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Brunoniana

From Martha Mitchell’s Encyclopedia Brunoniana:

Wheaton, Henry

Henry Wheaton (1785-1848), diplomat and authority on international law, was born in Providence on November 27, 1785. His parents, Seth and Abigail Wheaton were first cousins. He prepared for college at the University Grammar School and entered Rhode Island College at the age of thirteen. At Commencement in 1802 he delivered an oration on “Progress of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences during the Eighteenth Century.” After graduation he read law in a local law office, and in 1805 went to Europe to study civil law at Poitiers. The next year he began the practice of law in Providence. In 1811 he married his cousin Catharine Wheaton, who was the daughter of Levi Wheaton 1782. Levi, who had a great influence of young Henry, became a professor at the medical school at Brown. In 1812 Henry moved to New York and became editor of the National Advocate, for which he wrote about the War of 1812. He was a justice of the marine court of New York City from 1815 to 1819 and United States Supreme Court reporter from 1816 to 1827. He was a member of the New York State constitutional convention of 1821, served one term in the New York Assembly, and ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate. In 1827 President John Quincy Adams appointed him chargé d’affaires to Denmark, where he negotiated a treaty recovering payment for the seizure of American ships and became proficient in the Danish language. In 1835 he was appointed chargé d’affaires at Berlin and two years later was promoted to envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Prussia. His diplomatic career spanned the administrations of six presidents from John Quincy Adams who appointed him to James K. Polk who dismissed him. On his return to the United States in 1847 he was offered a lectureship in civil and international law at Harvard, but was prevented by ill health from preparing his lectures. He died on March 11, 1848 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Among the writings which made Wheaton famous were Elements of International Law, published in 1836, Enquiry into the Validity of the British Claim to a Right of Visitation and Search of American Vessels Suspected to be Engaged in the African Slave Trade in 1842, and History of the Law of Nations in Europe and America, from the Earliest Times to the Treaty of Washington (a work which was first written in French for a competition of the French Institute, in which it won honorable mention) in 1845. The Library’s Wheaton Collection of International Law, founded in 1902, is named for him.

The above entry appears in Encyclopedia Brunoniana by Martha Mitchell, copyright 1993 by the Brown University Library. It is used here by permission of the author and the University and may not be copied or further distributed without permission.


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