Todd, Thomas (1765–1826)

Author:Richard E. Ellis

Thomas Todd served as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court for nearly nineteen years, but he had only a small impact on the Court's decisions. Born into a fairly prominent Virginia family, he was orphaned at an early age. Because the bulk of his father's estate went to his eldest brother, he was forced to fend for himself. Following a short enlistment in the army during the Revolutionary War he went to Liberty Hall in Lexington, Virginia (later Washington and Lee University), where he studied the classics and mathematics. Todd then entered the household of his cousin Harry Innes, an accomplished lawyer and respected member of the Virginia legislature, where he served as a tutor in return for room and board. In 1784 Innes and his family removed to Kentucky where he became a judge, and Todd accompanied them. Through his cousin's political connections Todd quickly became involved in the movement to make Kentucky a separate state, serving as secretary and clerk for the various conventions that were called, and helped to write Kentucky's first CONSTITUTION in 1792.

Admitted to the bar in 1788, Todd developed a lucrative law practice, with a specialty in land titles. During the 1790s he served as secretary to the Kentucky legislature and as clerk to the federal district court. In 1799 he was appointed judge of that court, and five years later he became chief judge. In 1807 Congress increased the number of United States Supreme Court Justices from five to six in order to accommodate the newly created western circuit (Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee) and to resolve the special problems in land law arising there. As this was Todd's area of...

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