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Oliver Ellsworth

Oliver Ellsworth

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Oliver Ellsworth was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 lawyer and politician, a revolutionary against British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 rule, a drafter of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

, and the third Chief Justice of the United States
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

. While at the Federal Convention, Ellsworth moved to strike the word National from the motion made by Edmund Randolph
Edmund Randolph
Edmund Jennings Randolph was an American attorney, the seventh Governor of Virginia, the second Secretary of State, and the first United States Attorney General.-Biography:...

 of Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

. Randolph had moved successfully to call the government the National Government of United States. Ellsworth moved that the government should continue to be called the United States Government.

Youth and family life


Ellsworth was born in Windsor, Connecticut
Windsor, Connecticut
Windsor is a town in Hartford County, Connecticut, United States, and was the first English settlement in the state. It lies on the northern border of Connecticut's capital, Hartford. The population was estimated at 28,778 in 2005....

, to Capt. David and Jemima (née Leavitt) Ellsworth. He entered Yale
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 in 1762, but transferred to the College of New Jersey (later Princeton
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

) at the end of his second year. (Today, he would not have been able to do this, since Princeton no longer allows transfer applications). He continued to study theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 and received his A.B.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 degree, Phi Beta Kappa after 2 years. Soon afterward, however, 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
Nephew
Nephew is a son of one's sibling or sibling-in-law, and niece is a daughter of one's sibling or a sibling-in-law. Sons and daughters of siblings-in-law are also informally referred to as nephews and nieces respectively, even though there is no blood relation...

 of Connecticut colonial governor Roger Wolcott
Roger Wolcott (Connecticut)
Roger Wolcott was an American weaver and statesman from Windsor, Connecticut. He served as colonial governor of Connecticut from 1751 to 1754.Roger was born to Simon and Martha Wolcott in Windsor, Connecticut...

, and granddaughter of Abiah Hawley and William Wolcott of East Windsor, Connecticut
East Windsor, Connecticut
East Windsor is a town in Hartford County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 11,162 at the 2010 census.The town has five villages: Broad Brook, Melrose, Scantic, Warehouse Point and Windsorville.-Area:...

. They had nine children including the twins William Wolcott Ellsworth
William W. Ellsworth
William Wolcott Ellsworth was a Yale-educated attorney who served as the 30th Governor of Connecticut, a three-term United States Congressman, a Justice on the State Supreme Court, and who twice turned down nomination to the state's United States Senate seat...

, who married Noah Webster
Noah Webster
Noah Webster was an American educator, lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author...

's daughter, served in Congress and became the governor of Connecticut ; and Henry Leavitt Ellsworth
Henry Leavitt Ellsworth
Henry Leavitt Ellsworth was a Yale-educated attorney who became the first Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office, where he encouraged innovation by inventors Samuel F.B. Morse and Samuel Colt...

, who became the first Commissioner of the United States Patent Office
United States Patent and Trademark Office
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is an agency in the United States Department of Commerce that issues patents to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark registration for product and intellectual property identification.The USPTO is based in Alexandria, Virginia,...

, the mayor of Hartford, president of Aetna Life Insurance
Aetna
Aetna, Inc. is an American health insurance company, providing a range of traditional and consumer directed health care insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmaceutical, dental, behavioral health, group life, long-term care, and disability plans, and medical management...

 and a large benefactor of Yale College
Yale College
Yale College was the official name of Yale University from 1718 to 1887. The name now refers to the undergraduate part of the university. Each undergraduate student is assigned to one of 12 residential colleges.-Residential colleges:...

.

Service during the Revolutionary War


From a slow start Ellsworth built up a prosperous law practice. In 1777, he became Connecticut's state attorney for Hartford County
Hartford County, Connecticut
Hartford County is a county located in the north central part of the US state of Connecticut. The 2010 Census records show that the county population is at 894,014 making it the second most populated county in Connecticut....

. That same year, he was chosen as one of Connecticut's representatives in the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

. He served on various committees until 1783, including the Marine Committee, the Board of Treasury, and the Committee of Appeals. Ellsworth was also active in his state's efforts during the Revolution
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, having served as a member of the Committee of the Pay Table that supervised Connecticut's war expenditures. In 1777 he joined the Committee of Appeals, which can be described as a forerunner of the Federal Supreme Court. While serving on it, he participated in the Olmstead case that first brought state and federal authority into conflict. In 1779, he assumed greater duties as a member of the Council of Safety, which, with the governor, controlled all military measures for the state. His first judicial service was on the Supreme Court of Errors when it was established in 1784, but he soon shifted to the Connecticut Superior Court and spent four years on its bench.

