William Wirt

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William Wirt
William Wirt.JPG
c. 1817

Attorney-General of the United States
Term Start 1817
Term End 1829

Clerk of the House of Delegates
Term Start 1799
Term End 1802

Biographical Information

Date of birth November 8, 1772
Date of death February 18, 1834
Place of birth Bladensburg, Maryland
Place of death Washington, D.C.
Spouse Mildred Gilmer
Residence Pen Park (1795 - 1799)
Profession Attorney

William Wirt (1817–1825) was born on November 8, 1772, in Bladensburg, Maryland. He attended Georgetown University, was admitted to the bar in 1792, and while practicing law in Culpeper, he became attached to a genial and cultivated social circle, which included the son of Thomas Jefferson’s close friend Dabney Carr.

In 1795, Wirt married Mildred Gilmer of “Pen Park,” the Gilmer family estate in Albemarle County. Dr. George Gilmer gave his son-in-law William Wirt part of the Pen Park property which he named Rose Hill. The property was located on present day Westwood Road, near Rose Hill Drive in Charlottesville, a house at that location was raised in 1933.

Not long after after the marriage, Dr. George Gilmer died and Wirt took on the role of correspondence for his mother-in-law, Lucy Walker Gilmer, which including a letter to Thomas Jefferson requesting the purchase of nails.[1] Wirt apparently lived at Pen Park with his wife and maintained a law office in the Town of Charlottesville. Mildred Gilmer Wirt died in 1799. After four years of marriage, the twentyseven-year-old attorney relocated to Richmond, where he practiced law and was clerk of the House of Delegates from 1799 to 1802.

In 1800, he served as co-counsel for the defense in the sedition trial of James Thomson Callender. Wirt re-married in 1802 to Elizabeth Washington Gamble. Wirt, known for having an excellent courtroom presence, lead the prosecution team of George Hay and Gordon MacRae for the government at the widely publicized Aaron Burr Treason Trial of 1807 in Richmond, Virginia. Charge against Burr, former vice-president serving during President Thomas Jefferson's first term, was treason against the United States.

In 1817, Monroe appointed Wirt attorney general of the United States, an office he held until 1829.[2] Wirt would serve as U.S. attorney general in the cabinets of Presidents James Monroe and John Quincy Adams (1817-1829). He wrote extensive legal opinions and authored Letters of a British Spy (1803), The Rainbow (1808) and The Old Bachelor (1812), and ran unsuccessfully as the anti-Masonic presidential candidate in the election of 1832.

William Wirt died in Washington, D.C., on February 18, 1834 and is buried in the Historic Congressional Cemetery[3] in Washington, D.C.


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