Richard Peters – Continental Congressman – Pennsylvania


Richard Peters (June 22, 1744 – August 22, 1828) sometimes Richard Peters, Jr., to distinguish from his uncle, though this can also mean his son Richard), was an American lawyer, jurist, and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was a delegate for Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress in 1782 and 1783. For many years he was a United States federal judge for Pennsylvania.

==Early years==

Richard was the son of William Peters (1702–1786), who came from Liverpool, England to Philadelphia in 1739. He was named for his uncle, Richard Peters (1704–1776), rector of Christ Church in Philadelphia. Richard was born on his father’s newly acquired country estate, named Belmont, then just outside of Philadelphia. William Peters was a large landowner with rental properties in both America and England; he had a successful law practice in Philadelphia, and was appointed as a judge in the court of common pleas.

Young Richard was educated in his early years at home and then attended the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania). After graduating in 1761, he read law and was admitted to the bar in 1763. He built a successful practice in Philadelphia. He also held a number of colonial government posts, including as Admiralty Register of Philadelphia, from 1771 to 1776.

==Revolutionary War years==

Unlike many of Philadelphia’s lawyers, who had business ties with England and tended to be Loyalists as the Revolution became imminent, Peters sided with the Whig or American cause. A week after the Continental Congress created the Continental Army, they appointed him as the Secretary to their Board of War. Later his position title was changed to Commissioner of the Board of War. He held this post with honor throughout the active phase of the Revolutionary War. When he resigned in 1781, Congress passed a declaration to thank him for “long and faithful service”.

Peters was a good friend and became a benefactor of Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the German officer appointed as Inspector-General and trainer of the Continental Army. Peters often directly paid for his expenses and allowed him and his staff to stay at the family estate, Belmont. In early 1779, von Steuben and his staff completed writing the Blue Book, which was published as the first military manual of the United States Army.

==Legislative and judicial service==

In 1782, he was back with the Congress, this time as a delegate for Pennsylvania. He served in the Congress until 1783.

In 1785 he visited England. With the war over, he was seeking a continuance or reconciliation for the Anglican Church in America. His meetings with John Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury, ultimately bore fruit. The English hierarchy agreed to a formal separation. In 1786 Parliament passed Consecration of Bishops Abroad Act, and on February 14, 1787 the church consecrated bishops from Philadelphia and New York in what became the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

In 1786 he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where he served from 1787 to 1790. He was the Speaker of the House from 1788 onward. In 1791 he entered the Pennsylvania State Senate but served only a year.

On January 12, 1792, Peters was nominated by President George Washington to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Pennsylvania, vacated by William Lewis. Peters was confirmed by the United States Senate on January 13, 1792, and received his commission immediately. He was a party in the Supreme Court cases, United States v. Richard Peters, District Judge, and United States v. Peters On April 20, 1818, the District of Pennsylvania was subdivided, and he was reassigned by operation of law to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which post he held post until his death. His court held sessions in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. During his service on the court, he published Admiralty Decisions in the United States District Court of Pennsylvania (two volumes, 1807).

==Death and legacy==

Peters died at home in 1828 and is buried in St. Peter’s Churchyard Cemetery in Philadelphia.

* His home, known as “Belmont Mansion”, still stands and is open as a museum. It is located at 2000 Belmont Mansion Drive in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, which was established around it.

==Famous descendants==

His son Richard migrated to the South, where he became a founder of Atlanta, Georgia. That Richard’s son, Edward C. Peters, bought and then sold off for development the land that is now the southern half of Midtown Atlanta.