Work on the United States Constitution


On May 28, 1787, Ellsworth joined the Constitutional Convention
Philadelphia Convention
The Constitutional Convention took place from May 14 to September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address problems in governing the United States of America, which had been operating under the Articles of Confederation following independence from...

 in Philadelphia as a delegate from Connecticut along with Roger Sherman
Roger Sherman
Roger Sherman was an early American lawyer and politician, as well as a founding father. He served as the first mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, and served on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and was also a representative and senator in the new republic...

 and William Samuel Johnson
William Samuel Johnson
William Samuel Johnson was an early American statesman who was notable for signing the United States Constitution, for representing Connecticut in the United States Senate, and for serving as president of Columbia University.-Early career:...

. More than half of the 55 delegates were lawyers, eight of whom, including both Ellsworth and Sherman, had previous experience as judges conversant with legal discourse. Ellsworth in particular played an important role in having participated in the exclusion of judicial review from the Constitution at the Convention and later in having put it into force in the 1789 Judiciary Act

Ellsworth took an active part in the proceedings beginning on June 20, when he proposed the use of the name the United States to identify the nation under the authority of the Constitution. The words "United States" had already been used in the Declaration of Independence
Declaration of independence
A declaration of independence is an assertion of the independence of an aspiring state or states. Such places are usually declared from part or all of the territory of another nation or failed nation, or are breakaway territories from within the larger state...

 and Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

 as well as Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

's The American Crisis
The American Crisis
The American Crisis was a series of pamphlets published from 1776 to 1783 during the American Revolution by 18th century Enlightenment philosopher and author Thomas Paine. The first volume begins with the famous words "These are the times that try men's souls". There were sixteen pamphlets in total...

. It was Ellsworth's proposal to retain the earlier wording to sustain the emphasis on a federation rather than a single national entity. Three weeks earlier, on May 30, 1787, Edmund Randolph
Edmund Randolph
Edmund Jennings Randolph was an American attorney, the seventh Governor of Virginia, the second Secretary of State, and the first United States Attorney General.-Biography:...

 of Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 had moved to create a "national government" consisting of a supreme legislative, an executive and a judiciary. Ellsworth accepted Randolph's notion of a threefold division, but moved to strike the phrase "national government." From this day forward the "United States" was the official title used in the Convention to designate the government, and this usage has remained in effect ever since. The complete name, "the United States of America," had already been featured by Paine, and its inclusion in the Constitution was the work of Gouverneur Morris
Gouverneur Morris
Gouverneur Morris , was an American statesman, a Founding Father of the United States, and a native of New York City who represented Pennsylvania in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation. Morris was also an author of large sections of the...

 when he made the final editorial changes in the Constitution.

Ellsworth played a major role in the passage of the Connecticut Plan. During debate on the Great Compromise, often described as the Connecticut Compromise, he joined his fellow Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman
Roger Sherman
Roger Sherman was an early American lawyer and politician, as well as a founding father. He served as the first mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, and served on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and was also a representative and senator in the new republic...

 in proposing the bicameral arrangement in which members of the Senate would be elected by state legislatures as indicated in Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution. Ellsworth's version of the compromise was adopted by the Convention, but it was later revised by Amendment XVII
Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution established direct election of United States Senators by popular vote. The amendment supersedes Article I, § 3, Clauses 1 and 2 of the Constitution, under which senators were elected by state legislatures...

 substituting a popular vote similar to that used for the House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

.

To gain the passage of the Connecticut Plan its proponents needed support of three southern states, Georgia and the two Carolinas, complementing the small state coalition of the North. It came as no surprise that Ellsworth favored the Three-Fifths Compromise
Three-fifths compromise
The Three-Fifths Compromise was a compromise between Southern and Northern states reached during the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in which three-fifths of the enumerated population of slaves would be counted for representation purposes regarding both the distribution of taxes and the...

 on the enumeration of slaves and opposed the abolition of the foreign slave trade. Stressing that he had no slaves, Ellsworth spoke twice before the Convention, on August 21 and 22, in favor of slavery being abolished.

Along with James Wilson
James Wilson
James Wilson was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence. Wilson was elected twice to the Continental Congress, and was a major force in drafting the United States Constitution...

