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message 1: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (mstaz) This thread is about the 2nd Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court: John Rutledge.


John Rutledge of South Carolina was a leader in the colony's move to rebellion and later a key political leader. He chaired his state's delegation to the Constitutional Convention in Philadephia in 1787 where he defended states' rights and slaveholding interests.

President George Washington appointed Rutledge as one of the original associate justices to the Supreme Court. Rutledge soon resigned without ever deciding a case and became chief justice of South Carolina. Washington sought him again; this time to be chief justice of the United States where he presided briefly over the six-man Court as an interim appointee. He spoke publicly against the Jay Treaty which aroused the ire of his fellow Federalists who controlled the Senate. They refused to confirm his appointment and he left the bench in 1795.

Personal Information

Born: Friday, September 4, 1739
Died: Friday, July 18, 1800
Childhood Location: South Carolina
Childhood Surroundings: South Carolina

Position: Associate Justice
Seat: 2
Nominated By: Washington
Commissioned on: Friday, September 25, 1789
Sworn In: Sunday, February 14, 1790
Left Office: Friday, March 4, 1791
Reason For Leaving: Resigned
Home: South Carolina

Position: Chief Justice
Seat: 1
Commissioned on: Tuesday, June 30, 1795
Sworn In: Tuesday, August 11, 1795
Left Office: Monday, December 14, 1795
Reason For Leaving: Rejected
Length of Service: 5 years, 10 months, 0 days (1 year, 0 months, 18 days / 0 years, 4 months, 3 days)
Home: South Carolina

source: The Oyez Project, Justice John Rutledge
available at: (

message 2: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (mstaz) Judicial career

A few weeks after leaving the governorship, Rutledge was again elected to the Continental Congress, where he served until 1783. In 1784, he was appointed to the South Carolina Court of Chancery.

Constitutional Convention
Rutledge continued to serve on the Court of Chancery until 1791. During this time, he was selected to represent South Carolina in the Constitutional Convention. Rutledge maintained a moderate nationalist stance and chaired the Committee of Detail. He attended all the sessions and served on five committees.

Rutledge recommended the executive power to consist of a single person, rather than several, because he felt that one person would feel the responsibility of the office more acutely. Because the president would not be able to defer a decision to another "co-president", Rutledge concluded that a single person would be more likely to make a good choice.

Rutledge was largely responsible for denying the Supreme Court the right to give advisory opinions. Being a judge himself, he strongly believed that a judge’s sole purpose was to resolve legal conflicts; he held that a judge should hand down an opinion only when ruling on an actual case.

Rutledge also argued that if either house of the legislature was to have the sole authority to introduce appropriation bills, it should be the Senate. He noted that the Senate, by nature of its lengthier terms of office, would tend to be more leisurely in its actions. Because of this, Rutledge felt that the Senate would be better able to think clearly about what the consequences of a bill would be. Also, since the bills could not become law without the consent of the House of Representatives, he concluded that there would be no danger of the Senate ruling the country.

When the proposal was made that only landowners should have the right to vote, Rutledge opposed it perhaps more strongly than any other motion in the entire convention. He stated that making a rule like this would divide the people into "haves" and "have nots". It would create an undying resentment against the landowners and could do nothing but cause discord. Benjamin Franklin agreed with Rutledge, saying that such a law would suppress the ambitions of the common people. Franklin also observed that if only people who actually owned land could vote, the sons of a substantial farmer, not having land in their own names, would be denied the right to vote.[24]

In the debate of whether or not to allow slavery in the new country, Rutledge took the side of the slave-owners; he was a Southerner and he owned several slaves. Rutledge said that if the Constitution forbade slavery, the Southern states would never agree to the Constitution.

Supreme Court Associate Justice
On September 24, 1789, after the Constitution was ratified, Rutledge was nominated by President George Washington to be an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 26, 1789, and received commission the same day. Although he accepted the nomination, he never actually sat on the Court. In 1791, he was elected the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas and Sessions, and so resigned his federal post on March 5, 1791.

