Paterson, William, 1745–1806, American political leader and jurist, b. Co. Antrim, Ireland. He emigrated to America as a child. Raised in New Jersey, he practiced law there and was attorney general (1776–83) of the state before he became a delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention (1787). He was prominent as a champion of the rights of the small states; he set forth the New Jersey, or small state, plan (sometimes called the Paterson plan). He later played a prominent part in state and national life as U.S. Senator (1789–90), governor of New Jersey (1791–93), and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1793–1806).
See biography by J. O'Connor (1979).