterson traveled with the full court to preside over many major trials.

In September 1806, 60-year-old Paterson began traveling to Ballston Spa, New York for a cure to his sickness, but he died before he could get there at his daughter’s home in Albany, New York. William Paterson was buried in the nearby Van Rensselaer family vault, but his body was later moved to the Albany Rural Cemetery, in Menands, New York.

Fun Facts about William Paterson

• Both William Paterson University and the town of Paterson, New Jersey are both named after William Paterson.
• He is currently buried in the same cemetery as President Chester A. Arthur.