Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BURNET, William, physician, born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, 13 December, 1730; died in Newark, New Jersey, 7 October, 1791. He was the son of a physician who came from Scotland, was a graduate of Princeton in 1749, the second year of the College, and became a physician, he held at different times various offices in the state government, was elected to congress under the confederation in 1776, was a member of congress in 1780-'1, and surgeon-general of the eastern district of the United States from 1776 till the close of the revolutionary war. He suffered much in property by the depredations of the enemy, who carried off his valuable library. He was a skilful and successful physician, of extensive practice.--His son, Jacob, jurist, born in Newark, New Jersey, 22 February, 1770; died in Cincinnati, Ohio, 10 May, 1853, was graduated at Princeton in 1791, studied law in the office of Judge Boudinot, and was admitted to the bar in 1796. The same year he removed to Ohio, where he became distinguished as a lawyer and was a leading citizen in the new settlement of Cincinnati. In 1799 he was appointed to the legislative council of the territory, continuing a member of that body, in which he took the most prominent part in the preparation of legislative measures, until the formation of a state government. In 1812 he was a member of the state legislature, a judge of the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1821-'8, and in 1828-'31 United States senator. He was chosen by the legislature of Kentucky a commissioner to adjust certain territorial disputes with Virginia. He took part in the establishment of the Lancastrian academy in Cincinnati, and was one of the founders of the Cincinnati College, and its first president, and was active in reorganizing the Medical College of Ohio. He was a delegate to the Harrisburg convention in 1839, and was mainly instrumental in securing the nomination of Harrison to the presidency. He was the first president of the Colonization society of Cincinnati. His efforts to alleviate the distress felt by purchasers of western lands, on account of indebtedness to the government which they were unable to discharge, resulted in an act of congress granting relief to the entire west, extricating the settlers from serious financial distress. The debt due to the government amounted to $22,000,000, exceeding the volume of currency in circulation in the west, and threatening both farmers and speculators with bankruptcy. The people of the southwest were in the same situation: all the banks had suspended payment, and forcible resistance was threatened if the government should attempt to dispossess the settlers. Judge Burnett drew up a memorial to congress, proposing a release of back interest and permission to settlers to relinquish as much of the land entered as they were unable to pay for. The inhabitants of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys generally approved the memorial, and in 1821 congress granted relief in the form desired. In 1830 Judge Burnett secured the revocation of the forfeiture of the congressional land-grant to the state of Ohio for the extension of the Miami canal, and an additional grant that emboldened the legislature of Ohio to carry out the work. He published "Notes on the Early Settlement of the Northwestern Territory" (New York, 1847).--Another son, David G., Texan politician, born in Newark, New Jersey, 4 April, 1789; died in Galveston, Texas, 5 December, 1870, entered a counting-house in New York, and in 1806 joined General 31iranda's expedition to Venezuela. He became a merchant in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in 1817, then studied law in Cincinnati, and in 1826 went to Texas, then a Mexican state, and entered zealously into the contest to wrest the state from Mexico and establish a republic. He was a member of the San Felipe convention, 1 April, 1833, and was appointed judge of the municipality of Austin in 1834. After the assumption of dictatorial powers by Santa Anna, the convention of 1 March, 1836, issued a declaration of independence, and on 16 March, chose 31r. Burnett provisional president of the new republic. Four weeks later he fled before Santa Anna, and escaped to Galveston, which was made the seat of the government. On 22 October he gave over the government into the hands of Houston, the constitutionally elected president. He was afterward elected vice-president, and, after the admission of Texas to the union, lived in retirement near the battle-field of San Jacinto. He remained in the south during the civil war, and at its close was elected in 1866 to the U.S. senate from Texas, but congress refused to admit him. After that he resided in retirement on his plantation near Houston.
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