Strangers to Us All
Lawyers and Poetry

William Bradford


"William Bradford, jurist . . . born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 14 September, 1755; died 23 August, 1795. He was graduated at Princeton in 1772, studied law with Edward Shippen, and was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court in 1779. His legal studies were interrupted by the events of the revolution. When the Philadelphia militia was called out and formed a flying camp, he served as major of brigade to General Roberdeau, and after his term expired accepted the command of a company in Col. Hampton's regiment of regular troops. Soon afterward he was given the place of deputy muster master-general, with the rank of lieutenant colonel, in which capacity he served for two years, until failing health impelled him to resign his commission and return home. In 1780 he was appointed attorney general of Pennsylvania. He married in 1784 a daughter of Elias Boudinot, of New Jersey. When the judiciary was reorganized under the new constitution of Pennsylvania, he was appointed, on 22 August. 1791, a judge of the Supreme Court. On 8 January, 1794, he succeeded Edmund Randolph as attorney general of the United States by the appointment of President Washington, which office he held until his death. In early life he wrote pastoral poems in imitation of Shenstone, which were published in the 'Philadelphia Magazine.' In 1793 he published 'An Inquiry how far the Punishment of Death is Necessary in Pennsylvania,' an essay in the form of a report for the use of the legislature, prepared at the request of Governor Mifflin, which brought about a mitigation of the penal laws of Pennsylvania, a reform that was followed by other states." [FamousAmericans, bio based on Appleton's Encyclopedia of American Biography]


William Bradford, An Enquiry How Far the Punishment of Death is Necessary in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Re-printed for J. Johnson, 1795)