Williamson was born in Pennsylvania with a religious upbringing. The Presbyterian school his father sent him to, early in life, taught him the liberal arts. After high school, Williamson attended what is now the University of Pennsylvania. At college Williamson excelled in mathematics as well as teaching other students Latin and English. After he first graduated, he then decided to keep to his Presbyterian roots and study theology where he received a minister’s license. Soon learning that that was not for him he returned to the University of Pennsylvania to study medicine. After earning his Master’s in medicine he kept with his studies going to Europe to receive his Doctorate. He returned back to the colonies in 1768. Soon afterward he was accepted into a philosophical society founded by Benjamin Franklin.
While in the American Philosophical Society, Williamson published many works including studies on climatology, astronomy, and marine biology. Just before the American Revolution, Williamson was traveling across the country and happened to be in Boston during the time of the Tea Party. Soon afterward he would travel to England where he would write a list of grievances known as The Plea of the Colonies on the Charges Brought Against Them by Lord Mansfield, and Others, in a Letter to His Lordship. The pamphlet would be published during the American Revolution, rivaled by Common Sense. During the revolution, Williamson offered his services by becoming a field doctor for the Continentals. His service was not required at the time in that form so he stayed in Philadelphia practicing medicine.
The British invasion would soon drive him out of Philadelphia. He packed up and moved to Charleston only to be displaced once again. After leaving Charleston he headed to Baltimore but was forced to go to Edenton, NC because of the British. While in Edenton, Williamson worked as a tanner, shipbuilder, and a doctor. Governor Caswell noticed the prominent man making him the Surgeon General of North Carolina after he helped soldiers with small pox. He also educated soldiers on the importance of sanitation and diet. Thomas Jefferson noted Williamson as, “a useful member, of an acute mind, attentive to business, and of an high degree of erudition.” Williamson, in 1782, would be elected to General Assembly. Soon after that he joined the Continental Congress.
While with the Congress, Williamson was appointed to five committees, and made upwards to seventy speeches. He is noted for focusing his research on the economic problems of the colonies. He also suggested that the length of terms for members of Congress be six years instead of seven. Later in life he would be elected to the House of Representatives for North Carolina. He would then retire, choosing to move to New York. Before his death in 1819, he published a book on the history of North Carolina. Hugh Williamson was a patriot for the cause. He found his place in politics only after moving to Edenton, North Carolina where he was elected into office.
Humber. John L., Powell, William S. ed. (1996). “Hugh Williamson: Dictionary of North Carolina Biography”, Chapel Hill, NC.
North Carolina History Project. (2013). “Encyclopedia: Hugh Williamson.” Retrieved from: Link
Wright Jr, RK., & MacGregor Jr, MJ. (2000). Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution. Retrieved from: Link