Nisha Rathode (Editor)

Bushrod Washington

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Nominated by  John Adams
Preceded by  James Wilson
Succeeded by  Henry Baldwin
Religion  Episcopalian
Appointed by  John Adams
Name  Bushrod Washington

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Born  June 5, 1762 Westmoreland County, Virginia (1762-06-05)
Alma mater  College of William and Mary
Role  Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Died  November 26, 1829, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Books  Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Appeals of Virginia
Similar People  Alfred Moore, John Adams, John Marshall, Lawrence Washington (1718–1752), Martha Washington

Education  College of William & Mary

Bushrod Washington

Bushrod Washington (June 5, 1762 – November 26, 1829) was an attorney and politician, appointed as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, where he served for more than 30 years. He was among the founders of the American Colonization Society in 1816, intended to promote emigration of freed slaves and free blacks to a colony in Africa, and served as its president until his death. The nephew of American founding father and President George Washington, he inherited his uncle's papers and Mount Vernon, taking possession in 1802 after the death of Martha Washington, his uncle's widow.


Early life

Bushrod Washington was born on June 5, 1762, at Bushfield Manor, a plantation home located at Mount Holly in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was a son of John Augustine Washington (1730–1787), the brother of George Washington, and John's wife, Hannah Bushrod (1735–1801).

Washington graduated from the College of William & Mary in 1778 and as an alumnus became in 1780 the 41st member of Phi Beta Kappa. After beginning with John Marshall the study of law under George Wythe in 1780, he joined the Continental Army during 1781 and served as a private in the army until 1782.

After Bushrod left the army, his father and his uncle, George Washington, sponsored his further legal studies with James Wilson. After concluding his studies with Wilson in April 1784, the young Washington returned to Westmoreland County, married Julia Anne (Anna) Blackburn, and opened a law office.

He was in the private practice of law from 1784 to 1798.

Political and judicial career

He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1787. In 1788, he served in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, where he voted for ratification of the US Constitution.

On September 29, 1798, Washington received from President John Adams a recess appointment to the seat on the US Supreme Court vacated by James Wilson after John Marshall had declined the appointment while seeking an elective office. Formally nominated on December 18, 1798, Washington was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 20, 1798, and received his commission the same day. Washington became an associate justice on February 4, 1799, at the age of 36. After Marshall became Chief Justice two years later, Washington voted with Marshall on all but three occasions (one being Ogden v. Saunders). Washington served on the Supreme Court until his death in 1829.

While serving on the Marshall Court, Washington authored the opinion of Corfield v. Coryell, 6 Fed. Cas. 546 (C.C.E.D. Penn. 1823), while riding circuit as an Associate Justice. In Corfield, Washington listed several rights that he deemed were fundamental "privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States."


Around 1795, Washington purchased Belvidere, the former Richmond estate of William Byrd III. He relinquished Belvidere upon his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1798.

Upon his aunt Martha Washington's death in 1802, Bushrod Washington inherited all of his uncle George Washington's papers as well the largest part of his estate, including the Mount Vernon plantation, as bequeathed in his uncle's will. By George Washington's will, George's slaves were to be freed after his wife Martha died, as she had the use of them during her lifetime. However, Martha freed the slaves before her death in an 1800 deed of manumission.

When Bushrod Washington and his wife moved to Mount Vernon immediately after Martha's death, he brought his own slaves there. The estate had not included much cash, and Washington found that he was unable to support the upkeep of the plantation's 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 gain working capital to support the main house and property.

Society memberships

Washington was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1813.

In 1816, Washington was among the founders of the American Colonization Society (ACS), which promoted repatriation to Africa of free blacks and slaves who were freed in preparation for transport there. Washington became the Society's first president and held that position for the remainder of his life. 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 freeing his slaves, as had his uncle George Washington. They believed that Bushrod Washington should have sent his freed slaves to Liberia.

Death and interment

Bushrod died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 26, 1829, while riding circuit. His wife died two days later while transporting his body for burial. They are both interred in a vault within the Washington family tomb at Mount Vernon. An obelisk erected in front of the Washington family vault at Mount Vernon memorializes Bushrod and his wife.

Legacy and honors

Because of his role in the ACS and his assistance in founding the Republic of Liberia, Bushrod Island near the national capital of Monrovia was named for him.


Bushrod Washington Wikipedia