Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ableman v. Booth XVI: Justice Samuel Crawford

The dissenter on the Wisconsin Supreme Court was Associate Justice Samuel Crawford.

Justice Crawford's history is quite different from that of Justices Whiton and Smith, both of whom were native New Englanders who moved to Wisconsin after passing the bar. Justice Crawford was a foreigner, born in Ireland in 1820. He emigrated to the United States in 1840, moving from Orange County, New York to Galena, Illinois, and ultimately to Wisconsin. When the Wisconsin Supreme Court was created in 1853, he was elected as an Associate Justice and assigned the "short" term, which expired in 1855. According to his Wisconsin Court System biography, his dissent in Ableman v. Booth "is believed to have cost him re-election in 1855." He died in 1860. Another brief biography appears here.

Because of his Irish and (presumably) Catholic background, one suspects that Justice Crawford was a Democrat rather than a Whig. As we shall see, whatever his political inclinations, Justice Crawford does not seem to have been a rabid partisan. He appears to have approached the issues in our case with an open mind and reached his decision on the merits as he saw them.

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