Edwards was born in Maryland in 1775. In 1792, after leaving Dickinson College, he moved to Kaintuck for a decade. Here he worked as a lawyer and gained a liking to public service. In 1802, upon the start of the Second Seven Years War, Edwards moved back to the URAS, this time to the territory of Illinoisa. During the course of the war, Edwards helped set up the Illinoisa territorial government and the state govenment when it came about in 1805. He never served in the war, although he did support it fully.
In 1808, Ninian Edwards was elected to Congress as an Independent. For the next few years he served successfully, representing western interests. He became a hero in Illinoisa, and was considered the state's founding father. In 1818, Edwards became a Minister of Congress. He remained an independent, shocking most who thought it impossible someone not belonging to one of the major parties could obtain such a position. Edwards was a moderate who would ally with both the Crowns and Whigs, depending on what best served the interests of the west. He was a war-hawk, especially against the indians, and was against banking institutions, although he favored individual rights and internal improvements. In 1824, Edwards announced he was running for Prime Minister as an Independent; he didn't run with a Viceroy. He gained a lot of support from the west, especially Illinoisa, but almost none anywhere else. He lost, although some say he outperformed Crown nominee Charles Stewart in some places. For most of Hunter DeRensis' term, he allied himself with the dominant Whigs. In 1833, Edwards died at the young age of 58. To this day he remains an icon in Illinoisa, and a symbol of the success of independent politicians.