Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

William Bradford (1794–1795): Attorney General

William Bradford Jr. was born in 1755 in Philadelphia. He earned both his bachelor’s (1772) and master's (1775) degrees from Princeton College and then studied law.

In 1776, Bradford volunteered for the Revolutionary Army and soon rose from the rank of private to colonel. In 1777, he declined a seat in the Continental Congress to remain with the Army, doing so until 1779, when health problems forced him to leave the military. He then resumed his legal studies and was admitted to the bar in 1779. Shortly thereafter, he assumed the office of attorney general for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a post he held for eleven years.

In 1791, the governor of Pennsylvania nominated Bradford to the state supreme court; Bradford left the position three years later to succeed Edmund Randolph as President George Washington's attorney general. Although he helped settle the Whiskey Rebellion, William Bradford Jr.'s tenure in that post was short, as he died in 1795 after only nineteen months in office.