Chief Justice of the United States
In 1795, the Chief Justice of the United States, John Jay, was elected Governor of New York ending his post on the Supreme Court. Rutledge wrote to George Washington offering his services, and Washington again appointed Rutledge during a recess of the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, this time as Chief Justice of the United States. Rutledge became Chief Justice on July 1, 1795. Soon thereafter, on July 16, 1795, Rutledge gave a highly controversial speech denouncing the Jay Treaty with Britain. He reportedly said in the speech "that he had rather the President should die than sign that puerile instrument"– and that he "preferred war to an adoption of it."

Two cases were decided while Rutledge held his recess appointment (before his formal nomination). In United States v. Peters, the Court ruled that federal district courts had no jurisdiction over crimes committed against Americans in international waters. In Talbot v. Janson, the Court held that a citizen of the United States did not waive all claims to U.S. citizenship by either renouncing citizenship of an individual state, or by becoming a citizen of another country. The Rutledge Court thus established an important precedent for multiple citizenship in the United States.

Formally nominated to his seat on December 10, 1795, Rutledge was by then shrouded by rumors of mental illness he had suffered since the death of his wife in 1792, and of alcoholism. His outspoken opposition to the Jay Treaty, embraced by Washington as well as his Federalist supporters (and by then ratified in the Senate), exacerbated his fading reputation, and was cited by Federalists as evidence of his continued mental decline. The Federalist-dominated Senate rejected his appointment on December 15, 1795 by a vote of 14-10. As a result, Rutledge's recess appointment automatically expired at the end of that Senate session: He resigned on December 28. Rutledge thus became the only U.S. supreme court justice in history to be forced out of office involuntarily, thus ending his public career, until Abe Fortas resigned as a result of scandal in 1969.

Even members of Washington's own administration found themselves in opposition to his nomination of Rutledge. Alexander Hamilton questioned his sanity, and Vice President John Adams wrote to Abigail Adams that the Senate's rejection of Rutledge "gave me pain for an old friend, though I could not but think he deserved it. C. Justices must not [...] inflame the popular discontents which are ill founded, nor propagate Disunion, Division, Contention and delusion among the people."

Later years
The Senate's rejection completely ruined Rutledge mentally. He attempted suicide shortly before leaving office as chief justice on December 28, 1795. John Adams explained that the Senate feared his "accelerated and increased ... Disorder of the Mind."

John Rutledge died on June 21, 1800, at the age of 60. He was interred at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Charleston. One of his houses, said to have been built in 1763 and definitely sold in 1790, was renovated in 1989 and opened to the public as the John Rutledge House Inn.

source: excerpted from wikipedia

message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Great job so far Alisa with the Chief Justices.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Timely post, Alisa. Well, for me anyway. I am on the verge of finishing 1776 by David McCullough by David McCullough and so I can really appreciate this information.

message 5: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (mstaz) Tom, thanks for your contribution, and glad you find the info helpful. More to come.

message 6: by Katy (new)

Katy (kathy_h) John and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina

John and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina by James Haw by James Haw (no photo)


This masterful biography chronicles the lives of John Rutledge and Edward Rutledge, members of one of the nation's most influential political families during the American Revolutionary period. Raised in Charleston, each Rutledge brother went on to serve as a representative to the Continental Congress and as governor of South Carolina.John Rutledge (1739-1800) was a wealthy planter and successful lawyer, a leader in South Carolina's colonial Commons House of Assembly, and a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses. As chief executive of the state during most of the War for Independence, he was instrumental in its defense and recovery after the British conquest of 1780. One of the leading delegates to the United States constitutional convention in 1787, he served as chief justice of South Carolina, and briefly as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Edward Rutledge (1749-1800), also trained as a lawyer, was a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. As a leader in the state legislature in the 1780s and 1790s and as governor, he had great influence in state and national politics.

