Constitutions Are Instruments of a Practical Nature…

Joseph Story

Joseph Story

“Constitutions are not designed for metaphysical or logical subtleties, for niceties of expression, for critical propriety, for elaborate shades of meaning, or for the exercise of philosophical acuteness or judicial research. They are instruments of a practical nature, founded on the common business of human life, adapted to common wants, designed for common use, and fitted for common understandings.” — Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, http://www.lonang.com/exlibris/story/.

Joseph Story (September 18, 1779 – September 10, 1845) was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1811 to 1845. He is most remembered for his opinions in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee and The Amistad, and especially for his magisterial Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, first published in 1833. Dominating the field in the 19th century, this work is a cornerstone of early American jurisprudence. It is the first comprehensive treatise on the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and remains a critical source of historical information about the forming of the American republic and the early struggles to define its law. His father was Dr Elisha Story, a member of the Sons of Liberty who took part in the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Dr Story moved from Boston to Marblehead during the American Revolutionary War. His first wife, Ruth (née Ruddock) died and Story remarried in November 1778, to Mehitable Pedrick, nineteen, the daughter of a wealthy shipping merchant who lost of his fortune during the war. Joseph was the first-born of eleven children of the second marriage. (Dr Story also fathered seven children from his first marriage.) In November 1811, at the age of thirty-two, Story became the youngest Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was nominated by President James Madison on November 15, 1811, to a seat vacated by William Cushing, and was confirmed by the United States Senate, and received his commission, on November 18, 1811. Story remains the youngest Supreme Court Justice at appointment. Here he found a congenial home for the brilliance of his scholarship and the development and expression of his political philosophy. In 1829 he moved from Salem to Cambridge and became the first Dane Professor of Law at Harvard University, meeting with remarkable success as a teacher and winning the affection of his students, who had the benefit of learning from a sitting Supreme Court justice. He was a prolific writer, publishing many reviews and magazine articles, delivering orations on public occasions, and publishing books on legal subjects which won high praise on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Filed under Constitution, Founding Fathers, Joseph Story, Limited Government, Representative Government, Republican Government, Rule of Law

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