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Levi Woodbury (December 22, 1789 – September 4, 1851) was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Statesmarker. He was the first Justice to have attended law school.

Life and career

Woodbury was born in Francestown, New Hampshiremarker. He graduated from Dartmouth Collegemarker, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1809, briefly attended Tapping Reeve Law Schoolmarker in Litchfieldmarker, Connecticutmarker, and was admitted to the New Hampshiremarker Bar in 1812.

Woodbury was Justice of New Hampshire state supreme court, 1816-23; Governor of New Hampshire, 1823-24; Speaker of the New Hampshire State House of Representatives, 1825; US Senator from New Hampshire, 1825-31; US Secretary of the Navy under Andrew Jackson, 1831-34; US Secretary of the Treasury under Jackson and Martin Van Buren, 1834-41; served again as Senator from New Hampshire, 1841-45; and Justice of the US Supreme Court, 1845-51. He is one of the few individuals to serve in all three branches of U.S. government and one of three people to have served in all three branches and also served as a U.S. Governor (the other being Salmon P. Chase and James F. Byrnes).

Judge Levi Woodbury
As a U.S. Senator, Woodbury was a dependable Jackson Democrat, and President Jackson appointed him Secretary of the Navy (1831 - 1834) and then Secretary of the Treasury (1834 - 1841). Woodbury successfully worked to end the Second Bank of the United Statesmarker; like Jackson he favored an "independent" treasury system and "hard money" over paper money. In retrospect, the financial Panic of 1837 and the collapse of speculative land prices were legacies of Woodbury's tenure. After the Panic, Woodbury realised that the US Treasurymarker needed a more secure administration of its own funds than commercial banks supplied, and he backed the act for an "Independent Treasury System" passed by Congress in 1840. It was largely repealed under the new administration the following year, but the foundation was laid for an independent U.S. Treasury, finally established in 1846, under President James K. Polk.

In the 1844 presidential election, Woodbury and the Jackson Democrats supported the Democrats' nomination of Polk. When Polk was elected he promptly named Woodbury an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Woodbury also served as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance during a Special Session of the 29th Congress. His ten day chairmanship is the shortest on record.

Woodbury County, Iowamarker, the City of Woodbury, Minnesotamarker, Woodbury Avenue in Portsmouth, New Hampshiremarker, Woodbury School in Salem, New Hampshiremarker, and the ship USS Woodbury were named in honor of him.

Woodbury was the father-in-law of Montgomery Blair and great-great-grandfather of actor Montgomery Clift.


  • Political, Judicial, and Literary Writings (edited by N. Capen, Boston, 1852)

See also


  1. Supreme Court Justices Who Are Phi Beta Kappa Members, Phi Beta Kappa website, accessed Oct 4, 2009

  • Dictionary of American Biography;
  • Capowski, Vincent. The Making of a Jacksonian Democrat: Levi Woodbury, 1789-1851 Ph.D. dissertation, Fordham University, 1966
  • Woodbury, Levi. Writings of Levi Woodbury. 3 vols. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1852.
  • Biography
  • Treasury Dept. biography
  • Woodbury as a liberal

External links

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