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Benjamin Chew: Wikis


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Fighting during the Battle of Germantown took place at Benjamin Chew's house in Germantown, Pennsylvania.

Benjamin Chew (November 19, 1722 – January 20, 1810) was a lawyer, politician and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Province of Pennsylvania.


Family and Education

Benjamin Chew was the son Samuel Chew, a physician, and first Chief Justice of Delaware, and Mary Galloway Chew (1697-1734). He was born in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, at his father's estate of Maidstone.

Chew read law in the office of Andrew Hamilton at Philadelphia in 1738 he was influenced by Francis Bacon's "Lawtracts," as well as other books given to him by Hamilton.[1]

After Hamilton's death on August 4, 1741, Chew visited his father's new home, in Kent County, Delaware, before going to London, England to study law at The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, one of the four Inns of Court. He returned to America in 1744, due to the death of his father. He began to practice law in Dover, Delaware in 1746, but moved to Philadelphia in 1754. He was raised as a Quaker, but his family was removed from a local meeting when his father instructed a jury that the use of force in self-defense should be allowed, given that, in 1758, armed French forces surrounded the Philadelphia area. Chew went on to become a prominent Anglican.[2]

Chew married twice. He wed Mary Galloway (1729-1755), his mother's niece, on June 13, 1747 at West River, Maryland. They had five daughters (Mary, Anna Maria, Elizabeth, Sarah, and Henrietta) before she died. He married again on September 12, 1757 to Elizabeth Oswald, and had nine more children (Benjamin, Margaret, Joseph, Juliana, Henrietta, Sophia, Maria, Harriet, and Catherine). Elizabeth Oswald was the niece and heir to the estate of Captain Joseph Turner, part owner of the Union Ironworks in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Their daughter, Margaret, married Maryland Governor John E. Howard.

He built his country estate, named Cliveden, at Germantown, Pennsylvania between 1763 and 1767 and came to be known as the Chew House. This house played a prominent role during the Battle of Germantown. It is a featured site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is open to the public.


He held a number of offices in the Pennsylvania colonial government, both elected and appointed. In 1751, he served on the boundary commission that supervised the creation of the Mason-Dixon line. He was Speaker of the House for the Delaware counties from 1753 to 1758, Attorney General and member of the Council of Pennsylvania (1754-1769), he was also Register-General of both colonies; Recorder of Philadelphia City; and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (1775-1777).

Benjamin Chew took his oath of attorney in Pennsylvania in 1747, although Quakers at that time did not believe in taking oaths. He went on to act as legal counsel for the prominent family of William Penn, representing them as landholders and in personal family matters. Despite his many public service roles, most of Chew's income came from his successful private practice as a lawyer.[3]

In 1754 Chew helped to write the Albany Plan and served at the Albany Congress, which was one of the first attempts at uniting the American colonies.

Early in the American Revolution, both sides claimed his allegiance, since he had a visible position in the colony. Chew himself was apparently undecided about the correct course to take. In August 1777, when the British army was nearing Philadelphia, the Continental Congress ordered that he be arrested and placed in preventive detention along with Governor John Penn. Upon giving their paroles they were allowed to choose Union Forge, New Jersey as their place of captivity. They were released on May 15, 1778.

After independence, Chew retained his role as Register-General of Philadelphia and was appointed the President of Pennsylvania's Court of Errors and Appeals from 1791 until the Court was abolished in 1808. After an extended illness, Chew died at “Cliveden” on January 20, 1810, and is buried at St. Peter's Churchyard.


The Benjamin Chew was a Liberty ship built in 1942 by the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards in Baltimore, Maryland.

See also


  1. ^ Konkle, Burton Alva. Benjamin Chew 1722-1810: Head of the Pennsylvania Judiciary System under Colony and Commonwealth, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1932. P. 46
  2. ^ Konkle, Burton Alva. Benjamin Chew 1722-1810: Head of the Pennsylvania Judiciary System under Colony and Commonwealth, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1932. P. 32-37
  3. ^ Konkle, Burton Alva. Benjamin Chew 1722-1810: Head of the Pennsylvania Judiciary System under Colony and Commonwealth, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1932. P. 50-51
  4. ^ Seitz, Phillip. The Chew Family of Philadelphia and their Enslaved Workers, 2008.

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
William Allen
Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Thomas McKean
Political offices


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