Johnson, William Samuel

first name (variants): Samuel
honorific(s): Dr.
Birth: October 7, 1727 in Stratford, CT
Death: November 14, 1819 in Stratford, CT

Yale College; Episcopalian; Colony of Connecticut


Yale (1744, and M.A. 1747), honorary masters from Harvard, honorary doctorate from Oxford






Lawyer, colonial agent, politician (House and Senate), President of Columbia (1787-1800)

  • London, England (from 1767 to 1771)

Mason Case: Johnson represented the Colony of Connecticut in the final hearing of the Mason Case, at London in 1771.

Marital status

Johnson was married twice.


Dr. William Samuel Johnson was a Connecticut lawyer who represented the Colony of Connecticut in the final hearing of the Mason Case. The Mason Case was a land dispute between the Colony of Connecticut and the Mohegan tribe that lasted for the better part of the 18th century. The legal issue was whether the Mohegan’s land had been placed in trust to the Mason family or the Colony. If it was entrusted to the Mason family, then the Colony did not have the jurisdiction to force the Mohegan off their land. If it was entrusted to the Colony, however, then the Colony was well within their rights in expelling the Mohegan from the majority of their territory. In 1771, with Dr. Johnson’s aid, the case was decided in favor of the Colony. William Samuel Johnson was the son of the Reverend Samuel Johnson, a prominent Anglican minister and the first president of King’s College (renamed Columbia after the Revolution). William Samuel Johnson also held Columbia's presidency, from 1787 until 1800, and Wheelock consulted him about Dartmouth's charter. Johnson was very involved in American politics before and after the Revolution and exerted substantial influence on the Constitution.


Beardsley, Eben Edwards. Life and Times of William Samuel Johnson, LL.D. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1876. Accessed via GoogleBooks. Drake, Francis Samuel. Dictionary of American Biography. Boston: Houghton, Osgood, and Company, 1879. Accessed via GoogleBooks. University of Groningen (Netherlands). “A Biography of William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819).” In American History from the Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond. George M. Welling ed. Accessed via 12/1/2013. Wright, Robert K. Jr. and Macgregor, Morris J. Jr. “William Samuel Johnson.” In Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution. Washington: United States Army Center for Military History 1987. Accessed via 12/1/2013.

Further reading

On the Mason Case, see Brooks, Lisa. The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2008. Silverman, David J. Red Brethren: The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in Early America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2010.