Oliver Ellsworth

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Ellsworth, Oliver

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 Convention, 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 Federalists 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.
References in periodicals archive ?
(78) Nevertheless, he managed to find someone who not only happened to be in town, (79) but was also highly regarded: Oliver Ellsworth, a Connecticut senator who had played an important role in the Constitutional Convention and had been a judge on Connecticut's highest judicial court.
John Jay and Oliver Ellsworth were both able jurists by the standards of their time, but neither of them had the vision of constitutional government that Marshall did.
But it is interesting to reflect back upon the Connecticut Compromise offered at the Constitutional Convention by Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth. To resolve the dispute between the large and small states, they suggested a Senate equally representing each state with two senators and a House elected by popular vote with equal representation.
These factors may partly account for the surprising lack of interest in Ciconia's theoretical works during this century, a position the more ironic since, as Oliver Ellsworth points out, it was as a theorist that he first attracted the interest of music historians between 1753 and 1900.
Early members of that court were appointed from Maryland (Samuel Chase), New Jersey (William Paterson), Connecticut (Oliver Ellsworth), Virginia (Bushrod Washington), and North Carolina (James Iredell).