|23rd Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court|
June 1785 – May 1786
|Preceded by||Paul Mumford|
|Succeeded by||Paul Mumford|
December 2, 1727|
Newport, Rhode Island
|Died||February 15, 1820
Newport, Rhode Island
|Resting place||Common Burying Ground, Newport|
|Known for||signer of the United States Declaration of Independence|
William Ellery (December 2, 1727 – February 15, 1820) was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of Rhode Island. In 1764, the Baptists consulted with Ellery and Congregationalist Reverend Ezra Stiles on writing a charter for the college that became Brown University. Ellery and Stiles attempted to give control of the college to the Congregationalists, but the Baptists withdrew the petition until it was rewritten to assure Baptist control. Neither Ellery nor Stiles accepted appointment to the reserved Congregationalist seats on the board of trustees.
William Ellery was born in Newport, Rhode Island on December 2, 1727, the second son of William Ellery, Sr. and Elizabeth Almy, a descendant of Thomas Cornell. He received his early education from his father, a merchant and Harvard College graduate. He graduated from Harvard College in 1747, where he excelled in Greek and Latin. He then returned to Newport where he worked first as a merchant, next as a customs collector, and then as Clerk of the Rhode Island General Assembly. He started practicing law in 1770 at the age of 43 and became active in the Rhode Island Sons of Liberty.
Statesman Samuel Ward died in 1776, and Ellery replaced him in the Continental Congress. He became a signer of the Articles of Confederation and one of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The size of his signature on the Declaration is second only to John Hancock's famous signature.
Ellery also served as a judge on the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, and he had become an abolitionist by 1785. He was the first customs collector of the port of Newport under the Constitution, serving there until his death, and he worshipped at the Second Congregational Church of Newport.
Ellery died on February 15, 1820 at age 92 and was buried in Common Burial Ground in Newport. The Rhode Island Society of the Sons of the Revolution and the William Ellery Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution make an annual commemoration at his grave on July 4.
Family and legacy
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Ellery married Ann Remington of Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1750. She was the daughter of Judge Jonathan Remington (1677-1745). She died in 1764 in Cambridge and was buried there, and he married Abigail Cary in 1767. He had 19 children, and his descendants include Ellery Channing, Washington Allston, William Ellery Channing, Richard Henry Dana, Sr., Edie Sedgwick, and Kyra Sedgwick. Francis Dana married his daughter Elizabeth.
Ellery's tomb at Common Burying Ground and Island Cemetery in Newport
- Historical Catelogue of Brown University,Providence: Brown University, 1914.
- Charles Francis Adams, The works of John Adams, Volume 8 (Little, Brown, 1853), pg. 61 quoting "William Ellery and others to John Adams,"Newport RI 26 May 1783 https://books.google.com/books?id=0JYsAAAAYAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s
- Charles Augustus Goodrich "Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence," (T. Mather, New York: 1840) p. 153
- Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 117.