SCHS: Court History — Rosette Detail

Oliver Ellsworth, 1796-1800

Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth, 1796-1800

OLIVER ELLSWORTH was born on April 29, 1745, in Windsor, Connecticut. Ellsworth attended Yale College until the end of his sophomore year, and then transferred to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where he was graduated in 1766. He read law in a law office for four years and was admitted to the bar in 1771. Ellsworth was a member of the Connecticut General Assembly from 1773 to 1776. From 1777 to 1784, he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and worked on many of its committees. After service on the Connecticut Council of Safety and the Governor’s Council, he became a Judge of the Superior Court of Connecticut in 1785. As a delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Ellsworth helped formulate the “Connecticut Compromise,” which resolved a critical debate between the large and small states over representation in Congress. Ellsworth was elected to the First Federal Congress as a Senator. There he chaired the committee that drafted the Judiciary Act of 1789, which established the federal court system. On March 3, 1796, President George Washington nominated Ellsworth Chief Justice of the United States and the Senate confirmed the appointment the following day. He resigned from the Supreme Court on December 15, 1800. Ellsworth died on November 26, 1807, at the age of sixty-two.