About Samuel Nelson
Samuel Nelson (November 10, 1792 – December 13, 1873) was an American attorney and an Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Born in Hebron, New York, Nelson attended Middlebury College in Vermont in 1813 and read law to be licensed to practice law in 1817. He entered private practice in Cortland, New York in 1817. Nelson married Pamela Woods in 1819. In 1825, after Pamela's death, he married Catharine Ann Russell. He had two children from his first marriage and six from his second. His fourth child with Catharine, Rensselaer Nelson, was the first United States District Court Judge for the District of Minnesota.
Nelson was a postmaster in Cortland from 1820 to 1823, and then served as a state circuit judge from 1823 until 1831, when he became associate justice of the Supreme Court of New York. In 1837, he was elevated to Chief Justice. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate from New York in 1845.
On February 4, 1845, Nelson was nominated by President John Tyler to a seat as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States vacated by Smith Thompson. Nelson was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 14, 1845, and received his commission immediately. Nelson's confirmation in the last month of Tyler's presidency was a surprise. The unpopular Tyler had failed repeatedly to fill the vacancy left by Thompson, as the Whig-controlled Senate rejected his nominations of John Canfield Spencer, Reuben Walworth, Edward King and John M. Read. The Whigs found Nelson acceptable because, although he was a Democrat, he had a reputation as a careful and uncontroversial jurist.
Nelson served as a Justice for 27 years, until his retirement on November 28, 1872. His tenure was generally viewed as unremarkable.
In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Nelson to serve on the joint high commission to arbitrate the Alabama claims. During this time he took a leave of absence from the bench. Soon thereafter, Nelson became ill. He resigned from the commission in 1872, shortly before his death.
Samuel Nelson died in Cooperstown, New York, in 1873.