Oliver Ellsworth

Oliver Ellsworth
OliverEllsworth.jpg
3rd Chief Justice of the United States
In office
March 8, 1796 – December 15, 1800
Nominated byGeorge Washington
Preceded byJohn Rutledge
Succeeded byJohn Marshall
United States Senator
from Connecticut
In office
March 4, 1789 – March 8, 1796
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded byJames Hillhouse
Personal details
Born(1745-04-29)April 29, 1745
Windsor, Connecticut, British America
DiedNovember 26, 1807(1807-11-26) (aged 62)
Windsor, Connecticut, U.S.
Political partyFederalist
Spouse(s)Abigail Wolcott
Children9
EducationYale University
Princeton University (BA)
Signature

Oliver Ellsworth (April 29, 1745 – November 26, 1807) was an American lawyer, judge, politician, and diplomat. He was a framer of the United States Constitution, a United States Senator from Connecticut, and the third Chief Justice of the United States. Additionally, Ellsworth received 11 electoral votes in the 1796 presidential election.

Born in Windsor, Connecticut, Ellsworth attended the College of New Jersey where he helped found the American Whig–Cliosophic Society. In 1777, he became the state attorney for Hartford County, Connecticut and was selected as a delegate to the Continental Congress, serving during the American Revolutionary War. He served as a state judge during the 1780s and was selected as a delegate to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, which produced the United States Constitution. While at the convention, Ellsworth played a role in fashioning the Connecticut Compromise between the more populous states and the less populous states. He also served on the Committee of Detail, which prepared the first draft of the Constitution, but he left the convention before signing the document.

His influence helped ensure that Connecticut ratified the Constitution, and he was elected as one of Connecticut's inaugural pair of Senators, serving from 1789 to 1796. He was the chief author of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which shaped the federal judiciary of the United States and established the Supreme Court's power to overturn state supreme court decisions that were contrary to the United States Constitution. Ellsworth served as a key Senate ally to Alexander Hamilton and aligned with the Federalist Party. He led the Senate passage of Hamiltonian proposals such as the Funding Act of 1790 and the Bank Bill of 1791. He also advocated in favor of the United States Bill of Rights and the Jay Treaty.

In 1796, after the Senate rejected the nomination of John Rutledge to serve as Chief Justice, President George Washington nominated Ellsworth to the position. Ellsworth was unanimously confirmed by the Senate, and served until 1800, when he resigned due to poor health. Few cases came before the Ellsworth Court, and he is chiefly remembered for his discouragement of the previous practice of seriatim opinion writing. He simultaneously served as an envoy to France from 1799 to 1800, signing the Convention of 1800 to settle the hostilities of the Quasi-War. He was succeeded as chief justice by John Marshall. He subsequently served on the Connecticut Governor's Council until his death in 1807.

Youth and family life

Ellsworth was born in Windsor, Connecticut, to Capt. David and Jemima (née Leavitt) Ellsworth.[1] He entered Yale in 1762, but transferred to the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) at the end of his second year. Along with William Paterson and Luther Martin (both of whom served with him at the Constitutional Convention in 1787) he founded the "Well Meaning Club," which became the Cliosophic Society—now part of Whig-Clio, the nation's oldest college debating club.[2] He received his A.B. degree in 1766, Phi Beta Kappa[3] after 2 years. Soon afterward, Ellsworth turned to the law. After four years of study, he was admitted to the bar in 1771 and later became a successful lawyer and politician.

In 1772, Ellsworth married Abigail Wolcott, the daughter of Abigail Abbot and William Wolcott, nephew of Connecticut colonial governor Roger Wolcott,[4] and granddaughter of Abiah Hawley and William Wolcott of East Windsor, Connecticut. They had nine children including the twins William Wolcott Ellsworth, who married Noah Webster's daughter, served in Congress and became the governor of Connecticut; and Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, who became the first Commissioner of the United States Patent Office, the mayor of Hartford, president of Aetna Life Insurance and a large benefactor of Yale College. Oliver Ellsworth was the grandfather of Henry L. Ellsworth's son Henry W. Ellsworth.

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