Humphrey H. Leavitt

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Humphrey Howe Leavitt
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Ohio and the Southern District of Ohio
In office
June 30, 1834 – April 1, 1871
Appointed by Andrew Jackson
Preceded by Benjamin Tappan
Succeeded by Philip Bergen Swing
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 19th district
In office
March 4, 1833 – July 10, 1834
Preceded by new district
Succeeded by Daniel Kilgore
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 11th district
In office
December 6, 1830 – March 4, 1833
Preceded by John M. Goodenow
Succeeded by James Martin Bell
Member of the Ohio Senate
from the Jefferson County district
In office
December 3, 1827 – December 6, 1829
Preceded by William Lowery
Succeeded by Henry Swearingen
Member of the Ohio House of Representatives
from the Jefferson County district
In office
December 5, 1825 – December 3, 1826
Serving with William Hamilton
Preceded by William Hamilton
William Lowery
Succeeded by James R. Wells
John McLaughlin
Personal details
Born (1796-06-18)June 18, 1796
Suffield, Connecticut
Died March 15, 1873(1873-03-15) (aged 76)
Springfield, Ohio
Resting place Spring Grove Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Marie Antoinette McDowell
Children three

Humphrey Howe Leavitt (June 18, 1796 – March 15, 1873) was an Ohio attorney and politician who served as a U.S. Representative from Ohio and as a United States District Court judge.[1]


Born in Suffield, Connecticut to an old New England family involved in the purchase of the Western Reserve from the state of Connecticut, Leavitt moved to the Northwest Territory in 1800 with his parents, Capt. John Wheeler Leavitt and Silence (Fitch) Leavitt, who settled in what became Trumbull County, Ohio.[2] (The town of Leavittsburg in Trumbull County was named for the family.)[3] While still an adolescent, Leavitt served in the United States Army during the War of 1812.[4]


Letter from President Abraham Lincoln to United States Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton discussing Judge Humphrey Leavitt's decision in habeas corpus case

After beginning his career as a schoolteacher, Leavitt moved into the law. In 1816 he read law and was admitted to the bar, beginning his practice in Cadiz, Ohio. He was a justice of the peace for Harrison County, Ohio from 1818 to 1820. He moved to Steubenville, Ohio, in 1819, and he began his service as prosecuting attorney of Jefferson County in 1823.

Legislative service[edit]

In 1825, Leavitt was elected a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, and in 1827 he was elected to the Ohio State Senate, serving until 1828. Following this term of service, he worked as a clerk of the common pleas and supreme court of Jefferson County from 1828 to 1832.

Leavitt was elected as a Jacksonian to the Twenty-first Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of John M. Goodenow. He was reelected to the Twenty-second and Twenty-third Congresses and served from December 6, 1830, until July 10, 1834, when he resigned to accept a judicial position.

Judicial service[edit]

On June 28, 1834, Leavitt was nominated by President Andrew Jackson to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Ohio vacated by Benjamin Tappan. Leavitt was confirmed by the United States Senate the same day, and received his commission on June 30, 1834.

On February 10, 1855, the state was divided into two Federal districts, and Leavitt was reassigned by operation of law to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Leavitt then removed to Cincinnati, Ohio, but he subsequently returned to Springfield in 1871. He served until April 1, 1871 – a term of 37 years on the federal bench – when he resigned.

Among the major cases in which Judge Leavitt was involved was that of Ohio politician Clement Vallandigham, in which Leavitt wrote an opinion on Vallandigham's well-known habeas corpus case, which Leavitt decided.

Other activities[edit]

Later, he began writing of his experiences. Leavitt was a member of the World's Convention on Prison Reform in London in 1872. He died in Springfield, Ohio, March 15, 1873, and was interred in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio.

In a short memoir Leavitt wrote for his children, he described his feelings about a Congressman's job, which he described as "positively irksome and repulsive." Leavitt added: "In times of party division, it is impossible for anyone in Congress to preserve a conscience void of offense toward God and at the same time to bear true allegiance to the party by which he has been elected. The member must vote with his party irrespective of the public good or expect to be visited with the fiercest denunciation."[5]

Leavitt was married to Marie Antoinette (McDowell) Leavitt, daughter of Dr. John McDowell, a physician, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania and Governor of Pennsylvania. Humphey Howe and Marie Leavitt had three sons: John McDowell Leavitt; Edward Howe Leavitt; and Francis Johnston Leavitt. All were born at Steubenville, Ohio.

See also[edit]



Further reading[edit]

  • The Ohio officer and justices' guide : embracing the duties of justices of the peace, constables, and other township officers : including officers acting under the school law, with appropriate forms : also, directions and forms for executors, administrators & guardians, with treatises on the law of partnership and bailment, and the duties and liabilities of common carriers, carriers of passengers, and innkeepers : with a collection of forms of deeds, articles of agreement, bonds, powers of attorney, wills, &c. &c., Humphrey H. Leavitt, Printed by J. Turnbull, Steubenville, Ohio, 1843

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Benjamin Tappan
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Ohio
Succeeded by
seat abolished
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio
Succeeded by
Philip Bergen Swing
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
John M. Goodenow
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 11th congressional district

Succeeded by
James M. Bell
Preceded by
District created
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 19th congressional district

Succeeded by
Daniel Kilgore