William Ellery, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, born in Newport, R. I., Dec. 22, 1727, died there, Feb. 15, 1820. He graduated at Harvard college in 1747, and became a merchant in Newport; was naval officer of the colony of Rhode Island; and in 1770 he commenced the practice of the law. In May, 1776, he was elected to the memorable congress of that year as one of the delegates from Rhode Island, and with his colleague, Stephen Hopkins, he set his name to the Declaration of Independence. He remained in congress till 1786, with the exception of the years 1780 and 1782; and as a member of the marine committee, and subsequently of the board of admiralty, he exercised considerable influence. The plan of fire ships to be fitted out at Newport has been attributed to him. In April, 1786, he was elected by congress commissioner of the continental loan office for the state of Rhode Island, and in 1790 was appointed by "Washington collector of Newport, an office which he held until his death.

A biography of him by his grandson, Edward T. Channing is contained in Sparks's "American Biography," vol. vi.