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Henry Baldwin

In office
January 6, 1830[1] – April 21, 1844
Nominated by Andrew Jackson
Preceded by Bushrod Washington
Succeeded by Robert Cooper Grier

Born January 14, 1780(1780-01-14)
New Haven, Connecticut
Died April 21, 1844 (aged 64)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Political party Democratic-Republican
Religion Episcopalian

Henry Baldwin (January 14, 1780 – April 21, 1844) was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from January 18, 1830, to April 21, 1844.



Baldwin was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the half-brother of Abraham Baldwin. He received a B.A at age 17 from Yale College in 1797, attended Litchfield Law School and read law in 1798. He was a Deputy state attorney general of Meadville, Pennsylvania from 1799 to 1801. He was also the publisher of The Tree of Liberty, a Republican newspaper.

Baldwin was elected to the United States Congress as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party in 1816, representing Pennsylvania, but resigned after six years because of his declining health and failing finances. He strongly supported the election of Andrew Jackson in the election of 1828. After the death of Bushrod Washington in 1829, Jackson nominated Baldwin to the Supreme Court. Baldwin was confirmed by the Senate on January 6, 1830, and received his commission the same day.

Baldwin considered resigning in 1831. In a letter to President Jackson, he complained about the Court’s extension of its powers. Some historians believe that Baldwin suffered from mental illness during this period. However, he continued to serve on the court until his death in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Justice Baldwin was personally opposed to slavery. In the case of Johnson v. Tompkins, 13 F. Cas. 840 (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1833), he instructed the jury that although slavery's existence "is abhorrent to all our ideas of natural right and justice," the jury must respect the legal status of slavery. He was the sole dissenter in the Amistad Case, in which the Court decided to free a ship of illegally imported African slaves.

In another federal case, Justice Baldwin interpreted the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution. That case was Magill v. Brown, 16 Fed. Cas. 408 (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1833), in which Justice Baldwin stated: "We must take it therefore as a grant by the people of the state in convention, to the citizens of all the other states of the Union, of the privileges and immunities of the citizens of this state." This eventually became the view accepted by the Supreme Court, and remains so.

Justice Baldwin was a friend and admirer of Chief Justice John Marshall, and wrote of Marshall that "no commentator ever followed the text more faithfully, or ever made a commentary more accordant with its strict intention and language." Baldwin was at Marshall's bedside when the old Chief Justice died in 1835.

In 1837, Justice Baldwin authored a treatise titled A General View of the Origin and Nature of the Constitution and Government of the United States: Deduced from the Political History and Condition of the Colonies and States.[2] Baldwin opposed the two prevailing schools of Constitutional interpretation: the strict constructionists and the school of liberal interpretation. Likewise, his views followed a middle course between the extremes of states' rights on the one hand, and nationalism on the other hand.

Death and legacy

Justice Baldwin suffered from paralysis in later years and died a pauper, aged 64. Historian William J. Novak of the University of Chicago has written that, "Baldwin’s jurisprudence has been treated rather shabbily by historians."[1]

Baldwin was a great-great-great-great-grandfather of actor Christopher Reeve.[3]

Justice Baldwin's remains were initially interred at Oak Hill Cemetery (Washington, DC). His remains were disinterred and moved to Greendale Cemetery, Meadville, PA. [4]

He was the half-brother of United States Constitution signatory Abraham Baldwin.[5]

Further reading

  • Abraham, Henry J. (1992). Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506557-3.  
  • Cushman, Clare (2001). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–1995 (2nd ed.). (Supreme Court Historical Society, Congressional Quarterly Books). ISBN 1568021267.  
  • Frank, John P. (1995). Friedman, Leon; Israel, Fred L.. eds. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 0791013774.  
  • Huebner, Timothy S.; Renstrom, Peter; Hall, Kermit L., coeditor. (2003) The Taney Court, Justice Rulings and Legacy. City: ABC-Clio Inc.ISBN 1576073688.
  • Lewis, Walker (1965). Without Fear or Favor: A Biography of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.  
  • Martin, Fenton S.; Goehlert, Robert U. (1990). The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Books. ISBN 0871875543.  
  • Seddig, Robert G.; Hall, Kermit L., ed. (1992). "Henry Baldwin", The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States.. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195058356.  
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. (1994). The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Garland Publishing. pp. 590. ISBN 0815311761.  
  • White, G. Edward. The Marshall Court & Cultural Change, 1815-35. Published in an abridged edition, 1991.



  1. ^ "Federal Judicial Center: Henry Baldwin". 2009-12-09. Retrieved 2009-12-09.  
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Christensen, George A. (1983) Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices, Yearbook. Supreme Court Historical Society. Henry Baldwin memorial at Find a Grave.
  5. ^ Henry Baldwin memorial at Find a Grave.

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Woods
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 14th congressional district

Succeeded by
Walter Forward
Legal offices
Preceded by
Bushrod Washington
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
January 6, 1830 – April 21, 1844
Succeeded by
Robert Cooper Grier

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