Nathaniel Chipman

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Nathaniel Chipman
Nathaniel Chipman (US Senator from Vermont).jpg
Chipman, circa 1800.
United States Senator from Vermont
In office
October 17, 1797 – March 3, 1803
Preceded byIsaac Tichenor
Succeeded byIsrael Smith
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont
In office
March 4, 1791 – January 1, 1793
Appointed byGeorge Washington
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded bySamuel Hitchcock
Personal details
Born(1752-11-15)November 15, 1752
Salisbury, Connecticut
DiedFebruary 13, 1843(1843-02-13) (aged 90)
Tinmouth, Vermont, U.S.
Political partyFederalist
Spouse(s)Sarah Hill Chipman (1762–1831)
ChildrenJeffrey Chipman (1789–1889)

Nathaniel Chipman (November 15, 1752 – February 13, 1843) was an American politician who served as a United States Senator from Vermont and Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court. A Yale College graduate and Continental Army veteran of the American Revolution, Chipman became a prominent attorney and advocate for Vermont statehood. When Vermont was admitted to the Union, he served as the first judge of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont.

After Vermont became the fourteenth state, Chipman became a leader of its Federalist Party. In addition to his legal and political work, Chipman authored several works on government and law, served for 28 years as Professor of Law at Middlebury College, and was a satirical poet.

Early life[edit]

Born in Salisbury, Connecticut, Chipman was privately tutored. He received his degree from Yale College in 1777 while in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. From 1777 to 1778 he served as a lieutenant in the 2nd Connecticut Regiment.


After his military service, Chipman studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1779, commencing practice in Tinmouth, Vermont.[1] From 1781 to 1785 he served as the first State's Attorney of Rutland County, and he was a member of the Vermont House of Representatives in 1784 and 1785.

Chipman was elected as judge of the Vermont Supreme Court in 1786 and chosen chief justice in 1789, when Vermont was still a de facto independent country.

On February 9, 1791, Chipman met with President George Washington to notify him officially of Vermont's decision to apply for admission to the Union as the 14th state.[2] New York had long objected to the existence of the government of Vermont on the grounds that Vermont was part of New York, a position that dated back to a pre-Revolutionary War dispute between the colonial governors of New York and New Hampshire over the right to sell Vermont land grants.[3] In 1790 New York agreed to give up its claim provided only that an agreement on the boundary between Vermont and New York could be concluded and that Congress would admit Vermont to the Union. Vermont's negotiators insisted on also settling the real-estate disputes rather than leaving those to be decided later in a federal court. (Before Vermont's admission, federal courts had no power in Vermont since Vermont's government held that Vermont was not a part of the United States.) Vermont paid $30,000 to settle the claims (about $800,000 in 2015).[4] On February 18 Congress decided to admit Vermont to the Union, effective March 4.[5]

On the same day Vermont joined the Union, Washington nominated Chipman to be a federal judge on the newly established United States District Court for the District of Vermont, created by 1 Stat. 73. He was confirmed by the United States Senate and received his commission on the same day.[6] Chipman resigned on January 1, 1793, and was again elected Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court in 1796.

Chipman was elected as a Federalist to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Isaac Tichenor and served from October 17, 1797, until March 3, 1803;[7] he was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection. From 1806 to 1811 he was a member of the Vermont House of Representatives. In 1813 he was a member of the Vermont Council of Censors, the predecessor of the Vermont State Senate, which met periodically to review state statutes and ensure that they complied with the state constitution, and to propose constitutional amendments. Chipman was again chief justice of Vermont from 1813 to 1815, and was succeeded by Asa Aldis.[8] He was a professor of law at Middlebury College beginning in 1816.[9]


Chipman died in Tinmouth on February 13, 1843. He is interred at the Tinmouth Cemetery, Tinmouth, Vermont.[10]


In 1781 Chipman married Sarah Hill (1762–1831), and their children included: Laura Chipman Brownson (1782–1864); Henry C. Chipman (1784–1867); Jeffrey Chipman (1789–1849); Edwin Chipman (1792–1840); Cassius Chipman (born 1797); and Oscar Hill Chipman (1804–1863).[11]

Jeffrey Chipman was a Justice of the Peace in Canandaigua, New York in the 1820s, and was the jurist from whom those attempting to prevent William Morgan from publishing a book opposing Freemasonry obtained an arrest warrant for Morgan, which eventually led to Morgan's disappearance and presumed death and the founding of the Anti-Masonic Party.[12]

Nathaniel Chipman was a brother of Congressman (from Vermont) Daniel Chipman (1765–1850), and grandfather of Congressman (from Michigan) John Logan Chipman (1830–1893) and New York State Senator John W. Brownson (1807–1860).


  1. ^ "Nathaniel Chipman". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  2. ^ U.S. House of Representatives (1826). Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States: 1st–13th Congresses. 1. Washington, DC: Gales & Seaton. p. 412.
  3. ^ Sarah D., Brooks Blair (2008). Reforming Methodism: 1800–1820. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest, LLC. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-2435-3411-8.
  4. ^ Foley, Janet Wethy (1940). Early Settlers of New York State: Their Ancestors and Descendants; Part One. I–III. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-7884-3711-3.
  5. ^ Donaldson, Thomas (1880). The Public Domain: Its History, with Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government printing Office. p. 42.
  6. ^ "Nathaniel Chipman". Biographical Directory of Federal Judges. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  7. ^ "Nathaniel Chipman". Govtrack. US Congress. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  8. ^ Vermont State Archives and Records Administration (2017). "Justices of the Vermont Supreme Court, 1778–Present" (PDF). Montpelier, VT: Vermont Secretary of State. p. 2.
  9. ^ Nathaniel Chipman. Encyclopedia, Vermont Biography. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  10. ^ "Nathaniel Chipman". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
  11. ^ Chipman, Bert Lee (1920). The Chipman Family: A Genealogy of the Chipmans in America, 1631–1920. Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Winston Printing Company. pp. 50, 105–109.
  12. ^ Conover, Jefferson S. (1897). Freemasonry in Michigan: A Comprehensive History of Michigan Masonry, Volume 1. Coldwater, Michigan: Conover Printing Company. p. 145.

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Isaac Tichenor
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Vermont
Served alongside: Elijah Paine, Stephen R. Bradley
Succeeded by
Israel Smith
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Samuel Smith
Oldest living U.S. Senator
April 22, 1839 – February 13, 1843
Succeeded by
Asher Robbins
Legal offices
Preceded by
Newly created seat
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont
March 4, 1791 – January 1, 1793
Succeeded by
Samuel Hitchcock