Thomas Todd

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Thomas Todd
Thomas Todd SCOTUS.jpg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
March 3, 1807 February 7, 1826
Nominated by Thomas Jefferson
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded by Robert Trimble
Chief Justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals
In office
December 13, 1806 March 3, 1807
Preceded by George Muter
Succeeded by Felix Grundy
Associate Justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals
In office
December 19, 1801 December 13, 1806
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded by Robert Trimble
Personal details
Born(1765-01-23)January 23, 1765
King and Queen County, Virginia, British America
DiedFebruary 7, 1826(1826-02-07) (aged 61)
Frankfort, Kentucky, U.S.
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Harris
Lucy Payne (1812–1826)
Education Washington and Lee University (BA)

Thomas Todd (January 23, 1765 – February 7, 1826) was an American attorney and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Raised in the Colony of Virginia, he studied law and later participated in the founding of Kentucky, where he served as a clerk, judge, and justice. He was married twice and had a total of eight children. Todd joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 1807 and his handful of legal opinions there mostly concerned land claims.

Lawyer legal professional who helps clients and represents them in a court of law

A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services. The role of the lawyer varies greatly across different legal jurisdictions.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Member of the U.S. Supreme Court other than the Chief Justice

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States is the title of all members of the Supreme Court of the United States other than the chief justice of the United States. The number of associate justices is eight, as set by the Judiciary Act of 1869.

Supreme Court of the United States Highest court in the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal and state court cases that involve a point of federal law, and original jurisdiction over a narrow range of cases, including suits between two or more states and those involving ambassadors. The Court holds the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the U.S. Constitution. It is also able to strike down presidential directives for violating either the Constitution or statutory law. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The Court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide non-justiciable political questions.


Early life

Todd was born in King and Queen County, Virginia, on January 23, 1765. [1] He was the youngest of five children. Both of his parents died when he was young. He was raised Presbyterian. At the age of 16, Todd served as a private in the Continental Army with a company of cavalry from Manchester, Virginia in the American Revolutionary War. Upon returning home, he attended Liberty Hall Academy (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia, and graduated in 1783. [1]

King and Queen County, Virginia U.S. county in Virginia

King and Queen County is a county in the U.S. state of Virginia, located in that state's Middle Peninsula on the eastern edge of the Richmond, VA metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the population was 6,945. Its county seat is King and Queen Court House.

Continental Army Colonial army during the American Revolutionary War

The Continental Army was formed by the Second Continental Congress after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the ex-British colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in their revolt against the rule of Great Britain. The Continental Army was supplemented by local militias and volunteer troops that remained under control of the individual states or were otherwise independent. General George Washington was the commander-in-chief of the army throughout the war.

American Revolutionary War War between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which won independence as the United States of America

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies in North America which declared independence in July 1776 as the United States of America.

Todd then became a tutor at Liberty Hall Academy in exchange for room and board and instruction in the law. Todd studied surveying before moving to Kentucky County (then part of Virginia) in 1783 when his first cousin, Harry Innes, was appointed to the Kentucky district of the Virginia Supreme Court. Todd read law to gain admission to the Kentucky bar in 1786, but he gained positions of influence by becoming a recorder.

Room and board describes a situation where, in exchange for money, labor or other considerations, a person is provided with a place to live as well as meals on a comprehensive basis. It commonly occurs as a fee at colleges and universities; it also occurs in hotel-style accommodation for short stays.

Surveying The technique, profession, and science of determining the positions of points and the distances and angles between them

Surveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, art and science of determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional positions of points and the distances and angles between them. A land surveying professional is called a land surveyor. These points are usually on the surface of the Earth, and they are often used to establish maps and boundaries for ownership, locations, such as building corners or the surface location of subsurface features, or other purposes required by government or civil law, such as property sales.

Virginia State in the United States

Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States located between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most populous city, and Fairfax County is the most populous political subdivision. The Commonwealth's estimated population as of 2018 is over 8.5 million.


Todd served as the clerk at five constitutional conventions between 1784 and 1792 where Kentucky was seeking [Admission to the Union|statehood]]. He served as secretary to the Kentucky State Legislature when Kentucky was admitted to the Union in 1792. When the Kentucky Court of Appeals, the State's highest court, was created in 1789, Todd became its chief clerk. He also maintained a private practice in Danville, Kentucky from 1788 until 1801, when Todd was appointed a Justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. In 1806 he was elevated to Chief Justice.

Constitutional convention (political meeting) gathering for the purpose of writing or revising a constitution

A constitutional convention is a gathering for the purpose of writing a new constitution or revising an existing constitution. Members of a constitutional convention are often, though not necessarily or entirely, elected by popular vote. However, a wholly popularly-elected constitutional convention can also be referred to as a constituent assembly.

Kentucky U.S. state

Kentucky, officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a state located in the east south-central region of the United States. Although styled as the "State of Kentucky" in the law creating it,, Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth. Originally a part of Virginia, in 1792 Kentucky split from it and became the 15th state to join the Union. Kentucky is the 37th most extensive and the 26th most populous of the 50 United States.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or simply America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. Most of the country is located in central North America between Canada and Mexico. With an estimated population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City.


Todd married Elizabeth Harris in 1788 and they were the parents of five children: Millicent (c.1789–1810), Charles Stewart (1791–1871), John Harris (1795–1824), Ann Maria (1801–1862) and Elizabeth Frances (1808–1892).

Charles Stewart Todd American army officer and politician

Colonel Charles Stewart Todd was an American military officer and government official.

