Justice Henry Baldwin

Justice Henry Baldwin joined the U.S. Supreme Court on January 18, 1830, replacing Justice Bushrod Washington. Baldwin was born on January 14, 1780 in New Haven, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale in 1797. Baldwin then attended Litchfield Law School before moving to Pennsylvania. He studied law with Alexander Dallas, known as the first reporter of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Baldwin briefly served as a deputy attorney general but spent most of his legal career in private practice. In 1816, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Baldwin spent five years there before resigning. While in the House, he vigorously defended Andrew Jackson’s actions during the Seminole War. Baldwin later supported Jackson’s pursuit of the Presidency.

On January 4, 1830, Jackson nominated Baldwin to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him on January 6 in a 41-2 vote, and he took the judicial oath about two weeks later. His 14-year tenure was volatile and unsettling to many observers.

Baldwin missed the 1833 term of the Court while he was hospitalized for what was called "incurable lunacy." Justice Joseph Story felt that his colleague was "partially deranged at all times." Baldwin reportedly continued to suffer from bouts of bizarre, even violent behavior on the bench after he returned. Supreme Court Reporter of Decisions Richard Peters, Jr. wrote that five people in one day said that the Justice was "crazy." His views were also highly unconventional, as Baldwin acknowledged in a treatise on the Constitution and U.S. government. He left scant impact on the law.

Despite his health concerns, Baldwin remained on the Court for the rest of his life. He died on April 21, 1844 in Philadelphia and was replaced by Justice Robert Cooper Grier.

Selected Opinions by Justice Baldwin:

Lessee of Ewing v. Burnet (1837)

Topic: Property Rights & Land Use

An entry by one party on the land of another party is or is not an ouster of the legal possession arising from the title according to the intention with which it is done. If it is made under claim or color of right, it is an ouster; otherwise, it is a mere trespass.