Oliver Ellsworth

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Ellsworth, Oliver,

1745–1807, American political leader, 3d chief justice of the United States (1796–1800), b. Windsor, Conn. A Hartford lawyer, he was (1778–83) a member of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution. His great service was at the U.S. Constitutional ConventionConstitutional Convention,
in U.S. history, the 1787 meeting in which the Constitution of the United States was drawn up. The Road to the Convention

The government adopted by the Thirteen Colonies in America (see Confederation, Articles of, and Continental
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, where he and Roger Sherman advanced the "Connecticut compromise," ending the struggle between large and small states over representation. He also served on the five-member committee that prepared the first draft of the Constitution, and was responsible for the use of the term "United States" in the document. In Connecticut, he played (1788) an important role in the state ratifying convention. As U.S. senator (1789–96), he was a leader of the FederalistsFederalist party,
in U.S. history, the political faction that favored a strong federal government. Origins and Members

In the later years of the Articles of Confederation there was much agitation for a stronger federal union, which was crowned with success when the
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 and largely drafted the bill that set up the federal judiciary and gave the U.S. Supreme Court the authority to review state supreme court decisions. Ellsworth later served (1799–1800) as a commissioner to negotiate with the French government concerning the restrictions put on American vessels.


See biography by W. G. Brown (1905).

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Ellsworth, Oliver

(1745–1807) public official, Supreme Court chief justice; born in Windsor, Conn. A lawyer prominent in Connecticut politics, he served in the Continental Congress (1777–83) and was a major figure at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, contributing to the Connecticut Compromise, under which the Senate represents states and the House represents population. As one of Connecticut's first two senators (1789–96), he played a major role in proposing the Bill of Rights and other fundamentals of the American government, such as the rules by which the Senate operates and the regulations behind the nation's judicial structure. President Washington appointed him chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1796–1800); while serving, he went to Paris to negotiate a treaty that averted a war with France (1799). Poor health forced him to resign in 1800.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.