Alexander Wolcott

On this date in 1811, Alexander Wolcott was nominated by President James Madison for the position of Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. Born on September 15, 1758 in Windsor, Connecticut, Wolcott was educated at Yale College and admitted to the Conneticut Bar after reading the law. He entered in private practice in Windsor and later moved to Middleton. In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson appointed Wolcott to the position of Collector of the Port in Middleton, Connecticut. As Collector of the Port, Wolcott was responsible for collecting tariffs and enforcing the Embargo Act and the Non-Intercourse Act, which made him extremely unpopular among northern merchants. It was with great surprise to many that Wolcott would be nominated to the highest court in the land for seat left vacant by the death of Justice William Cushing. Opposition soon arose and on February 13, 1811, the United State Senate rejected Wolcott’s nomination by a vote of 24 to 9, which remains to this date the largest overwhelming defeat a nominee for the United States Supreme Court has ever had. After the defeat, Joseph Story would be successfully nominated and confirmed to take the seat and serve an extraordinary 34 years on the bench. Wolcott would remain in Connecticut. In 1818, Wolcott served in the Connecticut Constitutional Convention where history records that he strongly went on record opposing the concept of judicial review. Wolcott died on June 16, 1828. In describing Alexander Wolcott at the time the New York Evening Post, it said “Alexander Wolcott is said to be more fit by far to be arrainged at the Bar than to sit as a Judge”.