Edmund Pendleton: Wikis


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Edmund Pendleton

Born September 9, 1721(1721-09-09)
Caroline County, Colony of Virginia, British America
Died October 23, 1803 (aged 82)
Edmundsbury, Caroline County, Virginia, United States
Nationality American
Spouse(s) 1st, Elizabeth Roy, 2nd, Sarah Pollard
Occupation Lawyer, Judge, Delegate to First Continental Congress
Religion Church of England/Episcopal

Edmund Pendleton (September 9, 1721 – October 23, 1803) was a Virginia politician, lawyer and judge, active in the American Revolutionary War.




Early years

Pendleton was born in Caroline County to Henry Pendleton and Mary Bishop Taylor. When he was 14 years old, he was bound out as an apprentice to the Clerk of the Caroline County Court. In 1737, Pendleton was made clerk of the vestry of St. Mary’s Parrish in Caroline and with the small profits made there he procured a few law books. In 1740, he was made clerk of the Caroline Court-Marshall.


Edmund was married twice. The first time was on January 21, 1741 to Betty Roy, who died in childbirth November 17, 1742. The infant son also died shortly thereafter. His second marriage was on January 20, 1745 to Sarah Pollard, daughter of Joseph Pollard and Priscilla Hoomes. Edmund and Sarah had no children; however, he was involved in the education of at least two nephews, John Penn (signer of the Declaration of Independence) and John Taylor of Caroline, U.S. Senator.


He was licensed to practice law in April of 1741 and his success before the county courts caused him to become a member of the General Court in October 1745. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Caroline County in 1751. He gave a legal education to his nephew John Penn, later one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He helped raise and school his fatherless nephew John Taylor of Caroline, who went on to be a U.S. Senator. From 1752-1776 he was a member of the House of Burgesses. In May 1766, Pendleton discovered the John Robinson Estate Scandal which involved his mentor. Pendleton was on the Virginia Committee of Correspondence in 1773 and was a delegate to Continental Congress from Virginia in 1774.

Pendleton served as President of the Virginia Committee of Safety from August 16, 1775 to July 5, 1776 (effectively serving as governor of the colony) and as President of the Virginia Convention which authorized Virginia's delegates to propose a resolution to move for the break from Britain and creation of the Declaration of Independence.

Resolutions of the Virginia Convention Calling upon Congress for a Declaration of Independence

Sent to Virginia Delegation to the Continental Congress and Richard Henry Lee to move for Independence Lee Resolution June 7, 1776.

"Wednesday May 15, 1776 Present 112 Members

For as much as all the endeavors of the United Colonies, by the most decent representations and petitions to the king and parliament of Great Britain to restore peace and security to America under the British government and a re-union with that people upon just and liberal terms instead of a redress of grievances, have produced from an imperious and vindictive administration increased insult oppression and a vigorous attempt to effect our total destruction. By a late act, all these colonies are declared to be in rebellion, and out of the protection of the British crown our properties subjected to confiscation , our people, when captivated, compelled to join in the murder and plunder of their relations and countrymen, and all former rapine and oppression of Americans declared legal and just. Fleets and armies are raised, and the aid of foreign troops engaged to assist these destructive purposes: The king’s representatives in the colony hath not only withheld all the powers of government from operating for our safety, but, having retired on board an armed ship, is carrying on a piratical and savage war against us tempting our slaves by every artifice to resort to him, and training and employing them against their masters. In this state of extreme danger, we have no alternative left but an abject submission to the will of those over-bearing tyrants, or a total separation from the crown and government of Great Britain, uniting and exerting the strength of all America for defense, and forming alliances with foreign powers for commerce and aid in war: Wherefore, appealing to the SEARCHER OF HEARTS for the sincerity of former declarations, expressing our desire to preserve a connection with that nation, and that we are driven from that inclination by their wicked councils, and the eternal laws of self-preservation,

Resolved unanimously, that the delegates appointed to represent this colony in General Congress be instructed to propose to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and independent states, absolved from all allegiance to, or dependence upon, the crown or parliament of Great Britain; and that they give the assent of this colony to such declaration, and to whatever measures may be thought proper and necessary by the Congress for forming foreign alliances and a confederation of the colonies, at such time, and in the manner, as to them shall seem best: Provided, that the power of forming government for, and the regulations of the internal concerns of each colony, be left to the respective colonial legislatures.

Resolved unanimously, that a committee be appointed to prepare a Declaration of Rights, and such a plan of government as will be most likely to maintain peace and order in this colony, and secure substantial and equal liberty to the people.

