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Bushrod Washington


Bushrod Washington, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born to George Washington’s brother John Augustine Washington and Hannah Bushrod Washington on 5 June 1762 at Bushfield Manor in Westmoreland County, Virginia. After attending The College of William and Mary, he served as a volunteer cavalryman during the Revolutionary War’s Virginia campaign of 1781. George Washington subsequently provided financial support so that Bushrod could study law after graduating from the College of William & Mary. He moved to Philadelphia in 1782 and studied law under James Wilson. In 1785 Washington married Julia Ann (Nancy) Blackburn and returned to Westmoreland County, where he worked as an attorney.

Over the next several years, he served in the House of Delegates (1787–88), sat in the Virginia convention that ratified the U.S. Constitution, and relocated his legal practice to Alexandria and then Richmond. In 1798 President John Adams appointed him to fill Wilson’s seat on the Supreme Court. During his thirty-plus years as associate justice, Washington was a strong ally of John Marshall, breaking with the chief justice only in Ogden v. Saunders and two other cases. Justice Washington's opinions became the basis of constitutional laws and legal definitions that are still upheld by the court today. Primarily known as the favorite nephew of George Washington, he inherited his uncle’s papers and (upon the death of Martha Washington) Mount Vernon. Bushrod Washington died in Philadelphia on 26 November 1829, two days before the passing of his wife.

Portrait of Bushrod Washington.

Additional Resources

"Bushrod Washington." Bushrod Washington - Wythepedia: The George Wythe Encyclopedia, 2018.

"Bushrod Washington." Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936. Gale In Context: U.S. History, Accessed 18 Dec. 2022.

"September 1784," Founders Online, National Archives, [Original source: The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 4, 1 September 1784 – 30 June 1786, ed. Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1978, pp. 1–54.]

"To George Washington from Bushrod Washington, 9 November 1788," Founders Online, National Archives, [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 1, 24 September 1788 – 31 March 1789, ed. Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1987, pp. 100–102.]

"From Thomas Jefferson to Bushrod Washington, 23 September 1795," Founders Online, National Archives, [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 28, 1 January 1794 – 29 February 1796, ed. John Catanzariti. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000, pp. 479–480.]

Lawrence B. Custer, "Bushrod Washington and John Marshall: A Preliminary Inquiry," The American Journal of Legal History, Volume 4, Number 1 (January 1960), 34–48.

Richard E. Ellis, "Washington, Bushrod," in Kermit L. Hall, ed., The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (Oxford University Press, 2005).

Smith, M. Earl. "Bushrod Washington." In The Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington, edited by Anne Fertig and Alexandra Montgomery. Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, 2012–.

Bushrod Washington at Federal Judicial Center.

Bushrod Washington at Oyez.

Bushrod Washington at Find a Grave.

Bushrod C. Washington at FamilySearch.