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Jackson's judges: Six appointments who shaped a nation

John Gregory Jacobsen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


During his two terms as Chief Executive, Andrew Jackson made six appointments to the United States Supreme Court, more than any nineteenth century president. Ranging from the famous to the virtually unknown, this group consisted of three late Marshall Court appointees: John McLean of Ohio in 1829, Henry Baldwin of Pennsylvania in 1830, and James Wayne of Georgia in 1835, and three appointments at the onset of the Taney era: Roger Taney of Maryland and Philip Barbour of Virginia in 1836, and John Catron of Tennessee in 1837. Together, these six justices transformed the Supreme Court. Although Justices Smith Thompson and Joseph Story remained on the bench until the 1840s, and despite twelve additional appointments made under seven subsequent presidents, Jackson's judges, at least until the four wartime appointments of Abraham Lincoln, formed the core of the Taney Court. Such dominance did not equal unity, however, as McLean and Wayne proved strong nationalists. Nor were Jackson's picks the Court's most extreme members, for Van Buren's two appointments became the most agrarian, states rights voices of the Taney era. Jackson's judges, like the Court itself, elude simple categorization. The purpose of this study is to examine the lives and jurisprudence of Andrew Jackson's six Supreme Court appointments. Its uniqueness lies in the framework; the subject is not the Marshall or Taney Court, but Jackson's judges. Joining judicial biography with case analysis, the study examines each justice in separate chapters, forming six largely self-contained, legal-focused biographies. Analysis includes personal information, political connections, and jurisprudential background and credentials. The heart of each chapter is an in-depth analysis of the subject's most profound or trademark opinion. Each justice is considered then for his contribution to constitutional history. Following a survey of the Marshall and Taney Courts is an analysis of the life and presidency of Andrew Jackson with special emphasis on his background and relationship with judiciaries. A conclusion summarizing the six justices and analyzing their impact as a group closes the study.

Subject Area

American history|Law

Recommended Citation

Jacobsen, John Gregory, "Jackson's judges: Six appointments who shaped a nation" (2004). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3152613.