Francis was the son of Francis and Martha (Turner) Rawle. The elder Francis Rawle (1663-1727) is recognized as one of the first great legal minds of this country. In 1691 he was appointed as one of Philadelphia's first six alderman and later served in the Pennsylvania Constitutional Assembly and Council. In 1725 Francis Rawle published "Ways and means for the inhabitants on the Delaware to become rich". This controversial pamphlet was the first publication printed by Benjamin Franklin and predates the 1728 founding of Franklin's own business. Francis Rawle is also credited for having proposed the idea of paper money to Franklin. Highly impressed with this idea, Franklin applauded and promoted it as a method of stabilizing the economy of the growing nation.
Francis and Rebecca Rawle's son, William, followed into his grandfather's legal footprints. William (1759-1836) studied law in both Philadelphia and at Middle Temple in London. In 1783 he founded Rawle Law Offices shortly after he was admitted to the bar. The firm which is now known as Rawle & Henderson is recognized as the "oldest law office in continuous practice in America". In 1787 William was elected to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Assembly, and four years later he was appointed by George Washington as the first U.S. Attorney for the District of Pennsylvania in 1791. Washington also offered William the positions as federal judge of Pennsylvania and U.S. Attorney General, but William declined both positions, preferring to continue with his law practice. In 1822 William was appointed the first chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, a position he held until his death. In addition to his legal conquests, William Rawle served on many philanthropic committees. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society and was a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania and the Library Company pf Philadelphia. William was also a founder of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and served as the Society's first president. The Rawle family's papers and portraits are currently preserved and maintained by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
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