Benjamin Robbins Curtis.
Benjamin Robbins Curtis.
Monuments -- Watertown -- Massachusetts.; Historical societies -- Massachusetts -- Watertown.; Historic sites -- Watertown -- Massachusetts.; Memorials -- Watertown -- Massachusetts.; Carnes, William W. -- 1905-1991; Scott, Dred --1795-1858.; Supreme Court of the United States.; Curtis, Benjamin Robbins -- 1809-1874.; Johnson, Andrew -- 1801-1875.;
Bronze marker on stone boulder in memory of Benjamin Robbins Curtis, who was a member of the Supreme Court, who resigned in protest of the Court's decision in the Dred Scott case, and who defended President Andrew Johnson in his impeachment. Benjamin Robbins Curtis was an American attorney and United States Supreme Court Justice. Curtis was the first and only Whig justice of the Supreme Court. He was also the first Supreme Court justice to have a formal legal degree and is the only justice to have resigned from the court over a matter of principle. He successfully acted as chief counsel for President Andrew Johnson during the first presidential impeachment trial and is notable as one of the two dissents in the Dred Scott decision. In 1849, he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Appointed chairman of a committee to reform state judicial procedures, they presented the Massachusetts Practice Act of 1851. "It was considered a model of judicial reform and was approved by the legislature without amendment." Curtis received a recess appointment to the Supreme Court on September 22, 1851 by President Millard Fillmore. The acrimony over the Dred Scott decision had blossomed into mutual distrust. He did not want to live on $6,500 per year, an amount much less than his earnings in private practice. He did not like "riding the circuit" as Supreme Court Justices were then required to do. He was temperamentally estranged from the court, and was not inclined to work with others?he was not a 'team player', at least not on that team. Upon his resignation, Curtis returned to his Boston law practice, becoming a "leading lawyer" in the nation. During the ensuing decade and a half, he argued several cases before the Supreme Court. Curtis had 12 children and was three times married. Curtis died in Newport, Rhode Island on September 15, 1874. He is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, 580 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Plaque stolen in 2010 and was replaced in granite in 2012. Photo by William W. Carnes.
Carnes, William W.
Watertown Free Public Library
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Carnes, William W. , “Benjamin Robbins Curtis.,” Digital Commonwealth , accessed May 23, 2013, http://digitalcommonwealth.org/items/show/53564.