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Zephaniah Swift

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Title: Zephaniah Swift  
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Subject: Joshua Coit, Josiah Meigs, Rufus P. Spalding, United States House of Representatives elections, 1794, United States House of Representatives elections, 1796
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Zephaniah Swift

Zephaniah Swift
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's At-large district
In office
March 4, 1793 – March 3, 1797
Preceded by Joshua Coit
Succeeded by Uriah Tracy
Personal details
Born (1759-02-27)February 27, 1759
Wareham, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died September 27, 1823(1823-09-27) (aged 64)
Warren, Ohio, U.S.
Citizenship USA
Political party Pro-Administration Party and Federalist
Spouse(s) Jerusha Watrous Swift and Lucretia Webb Swift
Children Henry Swift, George Swift, Edward Swift, Lucretia Swift and Emily Swift
Alma mater Yale College
Occupation Lawyer, Author, Politician, Judge

Zephaniah Swift (February 27, 1759 – September 27, 1823) was an eighteenth-century American author, judge, lawyer and politician from Windham, Connecticut. He served as a U.S. Representative from Connecticut and State Supreme Court Judge. He wrote the first legal treatise published in America.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Published works 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Early life and education

Swift was born in Wareham, Massachusetts to Rowland Swift and Mary (Dexter) Swift.[1] He moved with his parents to Lebanon, Connecticut. He completed preparatory studies and graduated from Yale College in 1778.[2] He studied law, was admitted to the bar and began the practice of law in Windham, Connecticut.[3]


He served in the State's House of Representatives from 1787 to 1793, serving as speaker in 1792, and clerk of the house for four sessions.[4] Swift represented Connecticut in the U.S. House as a Pro-Administration candidate to the Third Congress and as a Federalist candidate to the Fourth Congress. He served in Congress from March 4, 1793 to March 3, 1797.[5]

In 1795, Swift wrote "A System of the Law of the State of Connecticut", the first legal treatise published in America.[6][7]

After serving in Congress, Swift resumed the practice of law in Windham and engaged in literary pursuits. He wrote "A Digest of the Laws of the State of Connecticut" which was published in 1820.[8] He was a member of the Connecticut council of assistants in 1799 and 1801.[9]

Swift served as secretary of the French mission in 1800.[10] He was judge of the Connecticut Supreme Court beginning in 1801 and served as the Chief Justice from 1806 to 1819.[11] Swift was a member of the Hartford Convention from 1814 to 1815, and was an advocate of secession in opposition to the War of 1812.[12] When the Connecticut Constitution was adopted in 1818, he lost favor with his colleagues due to his support of secession and lost his position in the Supreme Court.

In 1815 Swift received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Yale College.[13] Swift again served as a member of the State's House of Representatives, serving from 1820 to 1822.[14]

Personal life

Swift married Jerusha Watrous Swift (1763–1792) and they had one son together, Henry Swift.[15][16] Swift later married Lucretia Webb Swift (1775–1743) on March 14, 1795.[17] They had four children together, George Swift, Edward Swift, Lucretia Swift and Emily Swift.[18][19][20][21]

Zephaniah Swift died on September 27, 1823 while visiting his children in Warren, Ohio. He is interred in Oakwood Cemetery in Warren.[22]

Published works

  • "A System of the Law of the State of Connecticut" (1795)
  • "A Digest of the Laws of the State of Connecticut" (1820)


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Further reading

  • Dexter, Franklin Bowditch. Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College: July 1778 – June 1792, Holt, 1907

External links

  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: SWIFT, Zephaniah, (1759–1823)
  • Find A Grave: Zephaniah Swift
  • Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries: Zephaniah Swift's First Legal Texts in America
  • Litchfied Historical Society: Zephaniah Swift
  • The Political Graveyard: Swift, Zephaniah (1759–1823)
  • Rep. Zephaniah Swift

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
District created
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
John Allen
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