While providing insight into the remarkable lives and careers of the Rutledges, this account also serves as a fascinating history of the American Revolution and the formation of a new nation.

message 7: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thank you Kathy

message 8: by Francie (new)

Francie Grice Chief Justice Profiles: Our Hidden Leaders

Chief Justice Profiles Our Hidden Leaders by Philip Secor by Philip Secor (no photo)


This book is a companion to my two previous works in this series on American leaders: "Presidential Profiles" (2008) and "Vice Presidential Profiles" (2013). It provides short biographies of the seventeen men who have served as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. As such, they have had the unchecked power to invalidate laws of Congress and State governments as well as acts of Presidents. Because these men have always been largely removed from public view, and yet so important to the development of our country, I have called them our "hidden" leaders. In each biographical sketch, the reader will learn about the childhood, family life, educational background and career of the Chief Justice.

message 9: by Francie (new)

Francie Grice Heroes And Patriots Of The South: Comprising Lives Of General Francis Marion, General William Moultrie, General Andrew Pickens, And Governor John Rutledge

Heroes and Patriots of the South Comprising Lives of General Francis Marion, General William Moultrie, General Andrew Pickens, and Governor John Rutledge. by Cecil B. Hartley by Cecil B. Hartley (no photo)


Published in 1860, this titles contains sketches of the lives of Southern heroes and patriots from the South who served during the American Revolution.

message 10: by Francie (new)

Francie Grice Secret Lives of the Supreme Court: What Your Teachers Never Told You about America's Legendary Judges

Secret Lives of the Supreme Court What Your Teachers Never Told You about America's Legendary Judges by Robert Schnakenberg by Robert Schnakenberg Robert Schnakenberg


Drugs, Adultery, Bribery, Homosexuality, corruption—and the Supreme Court?!?

Your high school history teachers never gave you a book like this one! Secret Lives of the Supreme Court features outrageous and uncensored profiles of America’s most legendary justices—complete with hundreds of little-known, politically incorrect, and downright wacko facts. You’ll discover that:

• Hugo Black was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
• Benjamin Cardozo likely died a virgin.
• John Rutledge attempted suicide by jumping off a bridge.
• John Marshall Harlan organized regular screenings of X-rated films.
• Thurgood Marshall never missed an episode of Days of Our Lives.
• Sandra Day O’Connor established the court’s first Jazzercise class.
• And much, much more!

With chapters on everyone from John Jay to Samuel Alito, Secret Lives of the Supreme Court tackles all the tough questions that other history books are afraid to ask: How many of these judges took bribes? How many were gay? And how could so many sink into dementia while serving on the highest court in the land? American history was never this much fun in school!

message 11: by Lorna, Assisting Moderator (T) - SCOTUS - Civil Rights (new)

Lorna | 2155 comments Mod
John Rutledge

* Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States - February 15, 1790 - March 5, 1791

* Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States - August 12, 1795 - December 15, 1795

The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: Robert Hinckley (after John Trumbull))

Though John Rutledge was appointed to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States twice, his tenure lacked influence. His absence from the Court for all but two cases and a devastating social blunder brought his once promising legal career to a screeching halt, nearly ending an otherwise successful public life. Rutledge was born in Charleston, South Carolina in September of 1739. He grew up as one of seven and was raised by a single mother after his father passed away in 1750. Andrew Rutledge, his uncle and South Carolina’s Speaker of the Common House of Assembly, took over his education when his father passed. This began John Rutledge’s path to a life in politics.

Like many wealthy sons of the colonies, Rutledge continued his education in England. After three years at the London law school Middle Temple, he returned to South Carolina to begin his legal and political career. His talent as a public speaker, combined with the prestigious reputation of his family, led to success as an attorney in his early life. He was so influential in the southern colonies that the British governor appointed him South Carolina’s attorney general, mostly to carry favor with Rutledge and sway his allegiance from the colonies to the king. This attempt to stabilize the community in a time of rebellion was not only unsuccessful, but gave Rutledge the opportunity to gain influence in the British government on behalf of the colonies. When Rutledge politely asked for a repeal of the Stamp Act, his request was accepted. Rutledge’s efforts to sooth tensions were successful in his state and kept South Carolina prosperous up until the point of war. He helped his state gain independence through creating a new constitution, though even this was an effort to keep the peace in his state long enough to eventually reconcile with England. He maintained reconciliation as his long-term goal until the British Navy invaded and later captured Charleston in 1780. During wartime, Rutledge was elected governor with nearly unchecked power. The only act Rutledge could not do under this power was killing a citizen without a trial. He sustained the resistance and eventually won back the state from the British. It was his efforts here and his assistance on the first draft of the Constitution that made George Washington contemplate choosing Rutledge for the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

