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John Young Mason

April 18, 1799
October 3, 1859
Home Town:
Greensville County, VA
Later Residences:
Southampton County, VA
Richmond, VA
Mary Fort Mason (August 9, 1821)
Biographical Notes:
John Young Mason was born at "Homestead," the family plantation. His parents were Edmunds Mason, the Clerk of the Court of Greensville, VA for twenty years, and his wife Frances Ann Young. He began his legal studies in 1816 by studying with Judge Griffin Stith of Jerusalem, VA. However, in early August of that year, Mason became very ill and took a trip to the southern part of the state. Mason later wrote that he met many lovely girls there who cured him of his afflictions. He returned to study with Judge Stith in December of 1816, but Stith died only six months later.

His father wanted to send him away for further legal education, but was concerned about student "riots" at William & Mary in February of 1817. Therefore, he went to study at the Litchfield Law School where he was one ...
"Exclusive of the great benefit arising from attending the lectures, (which are really the most masterly production) we enjoy a decided advantage over any place which, I have ever visited, in the situation of our Chambers. They are perfectly retired. Each student has a room to lodge & study in, along, & is never liable to interruptions -- insomuch that there are many young Gentlemen in the office who read & write 14 hours of the 24."

"The situation of the place is beautiful & romantic. It stands on the top of a hill, commanding an extensive prospect, of which are some of the finest & best-cultivated farms I ever saw -- which are finely contrasted by two lakes of considerable size, on which the Gentlemen have more sport in skating when the snow will permit them."

John Young Mason to his father, January 28, 1818 (Virginia Historical Society)

Years at LLS:
Other Education:
Attended the "old field school" taught by his neighbor James Heath until the age of ten, and then studied at the Academy in Chapel Hill in 1816 before attending the University of North Carolina in 1816.

Profession / Service
Lawyer; Political Office
Admitted To Bar:
February 8, 1819
Political Party:
Federal Posts:
U.S. Representative (VA) 1831-1837
Judge for the U.S. Eastern District of VA (VA) 1837
Secretary of the Navy 1844-1845, 1846-1849
Attorney General 1845
U.S. Minister to France (France) 1853-1859
Federal Committees:
Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in 1835 and 1836.
State Posts:
State Representative (VA) 1823-1827
State Senator (VA) 1827-1831
Judge of the General Court (VA) 1837
State Committees:
Delegate to the 1829 VA Constitutional Convention

Related Objects and Documents
In the Ledger:
help The Citation of Attendance provides primary source documentation of the student’s attendance at the Litchfield Female Academy and/or the Litchfield Law School. If a citation is absent, the student is thought to have attended but currently lacks primary source confirmation.

Records for the schools were sporadic, especially in the formative years of both institutions. If instructors kept comprehensive records for the Litchfield Female Academy or the Litchfield Law School, they do not survive. Researchers and staff have identified students through letters, diaries, family histories and genealogies, and town histories as well as catalogues of students printed in various years. Art and needlework have provided further identification of Female Academy Students, and Litchfield County Bar records document a number of Law School students. The history of both schools and the identification of the students who attended them owe credit to the early 20th century research and documentation efforts of Emily Noyes Vanderpoel and Samuel Fisher, and the late 20th century research and documentation efforts of Lynne Templeton Brickley and the Litchfield Historical Society staff.
Houghton, Josiah. "LLS Law Notebook 1817-1818." Litchfield Law School Collection, Series 1, Subseries 1, Litchfield Historical Society. Available online at

Catalogue of the Litchfield Law School Hartford, CT: Press of Case, Tiffany and Company, 1849.
Secondary Sources:
Williams, Frances Leigh. "The Heritage and Preparation of A Statesman, John Young Mason, 1799-1859." The Virginia Magazine vol. 75, no. 3 (July, 1967).

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