Other photo of Henry Baldwin
Judge Henry Baldwin.
Other photo of Henry Baldwin
New Haven, Connecticut, United States
Other photo of Henry Baldwin
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A General View of the Origin and Nature of the Constitution and Government of the United States
Henry Baldwin Edit Profile
Baldwin attended Yale University and graduated in 1797, upon which he completed an apprenticeship in the law office of Alexander J. Dallas in Philadelphia. He was admitted to the bar in Philadelphia but shortly headed west to join his brother Michael in Ohio. Henry Baldwin did not complete this migration, however, for he eventually settled in Pittsburgh, and in 1801 he was admitted to the Allegheny County Bar.
In 1803-1805 Mr. Baldwin established a reputation as one of Pittsburgh’s preeminent lawyers, practicing together with Tarleton Bates, until his death in 1806, and Walter Forward. With them, he became co-owner of a local Republican newspaper called The Tree of Liberty. Henry Baldwin also invested in a variety of business ventures with mixed success. By 1816 his reputation had won him election to the U.S. Congress. However, Mr. Baldwin resigned from Congress in 1822 because of ill health, but he continued to support Mr. Jackson’s presidential ambitions, which were realized in the election of 1828.
After Mr. Jackson became president, Henry Baldwin expected that his loyalty to the general would result in a significant appointment in the Jackson administration. In fact, President Jackson originally slated Mr. Baldwin to become secretary of the treasury. But Vice President John C. Calhoun was able to persuade the president to appoint another candidate to this position, rather than Henry Baldwin. Not satisfied when President Jackson offered him various diplomatic appointments, Henry Baldwin complained privately to friends of his mistreatment by the president. When Justice Bushrod Washington died in the latter part of 1829, Andrew Jackson used the opportunity to reward Mr. Baldwin’s loyalty by choosing him as the new associate justice to replace Mr. Washington. Over the protests of the two South Carolina senators who shared Mr. Calhoun’s opposition to Henry Baldwin, the Senate confirmed him after the first day of the new year. On January 18, 1830, Henry Baldwin took the oath of office and began what would be a 14-year career on the Court.
Having been admitted into the Court’s inner sanctum, Justice Baldwin seemed at first to have taken on himself the role of an irascible outsider. In 1831, his second term of service, Henry Baldwin dissented seven times, a rather remarkable display of contrariness for a recently appointed justice. He also let it be known to his political friends that he found himself so out of place on the Court that he had contemplated resigning his seat at once. Martin Van Buren recorded Mr. Baldwin’s unhappiness: "Judge Baldwin is dissatisfied with the situation, for reasons which it is unnecessary to explain further than they grow out of opposition to what he regards as an unwarrantable extension of its powers by the Court, and has given the president notice of his intention to resign." President Jackson, though, persuaded his appointee to remain on the Court, although the coming years would often give him cause to regret his selection of Mr. Baldwin.
But however irksome Henry Baldwin might have been to Mr. Jackson at times, he could, on other occasions, prove himself quite capable of defying Chief Justice Marshall’s leadership on cases important to the President Jackson administration. In the Cherokee cases of 1831 and 1832, for example, Mr. Baldwin hewed to a course unswervingly favorable to Andrew Jackson’s desire to relocate the Cherokee. In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), he found himself aligned with a majority of the Court, led by Mr. Marshall, who refused to hear a claim brought by the Cherokee against the state of Georgia, after concluding that the Cherokee were not a sovereign nation entitled to invoke the Court’s jurisdiction. The next term, however, the majority realigned itself, again behind Mr. Marshall, leaving Henry Baldwin alone to dissent when the Court held in Worcester v. Georgia (1832) that states had no power to interfere with the Cherokee people or lands. President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce the new majority opinion and supported the removal of the Cherokee to Indian Territory, a forced relocation that resulted in the deaths of many Cherokee and would become known as the Trail of fears. To these alienating factors was added the embarrassment of financial problems in his later years.
Henry Baldwin proved himself an undependable ally of Jacksonian policy. He was, to be sure, often critical of attempts to increase federal power at the expense of state prerogatives, but he could not be relied on to translate this attitude into concrete defeats for federal power in every instance. In particular, he did not share the president’s often-stated opposition to any renewal of the charter of the Bank of the United States. He also infuriated the president by his opinion for the majority of the Court in United States v. Arredondo (1831), which involved a title dispute dating back to an old Spanish land grant in Florida. Mr. Jackson opposed the venerable title claim but Henry Baldwin, for the Court, insisted that the government had the burden of disproving the claim and that the security of real estate ownership required a vigorous protection of land tides.
Mr. Baldwin opposed the two prevailing schools of Constitutional interpretation: the strict constructionists and the school of liberal interpretation. Likewise, his views followed a middle course between the extremes of states' rights on the one hand, and nationalism on the other hand.
Overall, Henry Baldwin’s years on the Court were characterized by contrariness as often as concordance. Rumors circulated regularly that he was mentally unstable, so eccentric was his temper.
Physical Characteristics: Mr. Baldwin's time on the court was punctuated by physical and mental health problems.
In 1803 he married Marianna Norton, his third cousin; she died in 1803 shortly after giving birth to their only child, a son. Two years after her death, Henry Baldwin remarried, this time to Sally Ellicott.
- Justices & Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court
- The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–2012
- The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions (Justices of the Supreme Court) Volumes I-V
- The Taney Court: Justices, Rulings, and Legacy (ABC-CLIO Supreme Court Handbooks)
- Without Fear Or Favor: a Biography of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney
DiedApril 21, 1844 (aged 64)
Resting placeGreendale Cemetery, Meadville, Pennsylvania, United States