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William Paca (October 31, 1740 – October 13, 1799) was a signatory to the United States Declaration of Independence from Maryland, a delegate to the First Continental Congress and the Second Continental Congress from Maryland, Governor of Maryland and a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.

William Paca
William paca.jpg
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland
In office
December 22, 1789 – October 13, 1799
Appointed byGeorge Washington
Preceded bySeat established by 1 Stat. 73
Succeeded byJames Winchester
3rd Governor of Maryland
In office
November 22, 1782 – November 26, 1785
Preceded byThomas Sim Lee
Succeeded byWilliam Smallwood
Personal details
Born
William Paca

(1740-10-31)October 31, 1740
Abingdon,
Province of Maryland,
British America
DiedOctober 13, 1799(1799-10-13) (aged 58)
Wye Plantation,
Queen Anne's County,
Maryland
Resting placeWye Plantation
Queen Anne's County,
Maryland
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania (B.A., M.A.)
Inner Temple
read law
Signature

Education and careerEdit

Born on October 31, 1740, in Abingdon, Province of Maryland, British America,[1] Paca entered school at the Philadelphia Academy and Charity School in 1752, and went on to attend the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania), graduating in 1759 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.[2] He was also to receive a Master of Arts degree from the same institution in 1762, though this required no further study, only that Paca request it and be in good standing.[3] He also attended the Inner Temple in London, England and read law in 1761,[1] with Stephen Bordley and was admitted to the bar that year.[2] He entered private practice in Annapolis, Province of Maryland starting in 1763.[2] He was a member of the lower house of the Maryland Proprietary Assembly from 1767 to 1774.[1] He was a delegate to the First Continental Congress and the Second Continental Congress from Maryland from 1774 to 1779.[1] He was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776.[1] He was a member of the Maryland Senate from 1776 to 1777, and from 1778 to 1780.[1] He was a Judge of the Maryland General Court in 1778.[1] He was a Judge of the Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture from 1780 to 1782.[4] He was Governor of Maryland from 1782 to 1785.[1] He was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates in 1786.[1] He was influential in establishing Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland in 1786.[5] He was a delegate to the Maryland convention in 1788 which ratified the United States Constitution.[5]

Association with Samuel ChaseEdit

Among the other young lawyers in Annapolis at the time was Samuel Chase, who became a close friend and political colleague of Paca.[2] Paca and Chase led local opposition to the British Stamp Act of 1765 and established the Anne Arundel County chapter of the Sons of Liberty.[2]

Federal judicial serviceEdit

Paca received a recess appointment from President George Washington on December 22, 1789, to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, to a new seat authorized by 1 Stat. 73.[1] He was nominated to the same position by President Washington on February 8, 1790.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 10, 1790, and received his commission the same day.[1] His service terminated on October 13, 1799, due to his death at his estate of Wye River, in Queen Anne's County, Maryland[1] and was interred in a family cemetery on the estate.[5][Note 1]

Notable caseEdit

Paca's career on the federal bench had a significant impact on the admiralty jurisdiction of the Federal courts and what was to become the principal business of the Supreme Court over the subsequent four decades. As the first Federal judge for the District Court of Maryland he rendered an opinion on the case of Betsey that had far reaching consequences when it was overturned by the Supreme Court. In that case Paca argued on solid precedents of international and British law that the District Court did not have jurisdiction over the awarding of prizes brought into American ports by foreign privateers. The Supreme Court asserted otherwise in seriatum opinions and established an exclusive jurisdiction over prize cases vested in the Federal District Courts that took that privilege away from what had been the responsibility of foreign consulates. Paca's opinion was the first District Court opinion to be published, and although ultimately reversed, it provides insight into the extensive legal training of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an author/compiler of several provisions of what became the Bill of Rights.[6]

FamilyEdit

Paca was the child of John Paca (c. 1712 – 1785), a wealthy planter in the area, and his wife Elizabeth Smith (?-c. 1766).[2] He was the second son of the family, after his elder brother Aquila, and had five sisters.[3] He courted Mary Chew,[7] the daughter of a prominent Maryland planter, and they were married on May 26, 1763. They had three children, though only their son John Philemon survived into adulthood.[3]

