Oliver Ellsworth, 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
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
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).