The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions - Vol. 1

By Leon Friedman; Fred L. Israel | Go to book overview

conservative Federalism on the early Supreme Court. His respect for stare decisis gave the court a backbone of precedent and a respect for it from which it could later draw, even if his respect tended to make him choose the narrower of any two interpretations.

Bushrod Washington died in Philadelphia on November 26, 1829. No account of Justice Washington's career on the Court can be complete without reference to Justice Story's famous eulogy at his death:

For thirty-one years, Judge Washington held the station of justice of the supreme court, with a constantly increasing reputation and usefulness. Few men, indeed, have possessed higher qualifications for the office, either natural or acquired. Few men have left deeper traces in their judicial career of everything which a conscientious judge ought to propose for his ambition, or his virtue, or his glory. His mind was solid, rather than brilliant; sagacious and searching, rather than quick or eager; slow, but not torpid; steady, but not unyielding; comprehensive, and at the same time cautious; patient in inquiry, forcible in conception, clear in reasoning. He was, by original temperament, mild, conciliating and candid; and yet was remarkable for an uncompromising firmness. Of him, it may be truly said, that the fear of man never fell upon him; it never entered into his thoughts, much less was it seen in his actions. In him the love of justice was the ruling passion—it was the master-spring of all his conduct.... His wisdom was the wisdom of the law, chastened, and refined, and invigorated by study, guided by experience, dwelling little on theory, but constantly enlarging itself by a close survey of principles.

He was a learned judge. Not in that every-day learning which may be gathered up by a hasty reading of books and cases; but that which is the result of long-continued laborious services, and comprehensive studies. He read to learn, and not to quote; to digest and master, and not merely to display. He was not easily satisfied. If he was not as profound as some, he was more exact than most men. But the value of his learning was, that it was the keystyone of all his judgments. He indulged not the rash desire to fashion the law to his own views; but to follow out its precepts, with a sincere good faith and simplicity. Hence, he possessed the happy faculty of yielding just the proper weight to authority; neither, on the one hand, surrendering himself to the dictates of other judges, nor, on the other hand, overruling settled doctrines upon his own private notions of policy or justice.

Justice Story's emphasis on the balanced wisdom of Bushrod Washington's life and legal philosophy is interesting as a well-informed contemporary view; but it is also equally valuable today as a lucid assessment of this modest and devoted Justice.


SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

There is no definitive life of Washington. D. L. Annis's Mr. Bushrod Washington, Supreme Court Justice on the Marshall Court ( Ann Arbor, Mich., 1974) is available on microfilm. Relatively brief memorials were written by Horace Binney (published in Philadelphia in 1830) and Justice Joseph Story (included in W. W. Story, ed., Life and Letters of Joseph Story [ Boston, 1851]).

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The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Justices of the United States Supreme Court - Their Lives and Major Opinions *
  • Contents *
  • About the Editors and Contributors ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction by Louis H. Pollak xv
  • John Jay *
  • Selected Bibliography 21
  • John Rutledge *
  • Selected Bibliography 39
  • William Cushing *
  • Selected Bibliography 54
  • James Wilson *
  • Selected Bibliography 73
  • John Blair, Jr. *
  • Selected Bibliography 81
  • James Iredell *
  • Selected Bibliography 94
  • Thomas Johnson *
  • Selected Bibliography 106
  • William Paterson *
  • Selected Bibliography 119
  • Samuel Chase *
  • Selected Bibliography 134
  • Oliver Ellsworth *
  • Selected Bibliography 149
  • Bushrod Washington *
  • Selected Bibliography 165
  • Alfred Moore *
  • Selected Bibliography 179
  • John Marshall *
  • Selected Bibliography 200
  • William Johnson *
  • Selected Bibliography 219
  • Brockholst Livingston *
  • Selected Bibliography 232
  • Thomas Todd *
  • Selected Bibliography 240
  • Gabriel Duvall *
  • Selected Bibliography 251
  • Joseph Story *
  • Selected Bibliography 272
  • Smith Thompson *
  • Selected Bibliography 291
  • Robert Trimble *
  • Selected Bibliography 298
  • John Mclean *
  • Selected Bibliography 312
  • Henry Baldwin *
  • Selected Bibliography 323
  • James M. Wayne *
  • Selected Bibliography 336
  • Roger B. Taney *
  • Selected Bibliography 358
  • Philip Pendleton Barbour *
  • Selected Bibliography 370
  • John Catron *
  • Selected Bibliography 384
  • John Mckinley *
  • Selected Bibliography 394
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