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signer of the Declaration of Independence
William Paca was born on October 31, 1740, on his family's plantation near Abingdon, Maryland. He entered the Philadelphia Academy and Charity School in 1752, received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Philadelphia in 1759, studied law under Annapolis lawyer Stephen Bradley, and was licensed to practice in 1761. Soon after receiving his law license, Paca established an office in Annapolis.
Paca became part of the revolutionary movement in 1765, when he led local protests against the Stamp Act and organized the Anne Arundel County chapter of the Sons of Liberty. In 1767 the citizens of Annapolis elected him to the Maryland House of Delegates, where he served until being elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774. An open advocate of independence, he was a delegate to the convention which drafted the Declaration of Independence, as well as a signer of the final document.
Paca left the Continental Congress in 1778, after being appointed Chief Justice of Maryland. In 1780 he was appointed Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals for Admiralty and Prize Cases, where he served until being elected Governor of Maryland in 1782, in which capacity he served three consecutive one-year terms. In 1784 he was elected to both the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates; he chose to take his seat in the House because he believed he could better serve his constituents in that body.
Although he declined to participate in the Constitutional Convention, Paca did represent Hartford County as an anti-Federalist in the Maryland convention to ratify the U.S. Constitution. There, he proposed several amendments deigned to ensure personal freedoms and limitations of federal powers. None of his proposals passed, but many did subsequently become part of the Bill of Rights.
Despite having serious objections to the Constitution as originally ratified, Paca accepted President George Washington's appointment as U.S. District Court Judge for Maryland, in 1789. He served in this capacity until his death, on October 13, 1799.
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This page was last updated on October 30, 2017.