William Wirt, an American lawyer, born in Bladensburg, Md., Nov. 8,1772, died in Washington, D. C., Feb. 18,1834. He was admitted to the bar in 1792, and commenced practice at Culpeper Court House, Va., but in 1795 settled in Charlottesville. In 1799 he removed to Richmond, was elected clerk of the house of delegates, and in 1802 was appointed chancellor of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, but soon resigned to return to the bar at Norfolk. In 1803 he published in the "Virginia Argus" his " Letters of a British Spy," consisting principally of sketches of prominent public orators (10th ed., with a memoir, 12mo, New York, 1832). In 1804 he published in the " Richmond Enquirer " a series of essays under the title of "The Rainbow." He settled in Richmond in 1806, and represented that city in the Virginia house of delegates in 1807-'8. In the prosecution of Aaron Burr he was retained to assist the United States attorney. In 1816 he was appointed attorney of the United States for the district of Virginia, and from 1817 to 1829 he was attorney general of the United States, settling in Baltimore on his retirement.
In 1832 he was the candidate of the anti-masonic party for president of the United States. His best known work is his " Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry " (1817; 15th ed., Hartford, 1852). His life has been written by J. P. Kennedy (2 vols. 8vo, Philadelphia, 1849).