, John Rutledge
John Rutledge
John Rutledge was an American statesman and judge. He was the first Governor of South Carolina following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the 31st overall...

, Edmund Randolph
Edmund Randolph
Edmund Jennings Randolph was an American attorney, the seventh Governor of Virginia, the second Secretary of State, and the first United States Attorney General.-Biography:...

, and Nathaniel Gorham
Nathaniel Gorham
Nathaniel Gorham was the fourteenth President of the United States in Congress assembled, under the Articles of Confederation...

, Ellsworth served on the Committee of Detail
Committee of Detail
The Committee of Detail was a committee established by the Philadelphia Convention on June 23, 1787 to put down a draft text reflecting the agreements made by the Convention up to that point, including the Virginia Plan's 15 resolutions. It was chaired by John Rutledge, and other members included...

 which prepared the first draft of the Constitution based on resolutions already passed by the Convention. All Convention deliberations were interrupted from July 26 to August 6, 1787, while the Committee of Detail completed its task. The two preliminary drafts that survive as well as the text of the Constitution submitted to the Convention were in the handwriting of Wilson or Randolph. However, Ellsworth's role is made clear by his 53 contributions to the Convention as a whole from August 6 to 23, when he left for business reasons. As James Madison tabulated in his Records, only Madison and Gouverneur Morris spoke more than Ellsworth during those sixteen days.

Though Ellsworth left the Convention near the end of August and didn't sign the final document, he wrote the Letters of a Landholder to promote its ratification. He also played a dominant role in Connecticut's 1788 ratification convention, when he emphasized that judicial review guaranteed federal sovereignty. It seems more than a coincidence that both he and Wilson served as members of the Committee of Detail without mentioning judicial review in the initial draft of the Constitution, but then stressed its central importance at their ratifying conventions just a year preceding its inclusion by Ellsworth in the Judiciary Act of 1789
Judiciary Act of 1789
The United States Judiciary Act of 1789 was a landmark statute adopted on September 24, 1789 in the first session of the First United States Congress establishing the U.S. federal judiciary...

.

Achievements as a legislator


Along with William Samuel Johnson, Ellsworth served as one of Connecticut's first two United States senators in the new federal government, and his service extended from 1789 to 1796. During this period he played a dominant role in Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 proceedings equivalent to that of a Senate Majority Leaders in later decades. According to John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

, he was "the firmest pillar of [Washington's] whole administration in the Senate."[Brown, 231] Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr
Aaron Burr, Jr. was an important political figure in the early history of the United States of America. After serving as a Continental Army officer in the Revolutionary War, Burr became a successful lawyer and politician...

 complained that if Ellsworth had misspelled the name of the Deity with two d's, "it would have taken the Senate three weeks to expunge the superfluous letter." Senator William Maclay, a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, offered a more hostile assessment: "He will absolutely say anything, nor can I believe he has a particle of principle in his composition," and "I can in truth pronounce him one of the most uncandid men I ever knew possessing such abilities." [Brown, 224-25] What seems to have bothered McClay the most was Ellsworth's emphasis on private negotiations and tacit agreement rather than public debate. Significantly, there was no official record of Senate proceedings for the first five years of its existence, nor was there any provision to accommodate spectators. The arrangement was essentially the same as for the 1787 Convention, in contrast to the open sessions of the House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

.

Ellsworth's first project was the Judiciary Act
Judiciary Act of 1789
The United States Judiciary Act of 1789 was a landmark statute adopted on September 24, 1789 in the first session of the First United States Congress establishing the U.S. federal judiciary...

, described as Senate Bill No. 1, which effectively supplemented Article III
Article Three of the United States Constitution
Article Three of the United States Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the federal government. The judicial branch comprises the Supreme Court of the United States and lower courts as created by Congress.-Section 1: Federal courts:...

 in the Constitution by establishing a hierarchical arrangement among state and federal courts
United States federal courts
The United States federal courts make up the judiciary branch of federal government of the United States organized under the United States Constitution and laws of the federal government.-Categories:...

