Samuel Nelson

Media Items
Personal Information
Saturday, November 10, 1792
Saturday, December 13, 1873
Childhood Location 
New York
Childhood Surroundings 
New York
Associate Justice
Nominated By 
Commissioned on 
Thursday, February 13, 1845
Sworn In 
Thursday, February 27, 1845
Left Office 
Thursday, November 28, 1872
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
27 years, 9 months, 1 day
New York
Samuel Nelson
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: Freeman Thorpe)

Samuel Nelson spent his youth in upstate New York. Though he planned a career in the ministry, he changed his mind after graduating from Middlebury College and studied law instead. He practiced law and was active in political affairs. He held state judicial commissions for 22 years before his elevation to the Supreme Court in 1845.

Nelson's appointment came as a complete suprise. President Tyler had failed in two attempts to fill this vacancy (to replace Smith Thompson); the Senate rejected both choices. Nelson, a Democrat, was viewed as a careful and noncontroversial judge who would be more appealing to the Democratically- controlled Senate, and indeed he was.

Nelson spent 27 unspectacular years on the nation's highest court. To the extent that he achieved notoriety, Nelson (along with Justice John A. Campbell) attempted to avoid the Civil War though conciliation efforts between north and south in 1860-61. Nelson retired from the Court in 1872 and died a year later.

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Samuel Nelson. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
Samuel Nelson, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"Samuel Nelson," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,