Levi Woodbury (1789 - 1851)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Francestown, Hillsborough, NH, USA
Death: Died in Portsmouth, Rockingham, NH, USA
Managed by: Ken Wilde
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About Levi Woodbury

Levi Woodbury (December 22, 1789 – September 4, 1851) was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, a U.S. Senator, Governor of New Hampshire and cabinet member in three administrations. He was the first Justice to have attended law school.

Life and career

Woodbury was born in Francestown, New Hampshire. He graduated from Dartmouth College, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1809, briefly attended Tapping Reeve Law School in Litchfield, Connecticut, and read law to be admitted to the New Hampshire Bar in 1812. He was in private practice in Francestown from 1812 to 1816. He also joined the Freemasons.

Woodbury was a clerk of the New Hampshire State Senate from 1816 to 1817, and a Justice of New Hampshire state supreme court from 1817 to 1823. He was Governor of New Hampshire from 1823 to 1824 and was Speaker of the New Hampshire State House of Representatives, 1825.

Federal government service

Senate and Cabinet service

Woodbury served as a United States Senator from New Hampshire from 1825 to 1831. Elected to serve in New Hampshire state Senate in 1831, Woodbury did not take office due to his appointment as United States Secretary of the Navy under President Andrew Jackson, from 1831 to 1834. He was Secretary of the Treasury under Jackson and Martin Van Buren from 1834 to 1841, and served again as Senator from New Hampshire from 1841 to 1845. He was a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1845 to 1851.

As a U.S. Senator, Woodbury was a dependable Jackson Democrat, and President Jackson appointed him Secretary of the Navy (1831–1834) and then Secretary of the Treasury (1834–1841). Woodbury successfully worked to end the Second Bank of the United States; like Jackson he favored an "independent" treasury system and "hard money" over paper money. In retrospect, the financial Panic of 1837 and the collapse of speculative land prices were legacies of Woodbury's tenure. After the Panic, Woodbury realised that the U.S. Treasury needed a more secure administration of its own funds than commercial banks supplied, and he backed the act for an "Independent Treasury System" passed by Congress in 1840. It was largely repealed under the new administration the following year, but the foundation was laid for an independent U.S. Treasury, finally established in 1846, under President James K. Polk. Woodbury also served as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance during a Special Session of the 29th Congress. His ten day chairmanship is the shortest on record.

Supreme Court service

In the 1844 presidential election, Woodbury and the Jackson Democrats supported the Democrats' nomination of Polk. On September 20, 1845, Polk gave Woodbury a recess appointmentto a seat as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court vacated by Joseph Story. Formally nominated on December 23, 1845, Woodbury was confirmed by the United States Senate on January 3, 1846, and received his commission the same day. Woodbury remained on the Court until his death, in 1851, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Legacy

Woodbury is one of the few individuals to serve in all three branches of U.S. government and one of three people to have served in all three branches and also served as a U.S. Governor (the others being Salmon P. Chase and James F. Byrnes). Woodbury County, Iowa, the City of Woodbury, Minnesota, Woodbury Avenue in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Woodbury School in Salem, New Hampshire, and the ship USS Woodbury were named in honor of him.

Works

Political, Judicial, and Literary Writings (edited by N. Capen, Boston, 1852)

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  • Governor of New Hampshire
  • Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of the Navy during the Administration of President Jackson
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Levi Woodbury, Governor, U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Navy and Treasury, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court's Timeline

1789
December 22, 1789
Francestown, Hillsborough, NH, USA
1823
1823
Age 33
1851
September 4, 1851
Age 61
Portsmouth, Rockingham, NH, USA
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