Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

William Wirt (1817–1825): Attorney General

William Wirt was born on November 8, 1772, in Bladensburg, Maryland. He attended Georgetown University, was admitted to the bar in 1792, and practiced law in Culpeper Virginia. Wirt was also appointed chancellor of Virginia's Eastern District and clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1807, Wirt served as prosecuting attorney in the trial of Aaron Burr, and was later appointed U.S. district attorney for Virginia by President James Madison (1816).

Wirt would serve as U.S. attorney general in the cabinets of Presidents James Monroe and John Quincy Adams (1817-1829). He wrote extensive legal opinions and authored Letters of a British Spy (1803), The Rainbow (1808) and The Old Bachelor (1812), and ran unsuccessfully as the anti-Masonic presidential candidate in the election of 1832. William Wirt died in Washington, D.C., on February 18, 1834.