Justice Levi Woodbury

Justice Levi Woodbury joined the U.S. Supreme Court on September 23, 1845, replacing Justice Joseph Story. Woodbury was born on December 22, 1789 in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire. He graduated with honors from Dartmouth College in 1809 and then studied briefly at the Litchfield Law School in Connecticut. Woodbury was admitted to the New Hampshire bar in 1812 and entered private practice. He then served as clerk of the New Hampshire State Senate and a Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, then known as the Superior Court of Judicature.

From 1823 to 1824, Woodbury served a single one-year term as Governor of New Hampshire. He entered national politics in 1825 as a U.S. Senator. Woodbury held that seat until 1831, when he became U.S. Secretary of the Navy. From 1834 to 1841, he served as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and then he became a U.S. Senator again.

On September 20, 1845, President James K. Polk appointed Woodbury to the U.S. Supreme Court during a recess of the Senate. He took the judicial oath three days later. Polk formally nominated Woodbury on December 23, and the Senate confirmed him on January 3, 1846. He would serve just six years on the Court.

Although Woodbury came from the North and did not own slaves, he upheld the federal Fugitive Slave Act in Jones v. Van Zandt in 1847. This helped cement the legal status of slavery a decade before the notorious Dred Scott decision. A year later, Woodbury was a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, which ultimately went to Lewis Cass.

Woodbury died on September 4, 1851 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and was buried there. Justice Benjamin Curtis replaced him on the Court.