July 4th  (Independence Day) – London’s Inns of Court and the Founding of the United States of America

London’s  Inns of Court, Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn and Inner and Middle Temple, situated on the western fringe of the City, are where barristers go to receive their training.

Historically, they played a formative, though little-known, role in the founding of the United States of America.

William Taft (1857-1930), the sometime Chief Justice and President of the United States, noted that “many of the law officers of the Colonies … , appointed by the Crown before the Revolution, were members of … [the Inns of Court]”, and that the Inns were thus instrumental in “instilling in the communities of the Colonies the principles of Common Law”.

Others have even suggested that the principles of secession also came from the Inns.

The Inns of Court are visited on various of our walks, including the “Rebellious London” themed special.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

Gray’s Inn

Statue of Bacon in Gray's Inn

The famous lawyer, statesman, philosopher and “natural philosopher” (what we would now call a scientist), all-round Renaissance Man Francis Bacon (1561-1626) (pictured) received his legal training in Gray’s Inn, and went on to become a “Master of the Bench”, or member of the governing body, there (among other things).

He was one of those instrumental in the creation of the first English colonies in the Americas in the early seventeenth century, and set out his egalitarian vision of how things should be there in his book “New Atlantis”.

The historian William Hepworth Dixon (1821-1879) considered Bacon one of the Founding Fathers  of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson  (1743-1826), one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, and the third President of the United States, went as far as to describe Bacon, alongside Locke and Newton as “the three greatest men that have ever lived, without any exception, and as having laid the foundation of those superstructures which have been raised in the Physical and Moral Sciences”.

Incidentally, both Francis and his father Nicholas Bacon, as sometime Lords Keeper of the Great Seal, once lived in York House, not far from  Whitehall.   Francis  also once  lived in Canonbury House in Islington.


Portrait of Dickinson

In the eighteenth century, Peyton Randolph (1723-1775) received his legal training in Middle Temple, before going  on to become the first President of the Continental Congress in 1774.

The so-called “Penman of the Revolution” John Dickinson (1732-1808) (pictured) also received his legal training in Middle Temple, before going on to help draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the Articles of Confederation in 1781 (he was also very possibly the person who coined the famous phrase “no taxation without representation”).  A further five Middle Templars signed the Declaration of Independence: Thomas Heyward Jr., Thomas Lynch Jr., Thomas McKean,   Arthur Middleton and Edward Rutledge.  An Inner Templar also signed the document: William Paca.

And John Rutledge (1739-1800) received his legal training in Middle Temple, too, before going on to chair the committee that drafted  the Constitution in 1787.  Seven Middle Templars signed the Constitution: John Blair, the aforementioned John Dickinson, Charles Jared Ingersoll, William Livingstone, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, and John Rutledge himself.

2 thoughts on “July 4th  (Independence Day) – London’s Inns of Court and the Founding of the United States of America

  1. Pingback: Gobbets of the week #15 | HistoryLondon

  2. rafterd1972

    How interesting. One does not think about the early legal minds in the early stages of the US as having their training in England, but of course it makes sense. Thank you.


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