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William Cranch (July 17, 1769 – September 1, 1855) was a city land commissioner for Washington, D.C., the 2nd Reporter of Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, a Professor of law for Columbian College and a United States Circuit Judge and Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia.

William Cranch
William Cranch.jpg
Chief Judge of the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia
In office
February 24, 1806 – September 1, 1855
Appointed byThomas Jefferson
Preceded byWilliam Kilty
Succeeded byJames Dunlop
Judge of the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia
In office
March 3, 1801 – February 24, 1806
Appointed byJohn Adams
Preceded bySeat established by 2 Stat. 103
Succeeded byAllen Bowie Duckett
2nd Reporter of Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
1801–1815
Preceded byAlexander J. Dallas
Succeeded byHenry Wheaton
Personal details
Born
William Cranch

(1769-07-17)July 17, 1769
Weymouth,
Province of Massachusetts Bay,
British America
DiedSeptember 1, 1855(1855-09-01) (aged 86)
Washington, D.C.
Resting placeCongressional Cemetery
Washington, D.C.
Political partyFederalist
Spouse(s)Nancy Greenleaf (m. 1795)
Children4 (including Christopher Pearse Cranch and
John Cranch)
ParentsRichard Cranch
Mary Smith
RelativesWilliam Greenleaf Eliot (son in law)
Henry Ware Eliot (grandson)
T. S. Eliot (great-grandson)
EducationHarvard University

Contents

Education and careerEdit

Born on July 17, 1769, in Weymouth, Province of Massachusetts Bay, British America,[1] Cranch graduated from Harvard University in 1787 and read law with Thomas Dawes, a relative by marriage.[1] He entered private practice in Braintree, Massachusetts in 1790.[1] He continued private practice in Haverhill, Massachusetts from 1790 to 1791.[1] He was Justice of the Peace for Essex County, Massachusetts.[1] He resumed private practice in the area ceded by Maryland that would eventually become Washington, D.C. from 1791 to 1800.[1] He was a city land commissioner for Washington, D.C. (which was officially established by the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 on February 27, 1801) from 1800 to 1801.[1]

Federal judicial serviceEdit

Cranch was nominated by President John Adams on February 28, 1801, to the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, to a new seat authorized by 2 Stat. 103.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 3, 1801, and received his commission the same day.[1] His service terminated on February 24, 1806, due to his elevation to serve as Chief Judge of the same court.[1]

Cranch was nominated by President Thomas Jefferson on February 21, 1806, to the Chief Judge seat on the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia vacated by Chief Judge William Kilty.[1] He was confirmed by the Senate on February 24, 1806, and received his commission the same day.[1] His service terminated on September 1, 1855, due to his death in Washington, D.C.[1] He was interred in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.[2] Cranch was a member of the Federalist Party, which died out in the mid-1820s.[3] He was the last holder of a United States government office who had been a Federalist.[3]

Notable decisionsEdit

Cranch is known for several decisions that set a precedent for jury nullification (allowing a jury to nullify an "unjust" law and refuse to convict), including:

Cranch also handed down important precedent in a variety of topics, for example in a criminal law case regarding the mens rea of intoxication, Cranch wrote:

It often happens that the prisoner seeks to palliate his crime by the pleas of intoxication; as if the voluntary abandonment of reason ... were not, of itself, an offense sufficient to make him responsible for all of its consequences.[4]

Other serviceEdit

Concurrent with his service on the federal bench, Cranch served as the 2nd Reporter of Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1802 to 1815.[1] He also edited his own volume of reports on civil and criminal cases from the District of Columbia.[5] In 1805, Cranch became a member of the first Board of Trustees for Public Schools and served on that board for 7 years.[6] On February 3, 1826, the Columbian College (now George Washington University) board of trustees elected Cranch and William Thomas Carroll, Esq., as the first law professors. On June 13 of the same year, with President John Quincy Adams in attendance, Professor Cranch delivered the first law lecture in the court room of the City Hall.[7]

Legacy and honorsEdit

FamilyEdit

Cranch was the son of Richard Cranch, a cabinetmaker, and Mary Smith, the sister of Abigail Adams.[citation needed] Cranch married Nancy Greenleaf. They had four sons; of these, three: Christopher Pearse Cranch, Edward P. Cranch, and John Cranch, all became painters.[12] Their daughter Abigail Adams Cranch married William Greenleaf Eliot.[citation needed] They were the parents of Henry Ware Eliot and the grandparents of poet T. S. Eliot.[citation needed]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n William Cranch at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  2. ^ William Cranch at Find a Grave
  3. ^ a b Finkelman, Paul (2011). Millard Fillmore: The American Presidents Series: The 13th President, 1850-1853. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-8050-8715-4.
  4. ^ William Cranch, White, Edward G. 1988. The Marshall Court and Cultural Change, 1815–1835. Vols. 3 and 4, History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1815–1835. New York: Macmillan
  5. ^ Columbia), United States Circuit Court (District of; Cranch, William (July 2, 1853). "Reports of Cases Civil and Criminal in the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, from 1801 to 1841". Little, Brown – via Google Books.
  6. ^ a b Twenty-fifth Report of the Board of Trustees of Public Schools of the City of Washington, 1871-'72. M'Gill & Witherow. 1872. p. 136.
  7. ^ "Probing the Law School's Past: 1821-1962". gwu.edu. Retrieved 4 May 2015.[dead link]
  8. ^ "12th and G Street SE". The Ruined Capitol. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  9. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter C" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  10. ^ "MemberListC". American Antiquarian Society. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  11. ^ Rathbun, Richard. The Columbian institute for the promotion of arts and sciences: A Washington Society of 1816-1838. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, October 18, 1917. Retrieved 2010-06-20.
  12. ^ David Bernard Dearinger; National Academy of Design (U.S.) (2004). Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design: 1826-1925. Hudson Hills. ISBN 978-1-55595-029-3.

SourcesEdit

Further readingEdit

Legal offices
Preceded by
Alexander J. Dallas
2nd Reporter of Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States
1801–1815
Succeeded by
Henry Wheaton
Preceded by
Seat established by 2 Stat. 103
Judge of the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia
1801–1806
Succeeded by
Allen Bowie Duckett
Preceded by
William Kilty
Chief Judge of the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia
1806–1855
Succeeded by
James Dunlop