Began practice law, Falmouth, Massachusetts (now Portland, Maine), 1774. Dominant member Essex County Convention, opposed to proposed Massachusetts Constitution of 1778, wrote convention report The Essex Result (exposing weakness of executive under that constitution and outlining main principles for government later adopted by federalists), 1778. Delegate to Massachusetts Convention ratifying United States Constitution, 1788.
Member Massachusetts Legislature, 1787-1791, 1805. Popular lawyer, Boston, 1800-1806. Chief justice Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, 1806-1813, insisted upon speedy trials.
Formed law of new Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and indirectly that of other states. Established rules of general application derived from English law, unwritten colonial law, principles of business emboded in usages as rules of law. Decisions particularly useful in field of shipping and insurance.
Developed improved method of lunar observation adopted in New American Practical Navigator (Nathaniel Bowditch), 1802. Principal founder Boston Athenaeum, Social Law Library. Fellow Harvard College, 1806.
Fellow American Academy Arts and Scis.
Born February 24, 1750
Died October 30, 1813