On March 29, 1812, two years after his first wife died, Todd married Lucy Payne Washington, the youngest sister of Dolley Madison [1] and the widow of Major George Steptoe Washington, who was a nephew of President George Washington. It is believed to be the first wedding held in the White House. [2] Their children were: James Madison (1817–1897), William J. and Madisonia.

Dolley Madison Wife of fourth President of the United States, James Madison

Dolley Todd Madison was the wife of James Madison, President of the United States from 1809 to 1817. She was noted for holding Washington social functions in which she invited members of both political parties, essentially spearheading the concept of bipartisan cooperation, albeit before that term was in use, in the United States. While previously, founders such as Thomas Jefferson would only meet with members of one party at a time, and politics could often be a violent affair resulting in physical altercations and even duels, Madison helped to create the idea that members of each party could amicably socialize, network, and negotiate with each other without resulting in violence. By innovating political institutions as the wife of James Madison, Dolley Madison did much to define the role of the President's spouse, known only much later by the title First Lady—a function she had sometimes performed earlier for the widowed Thomas Jefferson. Consequently, she is the only woman to have functioned as U.S. presidential First Lady for two different administrations.

George Steptoe Washington was a planter, militia officer and nephew of the first President of the United States George Washington.

George Washington American politician and military leader

George Washington was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Previously, he led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War for Independence. He presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 which established the U.S. Constitution and a federal government. Washington has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation.

Appointment to the Supreme Court

Todd was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Thomas Jefferson on February 28, 1807, after Congress raised the number of seats on the court to seven. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 2, 1807, and received his commission the following day. He is one of 19 Presbyterians to have served on the Court. [3] He served as a Supreme Court Justice until his death in February 1826.

Court opinions

Thomas Todd House Frankfort, Kentucky Thomas Todd House; Frankfort, Kentucky.JPG
Thomas Todd House Frankfort, Kentucky

Todd served under Chief Justice John Marshall. Politically, Todd was a Jeffersonian. [1] Although they had different political beliefs, Todd adopted Marshall's views on judicial interpretation, but did not write a single constitutional opinion. He was labelled the most insignificant U.S. Supreme Court justice by Frank H. Easterbrook in The Most Insignificant Justice: Further Evidence, 50 U. Chi. L. Rev. 481 (1983). Todd wrote only fourteen opinions—eleven majority, two concurring and one dissenting. Ten of his eleven majority opinions involved disputed land and survey claims.

Todd's first reported opinion was a dissent to the opinion of Chief Justice Marshall in Finley v. Lynn . He concurred in all other opinions written by the Chief Justice. One of the more interesting of these cases was Preston v. Browder , where Todd upheld the right of North Carolina to make land claim restrictions on filings that were made in Indian territory and violated the Treaty of the Long Island of Holston made by the state on July 20, 1777. His opinion in Watts v. Lindsey's Heirs et al. , explained confusing and complicated land title problems which plagued early settlers of Kentucky.

Todd's only Court opinion which did not involve land law was his last. In Riggs v. Taylor , the Justice made the important procedural ruling, now taken for granted, that if a party intends to use an original document as evidence, then the original must be produced. But if the original is in the possession of the other party to the suit, who refuses to produce it, or if the original is lost or destroyed, then secondary evidence will be admitted.

Death and legacy

Thomas Todd gravesite, Frankfort Cemetery Frankfort, Kentucky Justice Thomas Todd grave.jpg
Thomas Todd gravesite, Frankfort Cemetery Frankfort, Kentucky

Todd died in Frankfort, Kentucky on February 7, 1826 at the age of 61. He was initially buried in the Innes family cemetery. Later, his remains were removed to Frankfort Cemetery, overlooking the Kentucky River and the Kentucky State Capitol. [4]

At the time of his death, Todd was vested with substantial real property, particularly in Frankfort. He was a charter member of the Kentucky River Company, the first business formed to promote Kentucky waterway navigation. The inventory of his estate revealed he was a shareholder of the Kentucky Turnpike, (the first publicly improved highway west of the Alleghenies), and the Frankfort toll bridge, crossing the Kentucky River. In addition to his home, he owned more than 7,200 acres (29 km2) of land throughout the state and another twenty or so pieces in Frankfort. After his children were provided for, as he put it, in "their full proportion", the remainder of his estate valued at more than $70,000—a large sum at the time. [5]

Todd's papers are kept in three locations:

During World War II the Liberty ship SS Thomas Todd was built in Brunswick, Georgia, and named in his honor. [7]

Memberships and other honors

Todd became a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1820. [8] He was also a Freemason. [9]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 Kleber, John E. (ed.) (1992). The Kentucky Encyclopedia, p. 888. The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN   0-8131-1772-0.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-26. Retrieved 2011-03-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. "Religion of the Supreme Court".
  4. The Kentucky Encyclopedia, p. 888
  5. Biography and Bibliography, Thomas Todd Archived 2008-09-20 at the Wayback Machine , 6th Circuit United States Court of Appeals.
  6. Location of Thomnas Todd Papers Archived 2007-03-17 at the Wayback Machine , 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
  7. Williams, Greg H. (25 July 2014). The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O’Brien. McFarland. ISBN   1476617546 . Retrieved 9 December 2017.
  8. "MemberListT".
  9. "TODAY in Masonic History: Thomas Todd Passes Away". February 7, 2016. Retrieved August 29, 2019.


Further reading

Legal offices
New seat Associate Justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals
Succeeded by
Robert Trimble
Preceded by
George Muter
Chief Justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals
Succeeded by
Felix Grundy
New seat Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Succeeded by
Robert Trimble