Francesco Vigo
William Paca, original signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Francesco Vigo, advance the American Revolution.

The best evidence we have is that William Paca (Paci, Pacci, Packer) (1740-1799) descended from an Italian family (perhaps the Paca family of Benevento and Naples) that had migrated to England and then emigrated to Maryland in the middle of the seventeenth century. William was born in Maryland in 1740, received a classical education, graduated from the College of Philadelphia in 1759 and studied law in Annapolis and England. Enjoying a successful law practice, he also became prominent in the Maryland legislature from 1764 to 1774. Paca was to serve an even more eventful role with the coming of the American Revolution as a member of the Committees of Correspondence and a member of the Continental Congress that resisted British tyranny. He emerged as one of the bold patriots to reject allegiance to the British crown, used his own money to outfit colonial troops, and proudly signed the original Declaration of Independence. In 1778 he was appointed Chief Judge of the Maryland's General Court and later Chief Judge of the state Court of Appeals in admiralty and prize cases. In 1782 the Maryland legislature elected him to a two-year term as governor and reelected him in 1784. A letter to the editor of the New York Times (July 18, 1937) by Paca's great, great, grandson should dispel any reservations as to Paca's ethnicity wherein he stated that some of his forbears named Pacci came from Italy.

Francesco Vigo (1747-1836) was yet another Italian land explorer to make an impact. Known as Francis and mistakenly referred to as Spanish because worked for a Spanish governor, the Italian born fur trader and pioneer had become a wealthy merchant by the 1870s. During the American Revolution his assistance was valuable to George Rogers Clark, commander of American forces in the West, by providing important military information and financial assistance. That he was a major asset as an intermediary with Indian tribes is underscored by the fact that George Washington asked him to use his influence to discourage Indians from siding with the British during the Revolution. Vigo is accordingly credited with playing an important role in the crucial Battle of Vincennes thus helping to end British rule in the Northwest, even at the risk of his life. A county in the state of Indiana is named after him.

William Paca

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