In the end, Washington passed on appointing Rutledge because of his southern background. In an effort to balance the new government between northerners and southerners, Washington instead chose to give the position to John Jay. Rutledge was appointed to the Supreme Court as the senior associate justice. Illness, however, kept Rutledge from the first sessions, and during his first run on the Supreme Court, he only attended the southern circuit before resigning in 1791.

Unlike most other judges, resignation is not what ended Rutledge’s career as a justice. In 1795, upon hearing word that John Jay was retiring, Rutledge to wrote Washington, stating that if Washington were to appoint him as Jay’s replacement, he would happily accept. Washington wrote back to Rutledge accepting that offer, and Rutledge served as the interim Chief Justice, pending Senate’s approval. At the same time, Washington charged John Jay with writing a treaty that resolved new tension that had reached a critical point with England. The treaty was meant to peacefully settle a long list of grievances between the countries. A copy of the treaty leaked to the papers, and many of the colonial leaders were outraged at the apologetic and submissive tone of the treaty. Rutledge was asked to speak publicly about his opinions on this treaty. He accepted and did not hold back his intensely negative feeling toward Jay’s treaty. Rutledge went so far as to say “dearly as [I] love Washington, [I] would rather see him dead than to see him sign the Treaty.” Needless to say, this aggravated many supporters of the Treaty. When it came time for the Senate to confirm his appointment, his fierce comments had offended too many Senators, pushing some to question his sanity, and his appointment was not confirmed. Upon hearing news of the Senate’s rejection, Rutledge threw himself into the bay. His attempt at suicide failed when two slaves saw him drowning and saved him. He died in July of 1800 and was buried in the graveyard next to the place he gave the speech that ended his career.


(no image) Mr. Rutledge Of South Carolina by Richard Barry (no photo)

The American South A History, Volume I by William J. Cooper Jr. and The American South, Volume II A History by William J. Cooper Jr. by William J. Cooper Jr. William J. Cooper Jr.

Source: Oyez

message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Very nice

message 13: by Lorna, Assisting Moderator (T) - SCOTUS - Civil Rights (new)

Lorna | 2155 comments Mod
John Rutledge, 1795

JOHN RUTLEDGE was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in September 1739.

He studied law at the Inns of Court in England, and was admitted to the English bar in 1760. In 1761, Rutledge was elected to the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly. In 1764, he was appointed Attorney General of South Carolina by the King’s Governor and served for ten months. Rutledge served as the youngest delegate to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, which petitioned King George III for repeal of the Act. Rutledge headed the South Carolina delegation to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and served as a member of the South Carolina Ratification Convention the following year. On September 24, 1789, President George Washington nominated Rutledge one of the original Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment two days later. After one year on the Supreme Court, Rutledge resigned in 1791 to become Chief Justice of South Carolina’s highest court.
On August 12, 1795, President George Washington nominated Rutledge Chief Justice of the United States. He served in that position as a recess appointee for four months, but the Senate refused to confirm him. Rutledge died on June 21, 1800, at the age of sixty.


THE U.S Constitution by James Madison by James Madison James Madison

Source: The Supreme Court Historical Society

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Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thank you for the add Lorna

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Lorna | 2155 comments Mod
CONSTITUTION DAY - The Founding Fathers

John Rutledge, South Carolina

John Rutledge was born in September of 1739. Rutledge served his country with distinction as an American politician and judge. Rutledge was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father John was a doctor and his mother was named Sarah. Rutledge received the first part of his education at home from his father. Then, he was schooled by an Angelican priest.

Rutledge showed an interest in the law even as a child. When he was 17, he began to study law and eventually moved to England to attend London's Middle Temple. When his studies in England were finished, Rutledge moved back to Charleston. Unlike other lawyers at the time, Rutledge had no problems getting business and was very successful. He represented Christ Church Parish for many years until the American Revolution.