. Years later Madison stated, "It may be taken for certain that the bill organizing the judicial department originated in his [Ellsworth's] draft, and that it was not materially changed in its passage into law."[Brown, 185] Ellsworth himself probably wrote Section 25, the most important component of the Judiciary Act. This gave the Federal Supreme Court the power to veto state supreme court
State supreme court
In the United States, the state supreme court is the highest state court in the state court system ....

 decisions supportive of state laws in conflict with the U.S. Constitution. All state and local laws accepted by state supreme courts could be appealed to the federal Supreme Court, which was given the authority, if it chose, to deny them for being unconstitutional. State and local laws rejected by state supreme courts could not be appealed in this manner; only the laws accepted by these courts could be appealed. This seemingly modest specification provided the federal government with its only effective authority over state government at the time. In effect, judicial review supplanted Congressional Review, which Madison had unsuccessfully proposed four times at the Convention to guarantee federal sovereignty. Granting the federal government this much authority was apparently rejected because its potential misuse could later be used to reject the Constitution at State Ratifying Conventions. Upon the completion of these conventions the previous year, Ellsworth was in the position to render the sovereignty of the federal government defensible, but through judicial review instead of congressional review.

Once the Judiciary Act was adopted by the Senate, Ellsworth sponsored the Senate's acceptance of the Bill of Rights
United States Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and...

 promoted by Madison in the House of Representatives. Significantly, Madison sponsored the Judiciary Act in the House at the same time. Combined, the Judiciary Act and Bill of Rights gave the Constitution the "teeth" that had been missing in the Articles of Confederation. Judicial Review guaranteed the federal government's sovereignty, whereas the Bill of Rights guaranteed the protection of states and citizens from the misuse of this sovereignty by the federal government. The Judiciary Act and Bill of Rights thus counterbalanced each other, each guaranteeing respite from the excesses of the other. However, with the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 in 1865, seventy-five years later, the Bill of Rights could be brought to bear at all levels of government as interpreted by the judiciary with final appeal to the Supreme Court. Needless to say, this had not been the original intention of either Madison or Ellsworth.

Ellsworth was the principal exponent in the Senate of Hamilton's
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

 economic program
American School (economics)
The American School, also known as "National System", represents three different yet related constructs in politics, policy and philosophy. It was the American policy for the 1860s to the 1940s, waxing and waning in actual degrees and details of implementation...

, having served on at least four committees dealing with budgetary issues. `These issues included the passage of Hamilton's plan for funding the national debt, the incorporation of the First Bank of the United States
First Bank of the United States
The First Bank of the United States is a National Historic Landmark located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania within Independence National Historical Park.-Banking History:...

, and the bargain whereby state debts were assumed in return for locating the capital to the south (today the District of Columbia). Ellsworth's other achievements included framing the measure that admitted North Carolina to the Union, devising the non-intercourse act that forced Rhode Island to join the union, and drawing up the bill to regulate the consular service. He also played a major role in convincing President Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 to send John Jay
John Jay
John Jay was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States ....

 to England to negotiate the 1794 Jay Treaty
Jay Treaty
Jay's Treaty, , also known as Jay's Treaty, The British Treaty, and the Treaty of London of 1794, was a treaty between the United States and Great Britain that is credited with averting war,, resolving issues remaining since the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which ended the American Revolution,, and...

 that prevented warfare with England, settled debts between the two nations, and gave American settlers better access to the midwest.

The Ellsworth Court and later life



On March 3, 1796, Ellsworth was nominated by President George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 to be Chief Justice of the United States
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

, the seat having been vacated by John Jay
John Jay
John Jay was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States ....

. (Jay's replacement, John Rutledge
John Rutledge
John Rutledge was an American statesman and judge. He was the first Governor of South Carolina following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the 31st overall...

, had been rejected by the Senate the previous December, and Washington's next nominee, William Cushing
William Cushing
William Cushing was an early Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, from its inception to his death. He was the longest-serving of the Court's original members, sitting on the bench for 21 years...

, had declined the office in February.) The following day, Ellsworth was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

, and received his commission.

Ellsworth served until his resignation due to poor health on September 30, 1800, and his brief contribution was deservedly overshadowed by the accomplishments of his successor, John Marshall
John Marshall
John Marshall was the Chief Justice of the United States whose court opinions helped lay the basis for American constitutional law and made the Supreme Court of the United States a coequal branch of government along with the legislative and executive branches...

, who succeeded him in 1801. However, four cases the Ellsworth Court decided were of lasting importance in American jurisprudence. Hylton v. United States
Hylton v. United States
Hylton v. United States, , was an early United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that a tax on carriages did not violate the Article I, Section 9 requirement for the apportioning of direct taxes. It found the carriage tax was an "excise" instead of a "direct tax" requiring...

