Founding Fathers Black Hills

George Wythe

 

Virginia

Age at signing – 50

Why should we be so fond of calling ourselves dutiful subjects?

We must declare ourselves a free people.”

George Wythe was called “my second father” by Thomas Jefferson, who studied law under him.

Wythe was an early and outspoken advocate for independence while serving in the Virginia House of Burgesses. Appointed to the continental congress from 1775 to 1777, his final accomplishment there was having Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane appointed ministers to France.

Back in Virginia, he continued public service in state politics and taught the first college law curriculum in America at Virginia’s William and Mary College. His students included Henry Clay, James Monroe and John Marshall, the first chief judge of the U.S. Supreme Court. Appointed a judge in Virginia courts, he is credited with establishing the legal precedent that laws could be held unconstitutional.

In his old age, Wythe was living with two of his freed slaves when he was poisoned by his great-nephew, who had been written out of Wythe’s will. He and a black youth who stood to inherit part of Wythe’s estate died, but the nephew was acquitted of murder because a black person could not testify against a white man at that time.