Bushrod Washington Interprets Privileges and Immunities
Bushrod Washington is clearly the less famous Washington (after his Uncle George, of course) but he also had a tremendous effect on the creation of the United State of America.
As an early and longtime Justice sitting on the Supreme Court bench, Bushrod Washington teamed up with John Marshall to give the Judicial Branch of the United States the prestige it currently holds today.
George Washington was clearly the most important member of his family to the creation of the United States.
Number two was his nephew, Bushrod Washington (sorry Martha).
Bushrod came of age during the American Revolution and, after graduating from the College of William and Mary, spent a year studying law under George Wythe. It was during this apprenticeship that he first met his future partner-in-justice John Marshall.
Bushrod would halt his studies to serve as a private in the Continental Army. Fortunately for him, this was in 1781 and the Battle of Yorktown (which he was present for) ended the Revolutionary Way shortly thereafter.
Bushrod relocated to Pennsylvania where he resumed his legal studies under the tutelage of James Wilson.
At age 24, Washington began a private practice which he ran successfully for the next fifteen years.
Washington had a short stint in Virginian politics in 1787-88 when he was elected to a session of the State’s House of Delegates. He also attended the Virginia Ratifying Convention where he supported the Constitution (which both his Uncle George and mentor James Wilson helped write).
A decade later, John Adams nominated Bushrod Washington as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He was quickly approved, replacing Wilson, who had recently passed away.
Three years later, John Marshall would be appointed Chief Justice and the two men formed one of the most important partnerships in American judicial history. They sided together on almost all issues, only voting in opposition three times.
Washington and Marshall spent almost thirty years working together to build the Judicial Branch of the United States into the cornerstone of American government it is today.
Privileges and Immunities
While riding the circuit (AKA travelling to hear cases) Bushrod pronounced his most famous opinion.
New Jersey was claiming that citizens from other states could not harvest clams and oysters from it’s shore. They were sued, based on the ‘privileges and immunities’ clause of the Constitution.
New Jersey won the case, and Washington’s opinion proved very influential in future cases. In essence, Bushrod said that while States must grant citizens of other States basic essential rights, they did not have to grant them ALL the rights of residents.
The best way I can come up with a modern day version of this is through parking. Many towns have lots that allow resident to park for free. Out-of-towners, however, need to pay a fee.
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The best biography of Bushrod Washington was written by Horace Binney in 1858. If you are interested you can read it for free here. Or if you'd like to own your own copy (and support this site) you can pick one up here.