Hugh Williamson (1735-1819)

North Carolina
Hugh Williamson was born of Scotch-Irish decent at West Nottingham,
PA.on the 5th of December 1735. At the age of sixteen, he entered the
College of Philadelphia and received his degree of Bachelor of Arts in
1757. In 1759 Hugh Williamson became a licensed Presbyterian preacher, but
was never ordained. Around that time, he also took a job as professor
mathematics at his alma mater.

To prosecute his medical studies, Williamson left his native country
for Europe and resigned his professorship in 1764. After writing an essay
on Comets, in which he advanced several original ideas he was awarded his
LL.D degree from the University of Leyden. Sailing fro England in 1773 to
raise finds for a local educational project, William stopped on route at
Boston. There he witnessed the famous Tea Party. When the British Privy
Council called on him to testify as to what he had seen, he warned the
councilors that the colonies would rebel if the British did not change
their policies. Williamson struck up a close friendship with fellow-
scientist Benjamin Franklin.

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The Plea of the Colonies was published in 1775. He soon sailed back
to the United States, settling in Charleston, SC, and then in Edenton, NC.

In 1980 he was appointed a surgeon in the army. And soon after the war,
Williamson began his political career. In 1982 he was elected as a
representative in the House of Commons of North Carolina. Then after four
years he was chosen to represent his state at the Annapolis Convention but
arrived too late to take a part.

He again served in Congress from 1787 to 1789 and was chosen as a
delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Attending faithfully and
demonstrating keen debating skill, he served on five committees, notably on
the Committee on Postponed Matters, and played a significant part in the
proceedings, particularly the major compromise on representation. While in
Congress Williamson enjoyed a large share of influence, and was esteemed
for the purity of his country. Williamson logged with two of the country’s
best-known nationalist leaders, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison while
attending conventions.

Shortly after the Convention, Williamson wrote a series of public
letters know as the “Letters of Sylvius” in defense of a strong federal
system. He also played a major role at the second convention that met in
Fayetteville in 1789, and worked for the ratification of the Constitution
in North Carolina. In 1789 he married Maria Apthorpe, who bore at least two
sons and a year after that he was elected to the first U.S. House of
Representative, where he served two terms. In 1793 Williamson moved to New
York. In 1811 he published the “Observations on the climate in the
different parts of America, compared with the climate in the corresponding
parts of the other continent.” And a year later he published the “History
of North Carolina.” Over the year he had published many political,
educational, economic, historical, and a scientific works. Williamson was a
founder of the Literary and Philosophical Society of New York and a
prominent member of the New York Historical Society. He dies on the 22nd
of May 1819, in the eighty-third year of his life and was buried at the
Trinity Church in New York.