Sunday, May 02, 2004


Jacob Bartholomew Warbrick: 1749-1813

When historians tell the story of the founding of the United States, they often leave out one profoundly influential person. Jacob Bartholomew Warbrick was born at Rhode Island, on December 29, 1749. His father, Peter Warbrick, and his mother, Juliet Berkerley-Amor, were members of the wealthiest New England families. The precocious Jacob Warbrick attended the College of Reginald and Henrietta, where he read law (1763-1765) with Samuel Smithenbottomley, perhaps the greatest law professor of his or any century. After one unsuccessful attempt, Warbrick was admitted to the bar in 1765 and practiced criminal law until 1773, when he dedicated his life to liberty and autonomy for the 13 colonies.

Warbrick's most notable early contribution to the cause of the Patriots was his powerful pamphlet entitled "Human Dignity and the Importance of Nonviolence in the Struggle for Independence from the British Empire." His iron will and pure heart inspired Thomas Jefferson to call Warbrick "the guiding light of our fledgling nation, and the heart and soul of our struggle for independence from the mother country." Warbrick's unflinching integrity helped shape the Declaration of Independence and, subsequently, the Constitution of the United States of America. It was Warbrick who pressed the Continental Congress to recognize the rights of all men, no matter their economic status; and, though he was out-voted my a large margin, Warbrick also pressed for the equal legal status of women. At one point Congress considered naming the Bill of Rights after Warbrick, though he begged them not to do so.

Warbrick left Congress in the spring of 1777 and served in the Rhode Island legislature until his election as governor in 1780. He was governor from 1780 to 1782, when George Washington appointed him Secretary of Peace. As Peace Secretary, Warbrick's duties included mediating differences between various state and local governments, monitoring ethical issues for Congress and the federal government, and developing more humane relations with the native populations. By all accounts, Warbrick was a model human being in both his public and private lives. Ever the tireless advocate for basic human dignity, Warbrick was playfully dubbed "Saint W." by none other than Benjamin Franklin.

Upon his death in 1813, Warbrick left behind a beloved wife, seven bright and successful sons and daughters (several of whom became social and governmental leaders), and 37 cherished, well cared for slaves.

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