(1796) implicitly addressed the Supreme Court's power of judicial review
Judicial review in the United States
Judicial review in the United States refers to the power of a court to review the constitutionality of a statute or treaty, or to review an administrative regulation for consistency with either a statute, a treaty, or the Constitution itself....

 in upholding a federal carriage tax (although it would not be until John Marshall succeeded Ellsworth that the court addressed this issue head on); Hollingsworth v. Virginia
Hollingsworth v. Virginia
Hollingsworth v. Virginia, 3 U.S. 378 , was a case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled early in America's history that the President of the United States has no formal role in the process of amending the United States Constitution. While it is permissible, a Presidential signature is...

(1798) affirmed that the President had no official role in amending the Constitution of the United States, and that a Presidential signature was therefore unnecessary for ratification of an amendment; Calder v. Bull
Calder v. Bull
Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. 386 , is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court examined its authority to review state legislature decisions.-Background:...

(1798) held that the Constitution's Ex post facto clause applied only to criminal, not civil, cases; and New York v. Connecticut
New York v. Connecticut
New York v. Connecticut, 4 U.S. 1 , was a lawsuit heard by the Supreme Court of the United States between the State of New York against the State of Connecticut in 1799 that arose from a land dispute between private parties...

was the first exercise by the court of its original jurisdiction
Original jurisdiction
The original jurisdiction of a court is the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, when a court has the power to review a lower court's decision.-France:...

 in cases between two states.

Ellsworth's chief legacy as Chief Justice, however, is his discouragement of the previous practice of seriatim
Seriatim
Seriatim is a legal term typically used to indicate that a court is addressing multiple issues in a certain order, such as the order that the issues were originally presented to the court....

 opinion writing, in which each Justice wrote a separate opinion in the case and delivered that opinion from the bench. Ellsworth instead encouraged the consensus of the Court to be represented in a single written opinion, a practice which continues to the present day.

Outside the Supreme Court
Ellsworth was a candidate in the 1796 United States presidential election
United States presidential election, 1796
The United States presidential election of 1796 was the first contested American presidential election and the only one in which a president and vice- president were elected from opposing tickets...

, receiving eleven votes in the electoral college, sharing with John Adams
John Adams
John Adams was an American lawyer, statesman, diplomat and political theorist. A leading champion of independence in 1776, he was the second President of the United States...

 the distinction of gaining most votes in both New Hampshire and Rhode Island. http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/votes/1789_1821.html#1796

As United States Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Ellsworth led a delegation there between 1799 and 1800 in order to settle differences with Napoleon's government regarding restrictions on U.S. shipping that might otherwise have led to military conflict between the two nations. The agreement accepted by Ellsworth provoked indignation among Americans for being too generous to Napoleon. Moreover, Ellsworth came down with a severe illness resulting from his travel across the Atlantic (causing him to tender his resignation from the Supreme Court while still in Europe in 1800), and the Federalist party had fallen into disarray and was easily defeated by Republicans led by Jefferson. As a result, Ellsworth retired from national public life upon his return to America in early 1801. He was nevertheless able to serve again on the Connecticut Governor's Council until he died in Windsor in 1807.

Although many erroneously believe that he is buried on the grounds of the Ellsworth Homestead in Windsor, Connecticut
Windsor, Connecticut
Windsor is a town in Hartford County, Connecticut, United States, and was the first English settlement in the state. It lies on the northern border of Connecticut's capital, Hartford. The population was estimated at 28,778 in 2005....

, his remains are in the cemetery behind the First Congregational Church of Windsor overlooking the Farmington River.

Legacy


It is entirely a matter of speculation, but Ellsworth's conciliatory negotiations with Napoleon might have contributed to Napoleon's sudden choice three years later to sell the Louisiana Territory
Louisiana Purchase
The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition by the United States of America of of France's claim to the territory of Louisiana in 1803. The U.S...

 to the United States for $15 million.

In retrospect, Ellsworth's role in helping to establish the United States as a viable sovereign nation was important but could be easily overlooked. A good part of the reason for this was that he did not distinguish himself as an orator but worked as much as possible behind the scenes. He was said to have been dominant in his eloquence at the January, 1788, Connecticut Ratifying Convention, but later as the de facto Senate majority leader he seems to have kept his arguments relatively short and to the point. His written prose could on occasion be tortuous, as best illustrated by the operative sentence in Section 25 of the Judiciary Act (the first of only two sentences). Over three hundred words long, this sentence is almost impossible to decipher as an explanation how state courts were answerable to federal authority. But perhaps this opacity was intentional, since the expansion of federal power specified by Section 25 was mostly overlooked in debate both in the Senate and House of Representatives despite having been the most important and potentially controversial portion of the Judiciary Act.