In addition to a legal career, Rutledge also was a successful plantation owner. As such, he owned several slaves. During debates, it became apparent that Rutledge was very pro-slavery. This practice was viewed as acceptable at the time amongst plantation owners.

Rutledge was married to Elizabeth Grimke and they had 10 children together. Rutledge loved his wife very much and became very depressed after her death.

Rutledge was chosen as a delegate for South Carolina in the Stamp Act Congress. This Congress was organized to provide a response to the effort of England to impose a stamp tax on the colonies. In 1774, he was elected to the First Continental Congress. He was also elected to serve in the Second Continental Congress but was replaced by his younger brother Edward. Edward signed the Constitution, but it was John who returned to South Carolina to encourage the state to ratify the document.

In 1776, Rutledge joined the cause for independence. He served in the South Carolina legislature before becoming the governor. In 1780, he was granted war powers by the legislature of South Carolina. In essence, this gave him the power to do anything he wanted in the name of the "public good". In May, the city was seized by the English and Rutledge lost all of his property. He escaped to North Carolina and made plans to take Charleston back. Eventually, he raised an army and was able to gain control of most of South Carolina.

In 1789, Rutledge was a presidential elector during the election of George Washington. After this, he served as a justice on the United States Supreme Court. He also served as a justice on the South Carolina Supreme Court. He was nominated by George Washington to replace a Chief Justice in 1795. However, the Senate did not agree with the confirmation for several key reasons including the fact that Rutledge suffered from mental health issues after the death of his wife. Eventually, his illness would end his public service career.

In his latter years, Rutledge lived in seclusion. He never did recover financially from the losses he incurred during the British invasion of South Carolina. He also struggled with depression after the death of his wife Elizabeth. Rutledge died in 1800 at the age of 60. He was buried in Charleston in South Carolina.

Link to article:

The Constitution of the United States of America by Founding Fathers by Founding Fathers (no photo)

Source: Constitution Day

message 16: by Lorna, Assisting Moderator (T) - SCOTUS - Civil Rights (new)

Lorna | 2155 comments Mod
John Rutledge

Miniature portrait by John Trumbull, 1791

John Rutledge, American jurist and politician, was born in 1739 into a prominent family in Charleston, South Carolina. The eldest of seven children — and the brother of Edward Rutledge, a signer of the Declaration of Independence — his father was a physician of Scots-Irish descent; his mother was English. He began the study of law in Charleston, furthered his education in London, was admitted to the English bar in 1760, and returned to Charleston in 1761 to establish his practice.

During the Revolution Rutledge was politically active at both the national and state levels. He was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress (1765), the First Continental Congress (1774), and the Second Continental Congress (1775 - 76; 1782 - 83). In South Carolina he was chairman of the committee which framed the state constitution (1776) and the first president (governor) of South Carolina (1776 - 78). Disapproving of certain changes in the constitution he resigned in 1778, but was elected again the following year and served until 1782.

From 1784 to 1789 he was a member of the State Court of Chancery.

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787 he urged that the president and federal judges be chosen by Congress — preferably by the Senate alone — and that the president should be chosen for a single term of seven years. And when the Constitution was up for ratification in his home state, he was a vigorous champion of adoption.

When the new government was formed President Washington appointed Rutledge Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1789 - 91), but since the Court heard no cases in its first two years and there was little to do, he resigned, to serve as Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court (1791 - 95). In 1795 Washington nominated him to the position he had sought all along — Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. However, because of his wildly outspoken objections to the Jay Treaty — he called it prostitution — he presided only during the August term; the Senate refused to confirm him.

On hearing the news that he was not to be made Chief Justice, he attempted suicide by jumping off a wharf into the Charleston Bay. His public career over, his mind failing, Rutledge died in Charleston in 1800.

Link to article:


Heroes and Patriots of the South Comprising Lives of General Francis Marion, General William Moultrie, General Andrew Pickens, and Governor John Rutledge. by Cecil B. Hartley by Cecil B. Hartley (no photo)

Source: Portraits in Revolution

message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thank you for the adds.

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