Bushrod Washington

In thinking about future projects, I also wonder sometimes about writing a biography of Justice Bushrod Washington, George Washington’s nephew.  No book has been written about him since the 19th century, but there’s a lot of potential there. First, he was G. Washington’s confidant as a young man and inherited his papers and Mount Vernon after Martha Washington’s death. Second, he was on the Supreme Court for thirty-one years and was the right hand of John Marshall for much of that time (he and Marshall were friends from their days studying law as apprentices). Third, he was the first leader of the American Colonization Society, which sought free slaves and repatriate them to Africa, even though he owned slaves throughout his life. Fourth, he wrote Corfield v. Coryell, which was often cited by proponents of the Fourteenth Amendment as the most significant articulation of fundamental rights by a court in the ante-bellum era.  There’s more–he was also a delegate at the Virginia ratifying convention for the Constitution–but you get the idea.

Of course, whenever there is no book about someone that could be because (1) he was dull; (2) his papers are disorderly, or (3) there are too many to count.  Whether any or all of these are true in his case, we’ll see.

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3 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    Read “Seriatim: The Supreme Court Before John Marshall” and he had a chapter. Interesting to read about the early years.

  2. John Miller says:

    Hi there, It would be a great idea to share some info about some historical personalities who really deserve to be well know & mentioned a bit more than once in a few centuries. For me, as a writer, it would be a pleasure to expand some luggage of knowledge on it & I hope that everyone here will agree with me. Will wait for news from you.
    Sincerely yours, John Miller, writemyessaytoday writers

  3. John Dereszewski says:

    Washington will make an interesting subject for further exploration. When Justice Johnson described Marshall and Washington as being “really one Justice:, did he mean that Washington was just a lackey or that the two of them worked very closely as a team – think Taft and Van Devanter or even Warren and Brennan. This could have been a particularly fertile relationship before the appointment of Story. There was apparently an extensive correspondence between the two Justices that has not been preserved; it would be fascinating to learn the substance of these discussions. Also, Washington corresponded with Story after the latter’s appointment – and, I believe, those letters have been identified. Finally, Washington’s approach to the Coryell case is especially worthy of detailed exploration. After indicating a lengthy list of rights protected by the P and I clause – something that would suggest a robust source of constitutional protection, he then notes that the common law doctrine involved in this case ruled out the clause’s application. This sounds a lot like Marshall in Cohens – and even Marbury. Was he just aping Marshall here – or does it suggest something more.