Memory stream

A letter from Yeates to Benjamin Franklin, dated July 6, 1776.
A letter from Yeates to Benjamin Franklin, dated July 6, 1776.

Dipping into Philadelphia's illustrated past

Posted: April 22, 2013

Jasper Yeates, born in Philadelphia, was once the most prominent lawyer in Lancaster County. He was a delegate to the state convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution, and served more than 20 years as a state Supreme Court justice.

Yeates earned a bachelor's degree from the College of Philadelphia in 1761, and shortly thereafter went on to study law. After his admission to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1765, he started his law practice in Lancaster.

In addition to his legal duties, Yeates served as captain in the Lancaster militia. Those duties were interrupted when the Continental Congress appointed him to a Commission of Indian Affairs to negotiate a treaty with the Lenape (Delaware) Indians at Fort Pitt. The commission's efforts resulted in the Treaty of Fort Pitt in 1778, which gave American soldiers the right to travel through Delaware territory.

The low point in Yeates' career came in 1803, when he, Chief Justice Edward Shippen, and Justice Thomas Smith were impeached by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for charging a man named Thomas Passmore with contempt of court. The three judges were acquitted by the Senate in 1805, and Yeates continued to serve as a justice until his death in 1817.


Content and images provided by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. For more stories, visit www.hsp.org.

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