Edmund Pendleton, President."

After the Declaration, he became the first Speaker of Virginia's new House of Delegates although a fall from a horse in March of 1777 dislocated his hip and caused him to miss the first session. This fall crippled him so that he used crutches the rest of his life. He, along with Thomas Jefferson and George Wythe, revised Virginia's law code. He was appointed Judge of the High Court of Chancery in 1777. When Virginia created a Supreme Court of Appeals in 1778, Pendleton was appointed its first president where he served until his death. He served as president of the Virginia Ratifying Convention in 1788.

Pendleton was buried at his estate, Edmundsbury. In 1907 he was moved from this location and buried inside Bruton Parish Chapel in what is now Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.

Pendleton marker inside Bruton Parish Chapel

Minutes from Congress, October 1803

Mourning For Edmund Pendleton

Mr. Eustis rose and observed that within a few days past the House were called upon to take notice of an event which perhaps would be more interesting to posterity than to the present generation; the death of one of those illustrious patriots who, by a life devoted to his country, had bequeathed a name and an example to posterity which he would not attempt to describe. He had information that another of these sages, Edmund Pendleton, of Virginia, had paid the last tribute to nature.

On this occasion he begged leave to offer to the house the following resolution:

Resolved, That this House, impressed with a lively sense of the important services rendered to his country by Edmund Pendleton, deceased, will wear a badge of mourning for thirty days, as an emblem of their veneration for his illustrious character, and of their regret that another star is fallen from the splendid constellation of virtue and talents which guided the people of the United States in their struggle for independence.

The resolution was immediately taken up and agreed to - Ayes 77, Nayes 0


Thomas Jefferson said of Pendleton: "Taken in all he was the ablest man in debate I ever met".


Pendleton County, West Virginia (formed 1788) and Pendleton County, Kentucky (formed 1798) were both named in Pendleton's honor.


  • familysearch.org Accessed October 20, 2007
  • Leftwich, George J. Colonel George Strother Gaines and Other Pioneers in Mississippi Territory. Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, v. 1. Jackson, Miss: Mississippi Historical Society, 1916. googlebooks.com Accessed October 20, 2007
  • Page, Richard Channing Moore. Genealogy of the Page Family in Virginia. Also a Condensed Account of the Nelson, Walker, Pendleton and Randolph Families, with References to the Byrd, Carter, Cary, Duke, Gilmer, Harrison, Rives, Thornton, Wellford, Washington, and Other Distinguished Families in Virginia. New York: Jenkins & Thomas, printers, 1883.googlebooks.com Accessed October 20, 2007
  • The Library of Congress
  • The Life and Times of Edmund Pendleton, Robert Leroy Hilldrup
  • The Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton, David Mays

Further reading

  • David J. Mays;"Edmund Pendleton, 1721-1803: A Biography"; 1952, Harvard University Press; 1984 reprint: Library of Virginia, ISBN 0-88490-119-X; (paperback: ISBN 0-88490-120-3).
  • David Mays (editor); "The Letters and Papers of Edmund Pendleton" (2 volumes); 1967, Charlottesville, Virginia, The University Press of Virginia.
  • The Life and Times of Edmund Pendleton, Robert Leroy Hilldrup, 1939, University of North Carolina Press

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

EDMUND PENDLETON (1721-1803), American lawyer and statesman, was born, of English Royalist descent, in Caroline county, Virginia, on the 9th of September 1721. He was self-educated, but after reading law and being admitted to the bar (1744) his success was immediate. He served in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1752 until the organization of the state government in 1776, was the recognized leader of the conservative Whigs, and took a leading part in opposing the British government. He was a member of the Virginia committee of correspondence in 1773, in 1774 was president of the Virginia provincial convention, and a member of the first Continental Congress. In 1776, as president of the provincial convention, which adopted a state constitution for Virginia, he drew up the instructions to the Virginia members of Congress directing them to advocate the independence of the American colonies. In the same year he became president of the Virginia committee of safety, and in October was chosen the first speaker of the House of Delegates. With Jefferson and Chancellor George Wythe he drew up a new law code for Virginia. He was president of the court of chancery in 1777-1788, and from 1779 until his death was president of the Virginia court of appeals. He was an enthusiastic advocate of the Federal constitution, and in 1788 exerted strong influence to secure its ratification by his native state. He was a leader of the Federalist party in Virginia until his death at Richmond, Va., on the 23rd of October 1803.

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