Landmarks and honorsEdit

Paca's Annapolis home, the Paca House and Garden, was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971.[8] The William Paca Club in New Providence, New Jersey is named in his honor. The Club cites the fact that Paca was the only Italian-American to sign the Declaration of Independence as the reason for bestowing him this honor. [9] Paca-Carroll House at St. John's College is named for Carroll and his fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Paca.[10]

Alleged Italian ancestryEdit

Paca has been described as being of Italian ancestry.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18]

According to Stanley South, "[t]he rumor that the name was Italian came from a remark made in 1911 by James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, who commented that he thought a relationship existed between Paca and the Italian family Pecci".[19] In a July 18, 1937, letter to the New York Times, a self-described descendant of Paca claimed:

The ancestors of William Paca were of Italian and English origin. The name is said to have originally been spelled Pacci [sic].

However, in an interview with Giovanni Schiavo, the letter writer apparently attributed the suggestion that the name was Pecci to Cardinal Gibbons.[20] Schiavo also reported that Paca mentioned Pope Leo XIII (1879–1903), whose surname was Pecci, during the interview.[20] Stiverson and Jacobsen reported that spellings of the surname of William Paca's immigrant ancestor Robert include Peaker, Pecker, Peaca, Peca, and Paka.[21] Neither "Pecci" nor "Pacci" (nor "Pacca") are attested, but that could be attributed to the fact that the Italian spelling of the name would have simply been difficult or unfamiliar to the English-speaking clerks of the time.

See alsoEdit

NoteEdit

  1. ^ His obituaries report he died on October 13, 1799, so the date of October 23, reported by some sources, may be in error. See:
    • Federal Gazette (Baltimore, MD), October 16, 1799
    • Daily Advertiser (New York, NY), October 21, 1799
    • Centinel of Liberty (Georgetown, DC), October 22, 1799
    • New-York Gazette (New York, NY), October 22, 1799

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m William Paca at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Goodrich, p. 346 and Russo, William Paca
  3. ^ a b c Russo, William Paca
  4. ^ "Journals of the Continental Congress --FRIDAY, JANUARY 21, 1780". memory.loc.gov.
  5. ^ a b c United States Congress. "William Paca (id: P000001)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  6. ^ Peter G. Fish, Federal Justice in the Mid-Atlantic South: United States Courts from Maryland to the Carolinas, 1789–1835 (2002).
  7. ^ "Biography of Mary Chew Paca – Colonial Hall". Retrieved August 1, 2016.
  8. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  9. ^ "Our History - How it All Began". The William Paca Club. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  10. ^ "Paca-Carroll House". Historic Campus Architecture Project. The Council of Independent Colleges. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  11. ^ Signers of the Declaration: William Paca, Maryland National Park Service; accessed March 13, 2008.
  12. ^ Caso, p. 57 and Welsh, They Too Made America Great; Branden Books, 1978. Online source: [1]; accessed March 13, 2008. This history includes a rather detailed exploration and affirmation of the well established Italian origin of the Paca family of Maryland in response to the earlier Stiverson and Jacobsen text.
  13. ^ Maryland, The Seventh State Website for the book Maryland, The SeventhcalebJohn T. Marck, author; accessed March 13, 2008.
  14. ^ "Italian American Contributions" The National Italian American Foundation Website; accessed March 13, 2008.
  15. ^ The Italian-American Web-site of New York "William Paca;" accessed March 13, 2008
  16. ^ NIAF MileStones of the Italian American Experience " 1774 – William Paca, original signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Francesco Vigo, advance the American Revolution;" accessed March 13, 2008.
  17. ^ P.S. 155 Playground, William Paca School History New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Web-site; accessed: March 13, 2008.
  18. ^ Echoes of Abruzzo and Molise in America; Omero Sabatini, author. Abruzzo Molise Heritage Society Web-site; accessed March 13, 2008.
  19. ^ South, Stanley A. An Archaeological Evolution. New York: Springer, 2005. p. 202
  20. ^ a b Giovanni Ermenegildo Schiavo. 1976. The Italians in America Before the Revolution. New York: Vigo Press. p. 74.
  21. ^ Stiverson, G. A., & Jacobsen, P. R. 1976. William Paca, a biography. Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society. p. 26.

SourcesEdit

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Sim Lee
Governor of Maryland
1782–1785
Succeeded by
William Smallwood
Legal offices
Preceded by
Seat established by 1 Stat. 73
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland
1789–1799
Succeeded by
James Winchester