Thomas Johnson Has A Cup Of Coffee On The Supreme Court

Thomas Johnson Has A Cup Of Coffee On The Supreme Court

OK, so the title of this article is a bit misleading.  A 'cup of coffee' is a hockey term for when someone becomes a professional for just a short time.

Thomas Johnson's 'cup of coffee' was his brief time as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

He has the peculiar honor of being the person who spent the shortest amount of time on the Supreme Court.

Continental Congress

Thomas Johnson of Maryland was a young lawyer who spent most of the 1760's in that colony’s General Assembly.  Then, in 1774, he was sent to the First Continental Congress.

Johnson, at this early point already in favor of independence, signed the Continental Association which was the first major Founding Document of the United States.

In the Continental Congress, Johnson spent time on the Committee of Secret Correspondence.  This committee was the soon-to-be nation’s first intelligence network. Their main chore was to provide Silas Deane with instructions on how to handle his mission in France.



Just as independence was being decided upon, Johnson returned to Maryland.  He, along with his brothers, opened up the Catoctin Furnace.  This was an iron works which first produce bullets for the Continental Army, then later went on to be a successful business.

At this time, Thomas was also involved in the creation of Maryland’s first constitution.  When that work was done, Johnson was elected as the First Governor of the State.  He left this position after almost two years, but continued his work at the local level.

Soon after the Revolutionary War concluded, Johnson was a leader in the drive to send delegates to Virginia to discuss sharing the responsibility for the Potomac River.  This convention turned into the Mount Vernon Conference, which later brought about the Annapolis and Constitutional Conventions.


Supreme Court

When the new government began, Johnson was selected by President Washington to join, with two other men, a commission to select the location of the federal capital.  This group is responsible for the decision to name the city of Washington and the District of Columbia.

In 1791, the President nominated Thomas Johnson as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.  He was approved but did not take his oath of office until the following year.  Thomas resigned shortly thereafter due to his failing health.

Johnson has the distinction of sitting for the shortest amount of time on the Supreme Court.  He was a Justice for just 163 days.


Further Reading:

Thomas Johnson is yet another Founder without a proper biography, but if you'd like to learn more about his effect on the young nation, I'd recommend 'The Supreme Court in the Early Republic' of which he was a part.  This book takes an interesting look at these men finding their place (and the Court's place) in the new government.  Pick it up at the library or through the link below on, our affiliate bookseller.  

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