John Rutledge - Encyclopedia

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JOHN RUTLEDGE (1739-1800), American jurist and politician, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1739. He studied law in London and began to practise in Charleston in 1761. He was a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765, and to the Continental Congress in 1774-77 and 1782-83; he was chairman of the committee which framed the state constitution of 1776, and the first "president" (governor) of South Carolina in 1776-78. Disapproving of certain changes in the constitution, he resigned in 1778, but was elected governor in the following year, and served until 1782. From 1784 to 1789 he was a member of the state court of chancery. In the Constitutional Convention of 1787 he urged that the president and the Federal judges should be chosen by the national legislature, and preferably by the Senate alone, and that the president should be chosen for a term of seven years, and should be ineligible to succeed himself. Rutledge championed the Constitution in the South Carolina convention by which that instrument was adopted on behalf of the state. He was associate justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1789-91, and chief justice of the supreme court of South Carolina in 1791-95. Nominated chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1795, he presided during the August term, but the Senate refused to confirm the nomination, apparently because of his opposition to the Jay Treaty. His mind failed late in 1795, and he died in Charleston on the 23rd of July 1800.

His brother, Edward Rutledge (1749-1800), a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Charleston on the 23rd of November 1749. He studied law in his brother's office, and in London in 1769-73, and began to practise in Charleston in 1773. He served in the Continental Congress in 1774-77, and was sent. with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to confer on terms of peace with Lord Howe on Staten Island in September 1776. As captain of artillery and later as lieutenant-colonel he served against the British in South Carolina in 1779-80, but he was captured near Charleston in 1780, and was imprisoned at St Augustine, Florida, for a year. He was a member of the state legislature from 1782 to 1798, and in 1791 drafted the act which abolished primogeniture in South Carolina. From 1798 until his death in Charleston, on the 23rd of January 1800, he was governor of South Carolina.

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