Bushrod Washington

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Bushrod Washington
Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court
In office
December 20, 1798 – November 26, 1829
Nominated by John Adams
Preceded by James Wilson
Succeeded by Henry Baldwin
Personal details
Born (1762-06-05)June 5, 1762
Westmoreland County, Virginia
Died November 26, 1829(1829-11-26) (aged 67)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Alma mater College of William and Mary
Religion Episcopalian

Bushrod Washington (June 5, 1762 – November 26, 1829) was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States for over thirty years. He was the nephew of American founding father George Washington and inherited Mount Vernon from George Washington.

Early life[edit]

Bushrod Washington was born on June 5, 1762, at Bushfield Manor, a plantation home located at Mount Holly in Westmoreland County, Virginia.[1] He was the son of John Augustine Washington, the brother of George Washington.

Bushrod attended Delamere, an academy administered by the Rev. Bartholomew Booth and attended the Chapel in the Woods. He graduated from the College of William and Mary, where he was one of the first members of Phi Beta Kappa. During 1781 and 1782, he served as a private in the Continental Army.[2] His uncle, George Washington, sponsored Bushrod's legal studies with James Wilson.

Career and political activities[edit]

Bushrod was in the private practice of law from 1784 to 1798.[2] Encouraged by his family, Bushrod entered politics, serving two terms in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1787-1791. in 1788, he served in the Virginia convention that ratified the Constitution of the United States, where he voted for ratification.[3]

On September 29, 1798, Bushrod received from President John Adams a recess appointment to the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court vacated by James Wilson[2] after another Federalist, John Marshall, turned Adams down and endorsed Bushrod. Formally nominated on December 18, 1798, he was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 20, 1798, and received his commission the same day.[2] He became an associate justice on February 4, 1799, at the age of 36.[2] After Marshall became Chief Justice two years later, Bushrod voted with Marshall on all but three occasions (one being Ogden v. Saunders). Bushrod served on the Supreme Court until his death in 1829.[2]

While serving on the Marshall Court, Bushrod authored the opinion of Corfield v. Coryell, 6 Fed. Cas. 546 (C.C.E.D. Penn. 1823), while riding circuit as an Associate Justice.[4] In Corfield, Bushrod listed several rights traditionally viewed to be "fundamental." This list of fundamental rights has profoundly influenced later Constitutional jurisprudence, particularly with respect to the Privileges and Immunities Clause.


Bushrod purchased William Byrd III's former Richmond estate, Belvidere, around 1795. He lived there until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1798.[5]

Upon George Washington's death in 1799, Bushrod inherited from George all of George's papers as well the largest part of George's estate, including Mount Vernon.[6] He and his wife, Anna, then moved to Mount Vernon, sharing its mansion house with Martha Washington until Martha's death in 1802. However, Bushrod did not inherit much cash and was unable to support the upkeep of the mansion on the proceeds from the property and his Supreme Court salary. As a result, the mansion deteriorated while he lived there. As his farms were not profitable, he sold many of his slaves to raise money to support the estate.[7]

Society memberships[edit]

Bushrod was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1813.[8]

In 1816, Bushrod helped create the American Colonization Society (ACS), which advocated the emigration to Africa of free and enslaved African Americans. Bushrod became the Society's first president and held that position for the remainder of his life.[9] Because of his role in the ACS and his consequent assistance in the establishment of the Republic of Liberia, his name was given to Bushrod Island near the national capital of Monrovia.[10] However, his sales of slaves to support the upkeep of Mount Vernon angered abolitionists, who questioned why the ACS president could not set an example by permitting his slaves to emigrate to Africa.[7]

Death and interment[edit]

Bushrod died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 26, 1829[2] and was interred at Mount Vernon along with his wife, who died two days later.[11][12]


  1. ^ (1) "Bushrod Washington". Oyez. Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law. 2010-11-20. Archived from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved 2015-11-29. 
    (2) Wayland, John Walter (1944). The Washingtons and Their Homes. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield. p. 125. ISBN 0806347759. OCLC 39055916.  At Google Books.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Washington, Bushrod". History of the Federal Judiciary: Biographical Directory of Federal Judges. Federal Judicial Center. Archived from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved 2015-11-30. 
  3. ^ Grigsby, Hugh Blair (1890). Brock, R.A., ed. The History of the Virginia Federal Convention of 1788 With Some Account of the Eminent Virginians of that Era who were Members of the Body. Collections of the Virginia Historical Society. New Series. Volume IX 1 (Richmond, Virginia: Virginia Historical Society). pp. 344–346. OCLC 41680515.  At Google Books.
  4. ^ Thayer, James Bradley (1894). Cases on constitutional law: With notes, Part 2. C.W. Sever. pp. 453–56. 
  5. ^ Dabney, Virginius (1990). Richmond: The Story of a City: Revised and Expanded Edition. Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia. p. 19. ISBN 0813912741. OCLC 20263021.  At Google Books.
  6. ^ (1) Fister, Jude M. (2014). America Writes Its History, 1650-1850: The Formation of a National Narrative. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-7864-7921-4. OCLC 859384941.  At Google Books
    (2) Lossing, Benson J. (1870). "The Home of Washington; Or, Mount Vernon and Its Associations, Historical, Biographical, and Pictorial". Hartford, Connecticut: A.S. Hale & Company. p. 350. OCLC 1593086.  At Google Books.
  7. ^ a b Fister, Jude M. (2014). America Writes Its History, 1650-1850: The Formation of a National Narrative. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-7864-7921-4. OCLC 859384941.  At Google Books.
  8. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  9. ^ Dunne, Gerald. "Bushrod Washington and The Mount Vernon Slaves". 1980 Yearbook. Supreme Court Historical Society. Archived from the original on 2002-10-09. Retrieved 2015-11-30. 
  10. ^ Starr, Frederick (1913). Liberia: description, history, problems. Chicago: Frederick Starr. p. 9. OCLC 6791808.  At Google Books.
  11. ^ Christensen, George A. (1983) Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices, Yearbook. Supreme Court Historical Society. Bushrod Washington memorial at Find a Grave.
  12. ^ "Burials at Mount Vernon". Digital Encylopedia. Mount Vernon, Virginia: George Washington's Mount Vernon. Archived from the original on 2014-10-12. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Abraham, Henry J. (1992). Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506557-3. 
  • Cushman, Clare (2001). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–1995 (2nd ed.). (Supreme Court Historical Society, Congressional Quarterly Books). ISBN 1-56802-126-7. 
  • Flanders, Henry. The Lives and Times of the Chief Justices of the United States Supreme Court. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1874 at Google Books.
  • Frank, John P. (1995). Friedman, Leon; Israel, Fred L., eds. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 0-7910-1377-4. 
  • Hall, Kermit L., ed. (1992). The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505835-6. 
  • Martin, Fenton S.; Goehlert, Robert U. (1990). The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Books. ISBN 0-87187-554-3. 
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. (1994). The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Garland Publishing. p. 590. ISBN 0-8153-1176-1. 
  • White, G. Edward. The Marshall Court & Cultural Change, 1815-35. Published in an abridged edition, 1991.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
James Wilson
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
December 20, 1798 – November 26, 1829
Succeeded by
Henry Baldwin