Catron, John


1818 DS of the Taney Court Associate Justice while a Nashville lawyer, witnessing a land indenture


Type: Document
Description: (1786-1865) Taney Court Associate Justice 1837-65, critic of the national bank, advocate for federal power over corporate power, pro-Union & pro-slavery supporter. Many of his beliefs followed those of his friend and battlefield leader, Andrew Jackson. Catron fought against corporations of accumulated wealth and privilege and for the rights of citizens. He remained true to his pro-slavery stance in Dred Scott v. Sandford. Despite his pro-slavery stance, Catron was a strong advocate for the Union. Ultimately, his most important contribution to the Supreme Court was his loyalty to the Constitution and his undying support of the Federal Union, despite political costs.

Catron was in private legal practice in Sparta, in East Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountains 1815-18, while simultaneously serving as a prosecuting attorney of that city. He established a land law practice in Nashville in 1818, continued to 1824. Catron served on the Tennessee Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals 1824-34, elevated to Chief Justice of that court in 1831. In 1834, the legislature abolished the chief justice position, and Catron retired and returned to private practice in Nashville. During the election of 1836, Catron directed Van Buren’s presidential campaign in Tennessee against native son Hugh Lawson White.

The number of seats on the Supreme Court was expanded from 7 to 9 in 1837, which allowed President Andrew Jackson the opportunity to appoint 2 new justices, which he did on March 3, 1837, his last full day in office. The new Senate confirmed Catron’s nomination five days later and Catron took the judicial oath May 1, 1837, serving until his death in May 1865.

15 ¼ x 12 MsDS, White County (Sparta), Tennessee, January 22, 1818, signed as a witness at lower left corner of a land indenture between Joseph Copher and Thomas Hopkins of White County, Tennessee involving property in the town of Sparta. On the verso are MsDSs of Deputy White County Clerk A. B. Lane and County Register Elijah Chisum. Although Catron served on the Court for 28 years, his autograph is considered uncommon.

Elijah Chisum (1744-1818) Pioneer farmer, large land and slave owner. A captain in the Revolutionary War, received North Carolina Certificate which he exchanged for land. He was commissioned a Justice of the Peace for Hawkins County, Tennessee in 1790 by Territorial Governor William Blount. In 1791, he was commissioned by Governor Blount as Captain in the Hawkins County Militia Regiment. He was a Hawkins County delegate to the North Carolina Constitutional Convention of 1789. Chisholm’s Ford in Hawkins County named for him. He was active in the establishment of Grainger County in 1796 and represented that county in the Tennessee House 3rd General Assembly 1799-1801. He represented Sumner County in the Tennessee House 6th General Assembly 1805-07 but also represented Jackson, Smith, and Wilson Counties which did not have direct representation at that time.

Condition: Very good, light staining and soiling, folds

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