The New International Encyclopædia/Ellsworth, Oliver
ELLSWORTH, Oliver (1745-1807). An American statesman and jurist, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1796 to 1800. He was born at Windsor, Conn., and studied at both Yale and Princeton, graduating at the latter institution in 1766. He was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1771. In 1775 he was chosen a member of the Connecticut Legislature, in which, in the early years of the Revolution, he served as a member of the important Committee of Military Accounts. Elected to the Continental Congress in 1778, he continued to serve as a delegate until 1784, when he became a member of the Governor's Council and a judge of the State Supreme Court. In 1787, with Roger Sherman and William Samuel Johnson, he was chosen to represent Connecticut in the Constitutional Convention. As a member of this convention his most important achievement was securing the adoption of the ‘Connecticut Compromise,’ which called for a combination whereby there should be two Houses, the Upper chosen on a basis of equality between the States, and the Lower on a representative basis proportioned according to population. This plan was finally adopted by the narrow majority of one vote. On the organization of the National Government, in 1789, he was elected one of the first United States Senators from Connecticut. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary he drew up the bill which organized the judicial system of the country on the basis upon which it has ever since been maintained. As the leader of the Federalists in the Senate, he suggested to Washington the plan of sending John Jay to England in 1794 to negotiate a treaty with that country; and it was Ellsworth's influence, in the face of violent opposition, that secured the Senate's approval of the treaty after it had been negotiated. In 1796 he was appointed by Washington Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving until 1799, in which year he was sent, with William R. Davie and Vans Murray, as commissioner to adjust the numerous disputes that had arisen between the United States and France. The negotiations, carried on almost entirely by Ellsworth, terminated by the signing of a treaty whereby France conceded a recognition of the rights of the neutral vessels and promised indemnity for depredations on American commerce. After a year in England, during which time he resigned the Chief-Justiceship, Ellsworth returned to America. From 1802 until his death he was a member of the Governor's Council in Connecticut. On the reorganization of the Connecticut judiciary, early in 1807, he was appointed Chief Justice of the state, but died before entering upon his duties. Consult Van Santvoord, Lives of the Chief Justices (New York, 1854).