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Benjamin Chew

Benjamin Chew (November 19, 1722 - January 20, 1810) was the Chief Justice of colonial Pennsylvania.

Benjamin the son of a Doctor Samuel Chew, and Mary Galloway Chew. 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. When Hamilton died on August 4, 1741 he visited his father's new home, in Kent County, Delaware before going abroad. He studied law at the Inns of Court in London, and returned to America in 1744. He began to practice law in Dover, Delaware in 1746, but moved to Philadelphia in 1754. He was raised as a Quaker, but became an Anglican after he argued that the use of force in self-defense should be allowed.

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 thee 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), and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1775-1777).

Benjamin married twice. He wed Mary Galloway, 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 9 more (Benjamin, Margaret, Joseph, Juliana, Henrietta, Sophia, Maria, Harriet, and Catherine).

He built his estate named Clivedon at Germantown, Pennsylvania between 1763 and 1767. This house gained fame during the Battle of Germantown, when it was know as the Chew House. It still stands as an historic site, and is open to the public.

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 of 1777 he was arrested along with Governor John Penn, and taken to Union, New Jersey. He was released at Union after giving his parole that he wouldn't try to leave the area. On May 15, 1778 the Continental Congress passed a resolution that released him from that parole, and he returned to his home.

After independence, Chew was the President of Pennsylvania's Court of Appeals from 1791 until he retired in 1806. He died at Germantown and is buried in Philadelphia's St. Peters Churchyard.

Note: The Benjamin Chew was a liberty ship built about 1942 by the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyards in Baltimore, Maryland.

External link

The Chew House Museum