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Oliver Ellsworth

1745-1807

3d Chief Justice of the U.S. SUPREME COURT (1796-99)


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ELLSWORTH, Oliver, jurist, born in Windsor, Colin., 29 April 1745; died there, 26 November 1807. He entered Yale in 1762, but afterward went to Princeton, where he was graduated in 1766. with high rank as a scholar. After a year's study of theology he abandoned it for the law, and was admitted to the bar of Hartford County in 1771. He married in the following year, and for three years divided his attention between farming and practice. Becoming states' attorney in 1775, he sold his farm, removed to Hartford, and soon acquired a larger and more remunerative practice than any other member of the Connecticut bar. As a Whig he was chosen, at the outbreak of the Revolution, to represent Windsor in the general assembly, was one of the committee of four, called "the Paytable," that managed all the military finances of the colony, and in October, 1778, took his seat as a delegate to the Continental congress, where he served on the marine committee (acting as a board of admiralty) and the committee of appeals. By yearly election, from 1780 till 1784, he was a member of the governor's council, in which he held unrivalled influence, and in June 1783, left his seat in congress and, although reelected, declined to serve.  

In 1784 he declined the appointment of commissioner of the treasury, tendered by congress, but accepted a legislative assignment as judge of the Connecticut superior court, which he held until made a member of the Federal convention at Philadelphia in May 1787. Here he was conspicuous in advocacy of the rights of the individual states, and it was on his motion that the words "National government" were expunged from the constitution and the words "Government of the United States" substituted. His name was not affixed to that document, because pressing domestic considerations compelled his return home as soon as all of the provisions of the constitution had been completed; but his force and energy were successful the next year in securing its ratification, against much opposition, in the Connecticut state convention.

 

When the new government was organized at New York in 1789, he was one of the senators from Connecticut, and was chairman of the committee for organizing the U. S. judiciary, the original bill, in his own handwriting, passing with but slight alterations, and its provisions being still in force. His watchfulness over the public expenditures earned for him the title of "the Cerberus of the Treasury," and his abilities were strenuously exercised in building up the financial credit of the government, and for the encouragement and protection of manufactures. John Adams spoke of him as "the finest pillar of Washington's whole administration," and he was, by common consent, the Federalist leader in the senate.  

He suggested the mission of John Jay to England in 1794, and by his influence Jay's treaty, though strenuously opposed in the House of Representatives, was defended and approved by the senate. In March 1796, he was appointed chief justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, and served with distinguished ability till 1799, when President Adams, on the recommendation of the senate, appointed him, with Patrick Henry and Governor William R. Davie, an extraordinary commission to negotiate with France, the relations between which nation and the United States were then severely strained. On reaching Paris, 2 March 1800, they found Napoleon Bonaparte at the head of the new republic, and soon concluded a satisfactory adjustment of all disputes.  

The negotiations and discussions were conducted almost exclusively by Judge Ellsworth, and secured all the points most essential to the securing of peace, including a recognition from France of the rights of neutral vessels, and an indemnity for depredations on American commerce. Ill health preventing his immediate return, Mr. Ellsworth sent home his resignation as chief justice and visited England, where, while trying the mineral springs at Bath and elsewhere, he became the recipient of marked attention from the court and from leading public men, as well as from the English bench and bar. After his return to his home in April 1801, his impaired health decided him to remain free from the cares of public life, but in 1802 he was again elected a member of the governor's council, which acted as a Supreme Court of errors, being the final court of appeals in Connecticut from all inferior courts of state jurisdiction. 

In May 1807, on a reorganization of the state judiciary, he was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court, but failing health compelled his resignation within a few months, and he died soon afterward. His extraordinary endowments, accomplishments as an advocate, integrity as a judge, patriotism as a legislator and ambassador, and sincerity as a Christian, were fitly complemented by a fine personal presence and by manners at once plain, unaffected, and social, yet tinctured with a courtliness and dignity which impressed all with whom he came in contact. In 1790 Yale, and in 1797 both Dartmouth and Princeton conferred on him the degree of LB. D.-- Edited AC  Biography Copyright© 2001 by VirtualologyTM




US Bureau of Engraving
 
Born April 29, 1745, in Windsor, CT
Died November 26, 1807, in Windsor, CT

Federal Judicial Service:
Supreme Court of the United States, Chief Justice
Nominated by George Washington on March 3, 1796, to a seat vacated by John Jay; Confirmed by the Senate on March 4, 1796, and received commission on March 4, 1796. Service terminated on September 30, 1800, due to resignation.

