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Supreme Court Justices

Oliver Ellsworth (1745 - 1807)

Oliver Ellsworth was born on April 29, 1745. He was educated first at Yale, and then at Princeton. In 1771, he married Abigail Wolcott and began practicing law in Connecticut. Ellsworth was a strong supporter of American independence, and served in the Congress of the Confederation between 1776-1783. Ellsworth was a delegate at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and engineered the so-called Great Compromise, which created two Houses of Congress, a lower House in which representation was based on population, and an upper House, in which each State received equal representation. After ratification, Ellsworth served in the first Senate, and was the main author of the Judiciary Act of 1789, Section 13 of which would be unconstitutional by John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison. Ellsworth was named Chief Justice in 1796. Ellsworth's tenure on the Court was largely uneventful, in part because he accepted a diplomatic mission that caused him to go to Europe. He resigned from the Court while still in Europe in mid-December 1800, and was succeeded by Marshall. Ellsworth apparently attempted to initiate opinions of the Court instead of seriatim opinions, but success in that endeavor eluded him.