John Rutledge (September 17, 1739 – July 18, 1800)

John RutledgeJohn Rutledge was an American statesman and judge. He was the first Governor of South Carolina following the signing of the Declaration of Independence. For a time, he held dictatorial powers in that state. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and he signed the United States Constitution. He served as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, and was the second Chief Justice of the Court from July to December 1795. He was the elder brother of Edward Rutledge, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.

In 1795, the Chief Justice of the United States, John Jay, was elected Governor of New York. Jay resigned his post as Chief Justice, and George Washington again appointed Rutledge during a recess of the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, this time as Chief Justice of the United States. Rutledge became Chief Justice on July 1, 1795. Soon thereafter, on July 16, 1795, Rutledge gave a highly controversial speech denouncing the Jay Treaty with England. He reportedly said in the speech "that he had rather the President should die than sign that puerile instrument" – and that he "preferred war to an adoption of it."

Rutledge's outspoken opposition to the Jay Treaty, the rumors of mental illness he had suffered since the death of his wife in 1792, and that he resorted to alcohol caused the Federalist-dominated Senate to reject his appointment on December 15, 1795. As a result, Rutledge's recess appointment automatically expired at the end of that Senate session: he resigned on December 28. Rutledge thus became the only U.S. Supreme Court Justice in history to be forced out of office involuntarily, ending his public career.¹

John Rutledge Quote

"By doing good with his money, a man, as it were, stamps the image of God upon it, and makes it pass, current for the merchandise of heaven."

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