ELLERY, WILLIAM. (1727–1820). Signer. Rhode Island. Born in Newport, Rhode Island, on 22 December 1727, William Ellery graduated from Harvard in 1747 and went to work for his father, a wealthy merchant. With his father'sdeath in 1764, Elleryturnedto politics and law. He joined the Sons of Liberty that year and entered the bar in 1769. An early advocate of colonial rights, he was sent to the Continental Congress in May 1776. Ellery sat in Congress continuously until 1786, with the exceptions of 1780 and 1782. He served on many committees and specialized in naval and commercial matters. During the British occupation of Rhode Island, his house was burned and his property sacked. He was named chief justice of the Rhode Island superior court but never took his seat, feeling himself more valuable in Congress. He was commissioner of the Continental Loan Office for Rhode Island (18 April 1786–1 January 1790) and, from 1790 until his death on 15 February 1820, collector of the port of Newport.
Fowler, William M., Jr. William Ellery: A Rhode Island Politico and Lord of Admiralty. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1973.
revised by Michael Bellesiles