For assorted reasons the Supreme Court is being much discussed in recent months. Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the various Supreme Court nominees who were REJECTED by the Senate. I’m omitting John Rutledge since – because he was a recess appointment – he actually served as Chief Justice for one of the Court’s terms before the official Senate vote rejecting his nomination by President Washington.


Gang Affiliation: Democratic-Republican Party

Senate Vote: On February 13th, 1811, the Senate rejected Wolcott’s nomination by President James Madison by a vote of 24 nays and 9 yeas.

Ostensible Reasons For The Rejection: The Federalist Party Senators and the Federalist Party media outlets clobbered Wolcott over his enforcement of the controversial Embargo and Non-Intercourse Acts while serving as Customs Inspector in Connecticut.

              Second – and most importantly – his limited legal experience was cited as a definite hindrance to serving on the highest court in the land. (Ya think?)  


Gang Affiliation: Whig Party

Senate Vote: On January 31st, 1844, the Senate rejected Spencer’s nomination by President John Tyler by a tight vote of 26 nays and 21 yeas.

Ostensible Reasons For the Rejection: Spencer had accepted the position of Secretary of War and later Secretary of the Treasury under President Tyler, alienating fellow Whigs who saw him as a traitor for not showing solidarity with them against Tyler. This rejection was part of a virtual war between the Executive and Legislative Branches following John Tyler’s succession to the presidency following the death in office of Whig President William Henry Harrison.

              Harrison was the first U.S. President to die in office and when his Vice President (Tyler) took office as President it was also the first time a VP replaced a sitting president. Because there was no precedent to go by, overly ambitious members of Congress tried to treat Tyler as a mere figurehead and tried to assert that the Legislative Branch was truly in charge of the nation in the case of a replacement president.

              Tyler, called “His Accidency” by detractors, felt that the Constitution meant he was a real president with all the powers that the late President Harrison had held. He vetoed bills left and right from Congress, and wound up pandering so much to Democrats at the expense of his own Whig Party that even his fellow party members wanted him out.

              To try to inspire Tyler into resigning, his entire Whig Cabinet resigned but Tyler simply replaced them with Democrats and with willing Whigs like John C Spencer. This earned Spencer the enmity of the Whig Senators led by Henry Clay and helped doom his nomination.


Gang Affiliation: Democrats

Senate Vote: On January 31st, 1846, the Senate rejected Woodward’s nomination by President James K Polk by a vote of 29 nays and 20 yeas.

Ostensible Reasons For The Rejection: Independent Senator Simon Cameron from Pennsylvania (Woodward’s home state) opposed the nomination. In an early example of Senatorial Courtesy (respect for a Senator’s prerogative when it came to nominees from his own state), enough fellow Democrats voted against Woodward that – combined with all the nay votes from Whig Senators – the nomination was defeated.    


Gang Affiliation: Democrat

Senate Vote: On February 21st, 1861, the Senate rejected Black’s nomination by President James Buchanan by a vote of 26 nays and 25 yeas … a SINGLE VOTE margin.

Ostensible Reasons For The Rejection: The Republicans in the Senate wanted to hold this Supreme Court vacancy until after Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president in March. (It wasn’t until the FDR years that inaugurations began being held in January)

              Given Buchanan’s general ineptitude, Black probably would have been a flop on the Court anyway. 

*** ODDITY: During President Andrew Johnson’s term two members of the Supreme Court passed away, but the Judicial Circuits Act of 1866 called for the number of Justices to be reduced (by attrition) to seven. (It was much later set at nine, of course.) Hence, the vacancies were nullified, and Johnson’s nominee – Henry Stanbery – was not officially voted on. ***


Gang Affiliation: Republican

Senate Vote: On February 3rd, 1870, the Senate rejected Hoar’s nomination by President Ulysses S Grant by a vote of 33 nays and 24 yeas.

Ostensible Reasons For The Rejection: In addition to Democrats opposing the nomination, several Republican Senators voted against Hoar because, while he was serving as Attorney General, he had opposed using Federal Circuit Court appointments as political party patronage positions. (The Congressional tradition of perpetuating the crooked interests of our political parties’ apparatus over the interests of the nation as a whole was already being cemented.)

              In addition, Hoar had publicly opposed the impeachment of Democrat President Andrew Johnson, so many fellow Republicans disliked him. Senator Benjamin F Butler led the campaign to defeat Ebenezer’s nomination. (Insert your own Humbug joke here.)   


