William Wirt

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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William Wirt (1772-1834) was Attorney General of the United States under James Monroe and the 1832 anti-Masonic candidate for president. For Thomas Jefferson, Wirt served as a Democratic Republican Party lawyer over the years. Born in Bladensburg Maryland, he moved to Culpeper Virginia in 1792, passed the bar in Virginia, and met his future wife Mildred Gilmor, father of George Gilmer and close friend of Jefferson's.

This Gilmer connection brought Wirt into Jefferson's orbit. Jefferson seemed to appreciate his legal skills since he hired Wirt in the case of Cobbs v. Jefferson. After Mildred's death in 1799, Jefferson recommended him to be the clerk of the House of Delegates. He served as counsel in the sedition trial representing James Callender where he lost the case and Callender served some jail time. In 1807, he prosecuted Aaron Burr for treason and he lost that case. James Madison made him a U.S. attorney, then served for one year as the U.S. Attorney General for James Monroe in 1817.

Jefferson offered Wirt a professorship in law at the University of Virginia, but he turned it down. After Jefferson's death, Wirt gave a eulogy to him and John Adams in the House of Representatives on October 19, 1826.

Primary Source References[1]

1796 June 16. "Pd. Mr. Wirt 5.D. fee in Cobbs's suit agt. me."[2]


  1. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  2. MB, 2:942.

Further Sources