Age at Convention: 42
Date of Birth: April 29, 1745
Date of Death: November 26, 1807
Schooling: College of New Jersey (Princeton) 1766
Occupation: Lawyer, Public Security Interests, Lending and Investments, Mercantilist
Prior Political Experience: State Upper House in Connecticut from 1780-1785, Served on Connecticut Superior Court 1785-1807, Council of Safety 1779, Committee of Pay 1775, Continental Congress 1777-1780, Confederation Congress 1781-1783
Committee Assignments: Elected First Representation Committee but was “indisposed,” Committee of Detail
Convention Contributions: Arrived on May 28. Departed last week in August and never returned. On June 29, Ellsworth claimed “that we were partly national; partly federal,” and introduced the Resolution which became known as the Connecticut Compromise. William Pierce stated that “he is a Gentleman of a clear, deep, and copious understanding; eloquent and connected in public debate; and always attentive to his duty.”
New Government Participation: Wrote letters influencing the adoption of the Constitution, played a major part in drafting the Judiciary Act in the First Congress as Connecticut’s First Senator (1789 – 1796), served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1796 – 1798). Washington nominated after the Senate refused to confirm the appointment of John Rutledge as Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court.
Biography from the National Archives:Oliver Ellsworth was born on April 29, 1745, in Windsor, CT, to Capt. David and Jemima Ellsworth. He entered Yale in 1762 but transferred to the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) at the end of his second year. He continued to study theology and received his A.B. degree after 2 years. Soon afterward, however, Ellsworth turned to the law. After 4 years of study, he was admitted to the bar in 1771. The next year Ellsworth married Abigail Wolcott.
From a slow start Ellsworth built up a prosperous law practice. His reputation as an able and industrious jurist grew, and in 1777 Ellsworth became Connecticut’s state attorney for Hartford County. That same year he was chosen as one of Connecticut’s representatives in the Continental Congress. He served on various committees during six annual terms until 1783. Ellsworth was also active in his state’s efforts during the Revolution. As a member of the Committee of the Pay Table, Oliver Ellsworth was one of the five men who supervised Connecticut’s war expenditures. In 1779 he assumed greater duties as a member of the council of safety, which, with the governor, controlled all military measures for the state.
When the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in 1787 Ellsworth once again represented Connecticut and took an active part in the proceedings. During debate on the Great Compromise, Ellsworth proposed that the basis of representation in the legislative branch remain by state, as under the Articles of Confederation. He also left his mark through an amendment to change the word “national” to “United States” in a resolution. Thereafter, “United States” was the title used in the convention to designate the government.
Ellsworth also served on the Committee of Five that prepared the first draft of the Constitution. Ellsworth favored the three-fifths compromise on the enumeration of slaves but opposed the abolition of the foreign slave trade. Though he left the convention near the end of August and did not sign the final document, he urged its adoption upon his return to Connecticut and wrote the Letters of a Landholder to promote its ratification.
Ellsworth served as one of Connecticut’s first two senators in the new federal government between 1789 and 1796. In the Senate he chaired the committee that framed the bill organizing the federal judiciary and helped to work out the practical details necessary to run a new government. Ellsworth’s other achievements in Congress included framing the measure that admitted North Carolina to the Union, devising the non-intercourse act that forced Rhode Island to join, drawing up the bill to regulate the consular service, and serving on the committee that considered Alexander Hamilton’s plan for funding the national debt and for incorporating the Bank of the United States.
In the spring of 1796 he was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and also served as commissioner to France in 1799 and 1800. Upon his return to America in early 1801, Ellsworth retired from public life and lived in Windsor, CT. He died there on November 26, 1807, and was buried in the cemetery of the First Church of Windsor.
* indicates delegates who did not sign the Constitution
William Samuel Johnson – Roger Sherman – Oliver Ellsworth (Elsworth)*
George Read – Gunning Bedford, Jr. – John Dickinson – Richard Bassett – Jacob Broom
William Few – Abraham Baldwin – William Houstoun* - William L. Pierce*
James McHenry – Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer – Daniel Carroll – Luther Martin* - John F. Mercer*
Nathaniel Gorham – Rufus King – Elbridge Gerry* - Caleb Strong*
John Langdon – Nicholas Gilman
William Livingston – David Brearly (Brearley) - William Paterson (Patterson) - Jonathan Dayton – William C. Houston*
Alexander Hamilton – John Lansing, Jr.* - Robert Yates*
William Blount – Richard Dobbs Spaight – Hugh Williamson – William R. Davie* - Alexander Martin*
Benjamin Franklin – Thomas Mifflin – Robert Morris – George Clymer – Thomas Fitzsimons (FitzSimons; Fitzsimmons) - Jared Ingersoll – James Wilson – Gouverneur Morris
John Rutledge – Charles Cotesworth Pinckney – Charles Pinckney – Pierce Butler
Rhode Island did not send delegates to the Convention.
John Blair – James Madison Jr. – George Washington – George Mason* - James McClurg* - Edmund J. Randolph* - George Wythe*