Education:
Princeton University, B.A., 1766

Read law, 1771

Professional Career:
Private practice, Windsor, Connecticut, 1771-1775
Member, Connecticut General Assembly, 1773-1775
Private practice, Hartford, Connecticut, 1775-1784
State's attorney, Hartford, Connecticut, 1777-1785
Delegate, Continental Congress, 1778-1783
Member, Connecticut Council of Safety, 1779
Member, Connecticut Governor's Council, 1784-1785
Judge, Connecticut Superior Court, 1784-1789
Delegate, United States Constitutional Convention, 1787
U.S. Senator from Connecticut, 1789-1796
U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to France, 1799-1800
Member, Connecticut Governor's Council, 1801-1807

Race or Ethnicity: White

Gender: Male
Manuscript sources

Source: Federal Judicial Center

Research Links

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Ellsworth, Oliver
... Ellsworth, Oliver, 1745 1807 , American political leader, third Chief Justice of
the United States (1796 1800), b. Windsor, Conn. A Hartford lawyer, he was ...

USA: Oliver Ellsworth
A Biography of Oliver Ellsworth (1745-1807). quote
Oliver Ellsworth was born on April 29, 1745 ...

Ellsworth, Oliver
... Ellsworth, Oliver (1745-1807), one of the nation's founding fathers and third Chief
Justice of the United States, received half of his undergraduate education ...

Ellsworth, Oliver
Ellsworth, Oliver (1745 1807), US statesman and jurist, born in Windsor, Conn.;
US senator from Connecticut 1789 96; drafted bill organizing federal courts ...

Ellsworth, Oliver. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. ...
... The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001. Ellsworth, Oliver. 1745 1807, American
political leader, third Chief Justice of the United States (1796 1800), b ...

ELLSWORTH, Oliver
... 1799. ELLSWORTH, Oliver (1745-1807), American statesman,
third chief justice of the US (1796-99). ...

Oliver Ellsworth Writings and Biography
Oliver Ellsworth Writings and Biography. Ellsworth, Oliver; 1745-1807; lawyer, statesman,
judge; member of Continental Congress 1777-1783; member of Governor's ...

Oliver Ellsworth
Oliver Ellsworth. 1745-1807. Connecticut. Connecticut Legislature; Continental Congress,
1778-83; Governor's Council and State judge; Deputy to United States ...

Oliver Ellsworth
... Oliver Ellsworth lived from 1745 to 1807. He was an American political leader and
the third Chief Justice of the United States from 1796 to 1800. Ellsworth was ...

The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Ellsworth
... Cemetery, Albuquerque, NM (See also his congressional biography.); Ellsworth,
Oliver (1745-1807) Father of William Wolcott Ellsworth. Born in Windsor, Conn ...

Judges of the United States Courts
... Topics | Courthouses | Publications | Links | Contact ] Ellsworth, Oliver Born April
29, 1745, in Windsor, CT Died November 26, 1807, in Windsor, CT Federal ...

National Historic Landmarks Database
... 1989): From 1782 to 1807, Elmwood was the Connecticut home of Oliver Ellsworth (1745-1807),
a framer of the United States Constitution, author of the Judiciary ...

Geo Washington letter to Oliver Ellsworth
... Oliver Ellsworth's lineage* goes as follows: Oliver Ellsworth, April 29, 1745, in
Windsor, CT, d. November 26, 1807 s/o David Ellsworth, 17 Jul 1709-5 Mar 1782 ...

Delegates to the Constitutional Convention: Connecticut
... born on April 29, 1745, in Windsor, CT ... the Pay Table, Oliver Ellsworth was one ... in early
1801, Ellsworth retired from public ... on November 26, 1807, and was buried ...

Oliver Ellsworth Homestead
... Born in 1745, Oliver Ellsworth was one of the ... Ellsworth and his wife, Abigail Wolcott ... they
remained until his death in 1807. While living at the Homestead ...

Biography.com
... Ellsworth, David, 1944 --. Ellsworth, Lincoln, 1880
-- 1951. Ellsworth, Oliver, 1745 -- 1807. Ellsworth ...

Anti-Federalist Society
... Chapel Cemetery, Millwood, Va. (See also his congressional biography.) Ellsworth,
Oliver (1745-1807) Father of William Wolcott Ellsworth. Born in Windsor, Conn ...

Sectionalism
... , Oliver Ellsworth (1745-1807) Connecticut Senator, jurist Oliver Ellsworth
and Rufus King corner John Taylor of Caroline County, Virginia in a Senate ...

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