That Ellsworth promoted the federal government as a unified confederacy without the limitations imposed by the Articles of Confederation enhanced his popularity during the first several decades of America's history, especially in the South preceding the Civil War. In 1847, thirteen years before the Civil War, John Calhoun praised Ellsworth as the first of three Founding Fathers (including Sherman and Paterson) who gave the United States "the best government instead of the worst and most intolerable on the earth." However, rapid industrialization and the centralization of our national government since the Civil War have led to the almost complete neglect of Ellsworth's pivotal contribution at the inception of our government. Few today know much of anything about him. The one full-length biography by William Garrott Brown, published in 1905 and reprinted in 1970, is excellent but difficult to obtain.

Ellsworth's twin sons followed their father into public service. William Wolcott Ellsworth
William W. Ellsworth
William Wolcott Ellsworth was a Yale-educated attorney who served as the 30th Governor of Connecticut, a three-term United States Congressman, a Justice on the State Supreme Court, and who twice turned down nomination to the state's United States Senate seat...

 married a daughter of lexicographer Noah Webster
Noah Webster
Noah Webster was an American educator, lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author...

 and became Governor
Governor
A governor is a governing official, usually the executive of a non-sovereign level of government, ranking under the head of state...

 of the State of Connecticut, a United States Congressman and a justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court
Connecticut Supreme Court
The Connecticut Supreme Court, formerly known as the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors, is the highest court in the U.S. state of Connecticut. It consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices. The seven justices sit in Hartford, across the street from the Connecticut State Capitol...

. His twin brother, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth
Henry Leavitt Ellsworth
Henry Leavitt Ellsworth was a Yale-educated attorney who became the first Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office, where he encouraged innovation by inventors Samuel F.B. Morse and Samuel Colt...

, served as mayor of Hartford
Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The seat of Hartford County until Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960, it is the second most populous city on New England's largest river, the Connecticut River. As of the 2010 Census, Hartford's population was 124,775, making...

, then was appointed the first commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office. He later became president of Aetna Life Insurance Company
Aetna
Aetna, Inc. is an American health insurance company, providing a range of traditional and consumer directed health care insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmaceutical, dental, behavioral health, group life, long-term care, and disability plans, and medical management...

. Henry Leavitt Ellsworth was instrumental in the creation of the U.S. Agriculture Department
United States Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture is the United States federal executive department responsible for developing and executing U.S. federal government policy on farming, agriculture, and food...

, and he was appointed by President Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

 to oversee the so-called Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears
The Trail of Tears is a name given to the forced relocation and movement of Native American nations from southeastern parts of the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830...

, the transfer of Cherokee Indians from Georgia to the Oklahoma Territory
Oklahoma Territory
The Territory of Oklahoma was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 2, 1890, until November 16, 1907, when it was joined with the Indian Territory under a new constitution and admitted to the Union as the State of Oklahoma.-Organization:Oklahoma Territory's...

 that cost approximately 4,000 lives. Ellsworth was a friend and backer of inventors Samuel Colt
Samuel Colt
Samuel Colt was an American inventor and industrialist. He was the founder of Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company , and is widely credited with popularizing the revolver. Colt's innovative contributions to the weapons industry have been described by arms historian James E...

 and Samuel F.B. Morse, and his daughter Annie Ellsworth proposed the first message transmitted by Morse over the telegraph, "What hath God wrought?" Henry Leavitt Ellsworth was a major benefactor to Yale College
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, his alma mater.

Even if Ellsworth was viewed as "a valuable acquisition to the Court," and "a great loss to the Senate," he resigned after just 4 years due to his "constant, and at times excruciating pains," sufferings made worse by his Europe travels, as special envoy to France.

In 1800, Ellsworth, Maine
Ellsworth, Maine
Ellsworth is a city in and the county seat of Hancock County, Maine, United States. The 2010 Census determined it had a population of 7,741. Ellsworth was Maine's fastest growing city from 2000-2010 with a growth rate of nearly 20 percent...

 was named in his honor.

See also





Further reading




External links