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John Crafts Wright

John Crafts Wright’s time on the Supreme Court of Ohio included a case in which he laid out the best practices for the Supreme Court clerk to use in keeping records.

Wright was born in Wethersfield, Conn. on Aug. 17, 1783 to John and Martha Robbins Wright. He was educated in local schools and learned the printing trade before he moved to Troy, N.Y., where he was briefly employed as a printer and editor of the Troy Gazette. Wright returned to Litchfield, Conn. to study and read law. By 1809, Wright had moved to Steubenville, gained admission to the Ohio bar and opened a law office.

In 1817, Wright served as a prosecuting attorney for the State of Ohio and traveled on circuit in the northern district of Ohio. Wright first successfully campaigned in 1820 for election to the U.S. House of Representatives for the 4th Congressional District. Wright resigned on March 3, 1821 before he was sworn into office because he realized the election result from November 1820 would be challenged upon his arrival in Washington, D.C. Two years later, Wright gained an undisputed victory and served the 4th District from 1823 to 1829. During his years in Congress, Wright gained a reputation as an excellent debater.

Wright returned to Steubenville in March 1829 to resume his law practice. On Dec. 29, 1830, the Ohio General Assembly elected Wright to the Supreme Court of Ohio to replace Henry Brush. Wright’s term on the Court began in January 1831 and ended with his letter of resignation to Gov. Robert Lucas on Jan. 26, 1835. Wright requested the resignation take effect on Feb. 2.

Wright’s published opinions are in volumes 4 through 6 of Ohio Reports. While sitting on the Supreme Court, Wright also compiled Reports of Cases at Law and in Chancery Decided by the Supreme Court of Ohio During the Years 1831, 1832, 1833, 1834.  His reports cover the cases heard when he rode Ohio’s judicial circuits. In the preface, Wright noted that the Supreme Court, while on circuit, traveled 2,250 miles in 1834 and 1,459 cases were on the dockets. Wright said he figured that for the Court to clear its current docket, it would need to decide seven cases a day.

In the case Thomas Earl’s Lessee v. Jacob V. Shoulder (1834), Wright used his opinion to lay out best practices for the Clerk of the Supreme Court to follow in keeping records. Wright noted that clerks should record in the Court’s minutes the causes for a mandate to be issued to a common pleas court by the Supreme Court, the judgment of the Court, the receipt of the Court’s mandate by a common pleas court, and the Court’s order for execution of its mandate.

While a member of the Court, Wright moved to Cincinnati to join his son, Crafts Wright, a practicing attorney, who moved to Cincinnati in 1832. Wright and Timothy Walker organized a private law school in 1833 that later affiliated with Cincinnati College. In 1840, Wright, Crafts Wright and others purchased the Cincinnati Gazette. Wright remained affiliated with the Gazette for 13 years and introduced many improvements in the printing of the newspaper. After 1853, Wright served on the board of directors of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railway Company and continued a law practice. In 1851, he and others established a joint stock company called the Glendale Association, which purchased 565 acres and eventually became Cincinnati’s first suburb.

In 1861, as pro- and anti-slavery forces made preparations for war, moderates called for a Peace Convention in Washington, D.C. to discuss compromise. Ohio Gov. William Dennison appointed a delegation consisting of Wright, Salmon P. Chase, Reuben Hitchcock and William S. Groesbeck and sent them to Washington. Wright, accompanied by his son, Crafts, was present when the convention convened on Feb. 4, and Wright was named temporary chairman. Crafts Wright was appointed the convention’s secretary. Wright delivered brief opening remarks that included his belief that America’s republican institutions and its people’s desire for self government would lead to the convention’s success. Unfortunately, Wright died on Feb. 13, 1861, before the convention completed its work. The Peace Convention met for 24 days and passed a series of compromise proposals resembling those previously put forth by Kentucky Senator John Crittenden, all of which were rejected by Congress.

Crafts Wright returned to Cincinnati, where funeral services for Wright were at the family residence and read by the Rev. Dr. Greenleaf, Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Cincinnati, where Wright was a member. The burial was at Spring Grove Cemetery.

Wright married Mary Buell Collier Aug. 22, 1805. The couple raised four children.

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b. Aug. 17, 1783

d. Feb. 13, 1861

22nd Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio

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