John Rutledge

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John Rutledge
Former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
From: July 1, 1795 – December 28, 1795
Nominator George Washington
Predecessor John Jay
Successor Oliver Ellsworth
Former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
From: September 26, 1789 – March 5, 1791
Nominator George Washington
Predecessor John Rutledge
Successor Thomas Johnson

John Rutledge (September 17, 1739 - July 18, 1800) 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 August to December 1795. He was the elder brother of Edward Rutledge, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.

Political Career

In 1761, Rutledge was elected to the provincial assembly of South Carolina. Before Rutledge took office, the Royal Governor, Thomas Boone, had refused allow a newly elected Assemblyman named Christopher Gadsden to take his seat. This led to a political impasse between the Governor and the legislature. Ultimately, the legislature refused to conduct any business until the governor relented.[1] Rutledge was instrumental in uniting the assembly against the Governor.

In 1774, Rutledge was sent to the First Continental Congress. It is not known for certain exactly what John Rutledge contributed during the First Continental Congress. In the notes we have of the actions of this Congress, the name is given simply as "Rutledge", despite the fact that John's brother Edward Rutledge was also present. In any case, the most important contribution made by "Rutledge" to the Congress was during the debate of how to appropriate votes in the Congress. Some wanted it to be determined by the population of the colonies. Others wanted to give each colony one vote. "Rutledge" observed that as the Congress had no legal authority to force the colonies to accept its decisions, it would make the most sense to give each colony one vote. The other delegates ultimately agreed to this proposal.[2]


  1. Flanders 453-454
  2. Flanders 481-482