Gang Affiliation: Democrat

Senate Vote: On January 15th, 1894, the Senate rejected Hornblower’s nomination by President Grover Cleveland by a vote of 30 nays to 24 yeas.

Ostensible Reasons For The Rejection: Hornblower had earlier opposed David B Hill’s nomination of Isaac H Maynard for the New York State Court of Appeals when Hill was governor. Hill, now a Senator, took advantage of Senatorial Courtesy to help sabotage Hornblower’s chance to serve on the Supreme Court.

              Pro-Silver Democrat Senators also opposed William.  


Gang Affiliation: Democrat

Senate Vote: On February 16th, 1894 (just over a month after Hornblower’s rejection), the Senate rejected Peckham’s nomination by President Grover Cleveland by a vote of 41 nays to 32 yeas.

Ostensible Reasons For The Rejection: Once again President Cleveland had ignored Senator Hill’s threats to invoke Senatorial Courtesy and nominated a candidate not to Hill’s liking and once again the nomination was defeated by Hill’s maneuvering.


Gang Affiliation: Republican

Senate Vote: On May 7th, 1930, the Senate rejected Parker’s nomination by President Herbert Hoover by a vote of 41 nays to 39 yeas.

Ostensible Reasons For The Rejection: Labor groups opposed Parker because of a Yellow Dog Contract decision the judge had upheld when serving on lower courts.

              Other opposition came over racist remarks John had made in 1920 when running for governor of North Carolina. Ironically, Parker, while still serving on lower courts, rendered several decisions in favor of African-American civil rights in the years ahead. Clearly he was able to keep any personal feelings out of his legal decisions. 

              So, as early as 1930 foolish remarks (in this case MADE TEN YEARS EARLIER) were being held as definitive proof of a person’s character rather than their actions being held as that proof. If Parker had been confirmed to the Supreme Court and voted in similar fashion to his pro-African-American decisions on lower benches much of history might be different.  


Gang Affiliation: Republican

Senate Vote: On November 21st, 1969, the Senate rejected Haynsworth’s nomination by President Richard Nixon by a vote of 55 nays to 45 yeas.

Ostensible Reasons For The Rejection: Like John J Jackson, Haynsworth was serving on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals when he was nominated. However, in Haynsworth’s case there was a much greater history of anti-labor and anti-Civil Rights Movement decisions on the bench. Those decisions were cited as reasons for rejecting Clement’s nomination.  


Gang Affiliation: Republican

Senate Vote: On April 8th, 1970, the Senate rejected Carswell’s nomination by President Richard Nixon by a vote of 51 nays to 45 yeas. (Before pro-Nixon people whine that he’s the only president to have TWO nominees rejected in official Senate votes I’ll remind readers that Democrat President Grover Cleveland also had two nominees rejected in official Senate votes.) 

Ostensible Reasons For The Rejection: Carswell’s record of having 58% of his decisions overturned SHOULD have been reason enough, but the nominee was also dogged by a history of siding against women and African-Americans. Four Republican Senators joined with the Democrats and defeated the incompetent and otherwise seedy Carswell’s nomination. 


Gang Affiliation: Republican

Senate Vote: On October 23rd, 1987, the Senate rejected Bork’s nomination by President Ronald Reagan by a vote of 58 nays to 42 yeas.  

Ostensible Reasons For The Rejection: Bork’s published opinions showed a history of hostility to privacy rights and other civil rights. That’s good enough for me to agree with his rejection.

              Unfortunately, even if, like me, you don’t like Bork, it can’t be ignored that his nomination hearings became such a circus that it started the trend toward particularly ugly battles over Supreme Court vacancies.     



© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  


Filed under Neglected History, opinion


  1. Thanks for the tour. Enjoyed all three of them – took the “look at US President…” side trip.

  2. Pingback: REJECTED SUPREME COURT NOMINEES — Balladeer’s Blog – Revolver Boots

  3. Reblogged this on kommonsentsjane and commented:
    Reblogged on kommonsentsjane/blogkommonsents.

    Thank you for the history lesson. Something we don’t get enough of until someone hit’s us over the head with it.



  5. Deb

    Excellent but timely given the Democrats’ fascist freakouts over the court.

  6. Kurtis

    Wow those crooks in the Senate stand together against what’s good for the country don’t they?

  7. Wickerwoman

    I learned a lot of history from this! More than my instructors at college ever taught.

  8. ZenMaiden

    This was so enjoyable but educational!

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  10. Fantastic blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Bless you!

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