William Lewis (judge)

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William Lewis (January 22, 1752 – August 16, 1819) was a Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, US Attorney for the District of Pennsylvania and US Federal Judge.

Lewis was born in 1751 in Edgmont Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania to a Quaker family of Welsh ancestry. Lewis read law to enter the bar in 1773. As a lawyer during revolutionary times, he consistently defended other Quakers against charges of treason after they refused to fight in battle or pay taxes. In doing so he participated in creating the foundations of the principle of Conscientious Objection.

Another of his accomplishments was his involvement in the drafting and passage of An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery[1] in 1780. This legislation was the first legal action towards the abolition of slavery in the United States of America.

He was in private practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after entering the bar until 1787, when he was elected as a representative to the Pennsylvania State Legislature. In 1789 he became the United States Attorney for the District of Pennsylvania, until 1791.

Lewis received a recess appointment from President George Washington on July 14, 1791, to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Pennsylvania vacated by Francis Hopkinson. Lewis was formally nominated on October 31, 1791, and was confirmed by the United States Senate and received his commission on November 7, 1791. He resigned effective on January 4, 1792, and he returned to private practice in Philadelphia until his retirement in 1817.

Lewis is also known for advising Alexander Hamilton on the first national bank and building the Historic Strawberry Mansion in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park in 1789. At the time the house was known as Summerville. Judge Lewis died peacefully at Summerville, at the age of 68.[1] The house was converted into a historic house museum in 1931.

Further reading[edit]

  • McFarland, Esther Ann - Herr, Mickey William Lewis, Esquire: Enlightened Statesman, Profound Lawyer, and Useful Citizen (2012) Diane Publishing Company ISBN 978-1-4578-3208-6



  1. ^ Ashmeade, Henry Graham (1884). History of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co. pp. 560–561. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Francis Hopkinson
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Pennsylvania
July 14, 1791 – January 4, 1792
Succeeded by
Richard Peters, Jr.