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Levi Woodbury
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

In office
September 20, 1845 – September 4, 1851
Nominated by James Polk
Preceded by Joseph Story
Succeeded by Benjamin Curtis
13th United States Secretary of the Treasury

In office
July 1, 1834 – March 4, 1841
President Andrew Jackson
Martin Van Buren
Preceded by Roger Taney
Succeeded by Thomas Ewing
9th United States Secretary of the Navy

In office
May 23, 1831 – June 30, 1834
President Andrew Jackson
Preceded by John Branch
Succeeded by Mahlon Dickerson
9th Governor of New Hampshire

In office
June 5, 1823 – June 3, 1824
Preceded by Samuel Bell
Succeeded by David Morril
United States Senator
from New Hampshire

In office
March 4, 1841 – September 20, 1845
Preceded by Henry Hubbard
Succeeded by Benning Jenness

In office
March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1831
Preceded by John Parrott
Succeeded by Isaac Hill
Personal details
Born (1789-12-22)December 22, 1789
Francestown, New Hampshire, United States
Died September 4, 1851(1851-09-04) (aged 61)
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States
Political party Democratic Party
Alma mater Dartmouth College
Tapping Reeve Law School
Religion Presbyterianism

Levi Woodbury (December 22, 1789 – September 4, 1851) was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, a U.S. Senator, Governor of New Hampshire and cabinet member in three administrations. He was the first Justice to have attended law school.

Life and career

Woodbury was born in Francestown, New Hampshire. He graduated from Dartmouth College, Phi Beta Kappa,[1] in 1809, briefly attended Tapping Reeve Law School in Litchfield, Connecticut, and read law to be admitted to the New Hampshire Bar in 1812. He was in private practice in Francestown from 1812 to 1816. He also joined the Freemasons.

Woodbury was a clerk of the New Hampshire State Senate from 1816 to 1817, and a Justice of New Hampshire Superior Court of Judicature from 1817 to 1823. He was Governor of New Hampshire from 1823 to 1824 and was Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, 1825.

Federal government service

Senate and Cabinet service

Woodbury served as a United States Senator from New Hampshire from 1825 to 1831. Elected to serve in New Hampshire State Senate in 1831, Woodbury did not take office due to his appointment as United States Secretary of the Navy under President Andrew Jackson, from 1831 to 1834. At the beginning of this term, he was instrumental in the appointment of fellow New Hampshireman Edmund Roberts as special agent and envoy to the Far East.[2] Woodbury served as Secretary of the Treasury under Jackson and Martin Van Buren from 1834 to 1841, and served again as Senator from New Hampshire from 1841 to 1845. He was a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1845 to 1851.

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 States; 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 U.S. Treasury 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. 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.

Supreme Court service

In the 1844 presidential election, Woodbury and the Jackson Democrats supported the Democrats' nomination of Polk. On September 20, 1845, Polk gave Woodbury a recess appointment to a seat as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court vacated by Joseph Story. Formally nominated on December 23, 1845, Woodbury was confirmed by the United States Senate on January 3, 1846, and received his commission the same day. Woodbury was promoted as a candidate for President in the 1848 Democratic National Convention where his support was largely centered in New England. He remained on the Court until his death at age 61 in 1851, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.


Woodbury 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 others being Salmon P. Chase and James F. Byrnes). Woodbury County, Iowa, the City of Woodbury, Minnesota, Woodbury Avenue in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Woodbury School in Salem, New Hampshire, and the ship USS Woodbury were named in honor of him.


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

See also

  • Harrison Gray Dyar
  • Levi Woodbury Homestead



  1. Supreme Court Justices Who Are Phi Beta Kappa Members, Phi Beta Kappa website, accessed Oct 4, 2009
  2. Roberts, Edmund (Digitized Oct 12, 2007) [First published in 1837]. Embassy to the Eastern courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat in the U. S. sloop-of-war Peacock during the years 1832-3-4. Harper & brothers. 432 pages. OCLC 12212199. embassytoeaster00unkngoog. Retrieved March 23, 2012. 


  • Levi Woodbury at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Levi Woodbury at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  • 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

Political offices
Preceded by
Samuel Bell
Governor of New Hampshire
Succeeded by
David Morril
Preceded by
John Branch
United States Secretary of the Navy
Succeeded by
Mahlon Dickerson
Preceded by
Edmund Parker
Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Henry Hubbard
Preceded by
Roger Taney
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren

Succeeded by
Thomas Ewing
United States Senate
Preceded by
John Parrott
Senator (Class 3) from New Hampshire
Served alongside: Samuel Bell
Succeeded by
Isaac Hill
Preceded by
Henry Hubbard
Senator (Class 2) from New Hampshire
Served alongside: Franklin Pierce, Leonard Wilcox, Charles Atherton
Succeeded by
Benning Jenness
Preceded by
George Evans
Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance
Succeeded by
John Calhoun
Legal offices
Preceded by
Joseph Story
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
Succeeded by
Benjamin Curtis

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